California's Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Claims

California’s Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Claims

what are the time limits and exceptions?

Car accidents can be traumatic and result in significant physical, emotional, and financial burdens for those involved. Knowing the legal framework that surrounds car accident claims, including the statute of limitations, is vital for protecting your rights and seeking appropriate compensation.

This article delves into California’s statute of limitations for car accident claims, outlining time limits, exceptions, and the importance of timely action.

Key Information on the Statute of Limitations in California

The statute of limitations refers to the timeframe within which a legal action must be initiated after an event, such as a car accident. Its purpose is to ensure that legal disputes are resolved promptly while evidence and witnesses’ memories are still fresh. In California, statutes of limitations vary depending on the type of claim.

Time Limits for Filing Car Accident Claims in California

Here are specific timeframes and important considerations when filing car accident claims in the Golden State:

  • Personal injury claims: In California, individuals have a two-year deadline from the date of the accident to file a personal injury claim arising from a car accident. However, there are exceptions for cases where injuries are not immediately apparent, allowing for a delayed discovery of injuries and a later filing date.
  • Property damage claims: For property damage resulting from a car accident, such as vehicle repairs, individuals generally have a three-year deadline from the date of the accident to file a claim. Again, exceptions apply for delayed discovery of damages beyond the initial accident date.

Exceptions to California’s Statute of Limitations

In California, notable exceptions can extend or temporarily pause the statute of limitations in car accident claims, a legal process known as tolling. This occurs when certain circumstances arise, effectively suspending the countdown for filing a claim until the situation is resolved.


If the defendant in a car accident case is a minor at the time of the incident, the statute of limitations is tolled until they reach the age of 18. At that point, the countdown to file a claim begins again.

Defendants Leaving the State

If the defendant leaves California after the accident, the statute of limitations is tolled until they return to the state.

Defendants in Prison or Declared Insane

If the defendant is incarcerated or legally declared insane at the time of the accident, the statute of limitations is tolled until they are released or regain legal competence.

Fraud or Intentional Concealment

Moreover, California law acknowledges exceptions in cases involving fraud or intentional concealment by the defendant. Suppose it can be proven that the defendant deliberately concealed information or committed fraud related to the car accident. In that case, the statute of limitations may be extended to allow the injured party adequate time to file a claim after discovering the deception.

Importance of Timely Action and Seeking Legal Advice

Taking timely action is crucial in car accident claims to avoid losing the right to seek compensation. Consulting with an Anaheim car accident lawyer early on can help navigate the complexities of the legal system, gather evidence, and build a strong case.

Aside from the exceptions mentioned above, the clock doesn’t stop ticking as soon as the accident occurs or the injuries are discovered. Gathering evidence and filing the claim can be extremely difficult when suffering from your injuries. Your lawyer can relieve you from this burden and take action on your behalf to ensure your claim is filed within the standard two-year timeframe.


Understanding California’s statute of limitations for car accident claims is essential for protecting your legal rights and seeking fair compensation. By adhering to filing deadlines, considering exceptions, and seeking legal guidance when needed, individuals can navigate the aftermath of a car accident more effectively and secure the compensation they deserve.

While exceptions do exist, it’s dangerous to rely on these and try to extend a deadline on your own, making seeking legal counsel even more important, especially if you want to maximize your compensation.

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