If you have been involved in an accident and injured as a result of someone’s carelessness or negligence, you may want to bring a personal injury case against that individual or business. With that being said, it’s important to know that you don’t have unlimited time to sue after a serious accident like this. In other words, there is always a set period of time that you have to bring a personal injury case to court, and trying to file after that is not allowed. This period of time is inscribed in a law, called the statute of limitations.
A statute of limitations is a law that defines the maximum period of time that a person can wait before filing a case in a legal setting. As you may imagine, there are multiple statutes of limitations that differ from each other based on the various types of laws that could be broken. Moreover, different states have different statutes of limitations.
The California Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases
In California, the statute of limitations for a personal injury case that was caused by the negligence or carelessness of a person or business is two years. Personal injury cases involve cases in which an accident occurs because of negligence, and subsequent physical, mental or emotional injuries are incurred as a result. Wrongful death situations are also considered personal injury cases.
Some examples of accidents that would be considered personal injury cases include car accidents in which the person or people not at fault were seriously or fatally injured, slip and fall cases where serious or fatal injuries occurred, and medical malpractice situations that resulted in further health complications or death.
Understanding the “Start Date” of Statutes of Limitations
Because the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is so clearly defined, the start date of such a statute must also be clearly defined. There are several dates that are important to keep in mind in personal injury cases and the statutes of limitations that apply to them.
1. Date of harm
The date of harm refers to the day that the personal injury occurred. For example, in a car accident that caused serious injuries that you would like to receive damages for, the date of the actual car accident is the official date of harm. Therefore, when discussing the statute of limitations, this would also be the date from which the clock would start. And in California, for example, exactly one year from that date, the statute of limitations would end, and the plaintiff would no longer be able to sue for damages.
2. Date of harm discovery
In some personal injury cases, injuries may not reveal themselves until several days, weeks or months after the actual date of harm. For example, mental trauma from a car accident may not show up right away. In these cases, the statute of limitations may begin on the date of harm discovery instead of on the actual date of the accident and injury or date of harm.
3. Date that the harm should have been discovered
This date doesn’t always matter in personal injury cases, but it sometimes comes into play. This date refers to the date that the injury or harm should have been discovered by the plaintiff, but it is generally earlier than the date the plaintiff said they discovered the harm. In certain personal injury cases, it may be argued that the statute of limitations had expired when the plaintiff brought the case to court because they should have noticed the harm from the injury before the date that they said they did. This is the most common occurrence of this date coming into play.
Contacting an Attorney to Sue for Damages
If you have recently been involved in an accident or occurrence that caused serious injuries or the wrongful death of a loved one, you have the legal right to sue for damages as long as it’s within the statute of limitations. This means that the sooner you file a case, the better. It is not uncommon for serious injuries to cause extremely high medical bills, pain and suffering, loss of wages and loss of employment opportunities in the future. An experienced attorney can help you bring a personal injury case to court and get you the compensation you deserve.