California Personal Injury Statute of Limitations


Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CaliforniaGolden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CaliforniaThe statute of limitations for personal injury & accidents in California is two (2) years (Ref: California Code of Civil Procedure Sec. 335.1).


What this means is that you (or your attorney) must file a lawsuit against a defendant within two years of the date of your accident. If you do not file a lawsuit within two years, generally you forfeit any potential claim against the defendant as a matter of law - meaning there will be no opportunity for a settlement, arbitration or trial (with some exceptions).


Disclaimer: Although the information presented on this page is generally true there are some exceptions to this information, and the California Statute of Limitations (and the exceptions) may change over time. If you or a family member was involved in an accident and considering seeking compensation for your injuries it is crucial that you speak to a California personal injury lawyer to discuss your claim and potential recovery. Do not delay.

Exceptions on Time Limits for Filing a Lawsuit in California

There are some variations & exceptions to the 2 year statute of limitations on personal injury cases in California. But no matter what is said here, it is critical you discuss your matter with a lawyer who is highly experienced in personal injury law immediately. 


  • The injured person did not discover and was not aware of any facts that would have caused a reasonable person to suspect, that he or she had suffered harm caused by someone else's wrongful conduct (this is known as the "delayed discovery" rule). 
  • The injured person was either under the age of 18, or was lacking the capacity to make decisions (i.e. subject to a temporary or permanent mental illness) at the time of the underlying accident (California Code of Civil Procedure section 352), and
  • The person who allegedly caused the injury (the defendant) left the state of California at some point after the underlying accident, and before the lawsuit could be filed (California Code of Civil Procedure section 351).
  • Claims against a public entity may have to be filed within 6 months of the date of the accident.
  • Medical malpractice cases have a 1 year target date from the time the limit begins to run.

What if You Miss the Deadline to File a Lawsuit?

If you miss the deadline to file a lawsuit and the California statute of limitations passes (barring any exceptions), the opposing party will almost surely move for case dismissal and it will likely be granted. This also means that nearly any hope of a settlement will also be forfeited because there is no leverage to potentially pursue a trial (since it would immediately be dismissed). 

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Verified Accurate: 3/16/21

The information on this page was verified as accurate by attorney James Heiting on 3/16/21. Mr. Heiting has over 40 years of experience exclusively in personal injury law and is a former President of the California Bar Association. Click button below to learn more about James Heiting.

 James Heiting