How Long Do I Have to Sue After an Accident Occurs?

Judges Gavel in Court

When a traumatic accident occurs causing you or a family member serious injury, it is understandable that the first thought that comes to your mind is not to immediately step into action to file a lawsuit. There are many reasons that this might be the case for you, and as leading personal injury attorneys in California, we have heard many from our clients over the decades:

  • Injury victims are more focused on getting the medical attention that they need
  • They feel emotionally traumatized from the accident which hurts their motivation to win the recovery they deserve
  • They are worried that talking to an attorney will cause them even more stress than they are already have on their plate
  • They are worried that they do not have a winnable case
  • They may not realize the extent of their injuries until months or even years later

We’ll discuss each of these below, but, again, we know that sometimes injury victims delay in speaking to an attorney about bringing a case, but later wonder just how long of a period of time they have after an accident to file a personal injury lawsuit.

Your State’s Statute of Limitations Will Dictate When to Bring a Case

Personal injury cases can be brought in both state and federal courts in some cases, but, in either case, state law will generally dictate when the case should be brought. Every state has its own Statute of Limitations which provides a timeline by which a personal injury victim will need to file his or her lawsuit against defendants in court, or otherwise lose the right to bring the claim.

In California, the Statute of Limitations for personal injury actions for the death or injury “caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another” is two years from the date of the action that caused death or injury. The two-year limit to bring an action applies to most personal injury actions, including:

In California medical malpractice cases where a person’s injuries are caused or exacerbated by a medical professional’s negligence, a person has only one year from the date of discovering the injury caused by the medical professional (which can occur months or years after the actual negligence), but no longer than three years after the act causing the injury.

Why It’s Important Not to Hesitate in Speaking to a Lawyer

Although two years can feel a long time to decide whether to bring a case, the danger in hesitating is that, as time goes on, it can be more and more difficult for your attorney to collect the evidence necessary to prove your lawsuit in a compelling enough manner as to win full damages for your medical costs, lost income, and pain and suffering.

That said, even if a year or longer has passed, you should still contact an attorney to determine your options for recovery. And to address the concerns raised at the top, you should remember that:

  • Your attorney will handle all legal matters on behalf, so you can recover from your injuries while your attorney does the work of seeking recovery
  • While you may feel emotionally traumatized, your attorney will again undertake the work of winning financial recovery, which is often helpful in mitigating trauma
  • A good personal injury attorney will make you feel less stressed, not more stressed
  • As a victim, you likely cannot make an informed analysis of your chances for winning, but your attorney can
  • Your attorney will worry about the Statutes of Limitations issue so you do not have to, but contacting an attorney ASAP after an accident will help your chances for full recovery

Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys in the Inland Empire

At McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP, our personal injury team – led by by partner Cory Weck, a Marine Corps officer with over 20 years of service to his country and 15 years of experience litigating personal injury cases – has repeatedly won verdicts and settlements on behalf of clients across the Inland Empire in the millions of dollars. Our attorneys understand that the fear, anxiety, and pain that you and your family are going through following a personal injury, and we are dedicated to doing everything we can to help our clients get the help they need. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.

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