How Long Do I Have to File a Car Accident Injury Case?

How Long Do I Have to File a Car Accident Injury Case?

In California, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident is typically two years from the accident date, in most cases. Failure to file a lawsuit within that timeframe means it is “forever barred” from going forward in court.  

However, there are situations in which the time period to file a claim is much shorter, depending on which other parties were involved in the crash. As the gathering of evidence and a thorough investigation is necessary in any personal injury case, it is wise to seek legal counsel as soon as possible after a car wreck.  

Los Angeles personal injury lawyer at Ellis Injury Law will conduct an investigation and hold those responsible for your injuries accountable. Our dedicated personal injury lawyers have won over $350 million in personal injury settlements and lawsuits for clients over the past 25 years.  

Statute of Limitations 

While the two-year statute of limitations exists when privately-owned or commercial vehicles are involved in an accident, that is not the case when any vehicle owned or operated by any government agency enters the equation. Such claims, whether with local, county, state or federal authorities, require filing within six months of the accident. Examples of government vehicle entities include those owned by: 

  • Public school districts 
  • Police or fire departments 
  • Parks departments 
  • California Highway Patrol 
  • Municipal buses 
  • Municipal garbage trucks 
  • Vehicles owned by a government entity and operated by a government employee 

Keep in mind that in most cases, the government entity is going to deny liability regarding the car accident. After the denial, the statute of limitations is six months from the denial date for filing a personal injury lawsuit against that government agency. 

Property Damage Statute of Limitations 

When dealing with property damage to a vehicle after an accident rather than a personal injury situation, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of the incident.  

Wrongful Death Lawsuits 

Unfortunately, many people do not survive injuries received in serious car crashes. Family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit, and such a lawsuit requires filing within two years of the death date, not the accident date per se if they are not the same.  

Certain government entities are immune from wrongful death lawsuits. Your lawyer will advise you as to whether such sovereign immunity, as it is known, applies in your family member’s death.  

Car Accident Investigations 

Car accident investigations are often time-consuming. They include reviewing the police and medical reports, obtaining and viewing any relevant surveillance video, examining the accident scene and the vehicles involved, interviewing eyewitnesses, and possibly hiring experts to conduct an accident reconstruction. 

From this information, the investigative staff can determine which factors may have contributed to the accident, including: 

  • Distracted driving 
  • Driving under the influence 
  • Driver fatigue 
  • Mechanical failure  
  • Speeding 
  • Aggressive driving 
  • Inclement weather 
  • Defective traffic signals 
  • Roadway debris 

The investigation will also show which parties are liable for the collision. Besides the other driver, this may include the vehicle manufacturer, a maintenance facility, or the jurisdiction in charge of the roadway.  

Personal Injury Lawsuits and Medical Recovery 

Although it is critical to contact a Los Angeles car accident attorney promptly after an accident so that an investigation may start, that does not mean the lawsuit itself requires immediate filing. In the aftermath of an accident, it may take some time before the true nature and long-term effects of the injuries are evident. What may seem like a relatively minor injury at the outset could turn out far more debilitating and disabling than anticipated.  

It is only when the person has recovered from their injuries or has reached maximum medical improvement, meaning they are not expected to get any better, that the lawyer should file the personal injury lawsuit. At that point, a reasonable settlement amount is ascertainable based on the injured person’s medical and other expenses, or their future medical treatment and care needs.  

Contact a Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer 

If an accident with a reckless or negligent driver has left you or a family member seriously injured, an experienced Los Angeles car accident lawyer at Ellis Injury Law can help. We offer free consultations, so call us today or contact us online to arrange an appointment. We will evaluate your case and let you know your options. There is never a fee unless we win, as we work on a contingency basis.