The law provides remedies for those who have been harmed by the actions of another; justice demands nothing less. Yet the procedural nature of the law requires any claim to be filed in an appropriate manner as established by statute. Statutes of limitations define the time period in which an individual can file a law suit and differ based upon the nature of the suit.
The General Rule for Personal Injury Cases
California law mandates that a person injured by the negligence of another file a claim for damages within two years of the date of injury or of the date of discovery of the injury. Although many people may find it difficult to understand how an injury can remain “undiscovered” for any period of time, experienced personal injury attorneys understand that such an occurrence is not all that unusual.
Exceptions to the General Rule
For every rule there are exceptions and the law is no different. For example, if your claim alleges the responsible party is a public entity, such as a state, county, city or school district, you have less time to file a timely claim; the deadline to file is six months. On the other hand, some exceptions allow for a longer time to file. A minor has two years form his or her 18th birthday to file a claim based on an allegation of negligence. Additionally, for injuries prior to or during birth, the child has a six year window of opportunity to have a claim filed on his or her behalf.
“Tolling” the Statute
Although technically not an exception to the rule regarding filing a claim within two years, the legal concept of tolling allows the time period which applies to be suspended until such time as the reason for the tolling has been cured. For example, if the injured party is mentally incompetent, the statute of limitations would stop running until he or she was deemed mentally capable.
Special Considerations for Auto Accidents
Often an individual will file an insurance claim after an accident and the case will drag on. If the matter remains unresolved for two years and no lawsuit was filed within that two year period, the insurance company can refuse to pay that claim. It does not matter that an insurance claim was filed or even that negotiations may have ensued during that time.
The Benefits of Legal Representation
The best reason to retain a personal injury lawyer is that individuals who do so receive larger settlement amounts even when attorney’s fees and costs are factored in. Insurance companies and their claims adjusters are incentivized to settle cases for low dollar amounts. An injured party should concentrate on a full and complete medical recovery and place the legal matters in the hands of a reputable and experienced personal injury law firm.