Like most states, California follows a fault system when it comes to car accident claims. Under this system, accident victims can bring a claim against the liable party rather than bringing a claim against their own no-fault insurance.
In most cases, the claim is brought against the liable party’s insurance company. Unfortunately, insurance providers have the incentive to deny or undervalue claims whenever possible. If no settlement can be reached through correspondence between the insurer and your attorney, it may be advisable to file a lawsuit and proceed to litigation.
There are strict deadlines for filing personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits in California. These deadlines are prescribed in the statutes of limitations. Should you attempt to commence litigation after the deadline has passed, the judge will almost certainly dismiss your case.
In California, most car accident victims have two years from the date on which they were hurt to file a personal injury suit. If their injuries were not immediately apparent, they may have one year from when they were discovered—or should have been discovered through reasonable diligence—to file suit. This is called the “discovery rule.”
While this might seem like a significant amount of time, it is likely that valuable evidence will only be available temporarily. For instance, surveillance or dashcam recordings might be erased, and eyewitnesses might forget important details about what happened. Therefore, you should initiate the proceedings right away by speaking to an attorney.
What If My Loved One Was Killed in a Car Accident?
If someone you love died from injuries sustained in a car accident, your family may have grounds for a wrongful death claim. Under California law, the following individuals may have the right to take legal action following a wrongful death:
- The personal representative of the deceased’s estate;
- The deceased’s surviving spouse or domestic partner;
- The deceased’s surviving children;
- The deceased’s surviving parents or stepchildren, if they relied on the deceased financially; and
- Minors who resided in the deceased’s household for at least 180 days prior to the passing and who relied on him or her for at least half of their financial support.
Just as there are deadlines for filing personal injury lawsuits, there are also deadlines for bringing wrongful death lawsuits. California’s standard statute of limitations for wrongful death suits founded on negligence is two years. There is no filing deadline, however, for cases involving deaths that were the result of murder.
What If a Government Entity Was Responsible for the Car Accident in Which I Was Hurt?
There are a number of scenarios in which a government entity could be deemed liable for a motor-vehicle collision. If any of the following applies to your situation, you may have grounds for a claim against a city, state, or federal agency:
- The city planner’s design could not handle moderate to heavy traffic;
- The municipality failed to maintain the roadway to a reasonably safe standard; or
- The motorist who struck you was a government employee who was on the clock at the time of the accident.
If there’s a chance a government entity was even partially to blame for the wreck in which you were hurt, you should seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Car accident claims against government agencies have much shorter filing deadlines than those against private parties.
Generally speaking, you must file an administrative claim within just six months of the collision. In some cases, though, plaintiffs have up to one year to commence the proceedings.
Upon receiving notice of your claim, the government has 45 days to investigate the incident and either accept or reject your claim. If they deny your claim, they should notify you by mail. You will then have six months from when the letter was mailed to file a lawsuit; however, if you do not receive such a letter, you will have two years from when the cause of action accrued to proceed to court.
When Can the Statute of Limitations Be Tolled?
In most cases, the “clock” starts when the cause of action occurs. Should any of the following apply, however, the filing deadline may be extended:
- The victim was a minor: If the injured party was under 18 at the time of the wreck, the clock does not start until his or her 18th birthday.
- The victim was not mentally competent: If the victim is incapable of comprehending the extent of the damage, he or she is not obligated to take prompt legal action.
- The defendant is in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings: Declaring bankruptcy implements an automatic stay, which essentially halts all legal action against the petitioner until the case has been resolved.
Discuss Your Case with a Car Accident Attorney in Long Beach
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If you were struck by a drunk, distracted, or otherwise reckless driver, contact the Law Office of Michael D. Waks. We have a passionate commitment to the physical, emotional, and economic wellbeing of our clients.
Attorney Michael Waks can review your case for free and help you determine the lawsuit filing deadline that applies to your particular circumstances. If the standard deadline has already passed, Michael can assess whether a tolling provision might apply.
If you are unable to come to our office, a member of our team can come to you. To schedule a free case evaluation with a car accident lawyer in Long Beach, you can send us an email or dial (562) 206-1939.
Download Our Car Accident Emergency Response .PDF
The only foolproof way to avoid motor-vehicle collisions is to stay off the roads altogether. Since this is likely not an option, it’s wise to be prepared in the event that you do end up in a wreck. If you print our Car Accident Emergency Response .pdf and store it in your glovebox, you’ll know how to respond at the scene should you ever get into a crash. Download it HERE for free.
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