KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS
Heiting & Irwin
By: Dennis R. Stout, Esq.
“Statutes of Limitations” are the laws which place a time limit upon the length of time one has to file a lawsuit, whether it be a civil complaint or the prosecution of someone for committing a crime. The time limits vary depending upon the nature of the claim or the crime involved, and also vary from state to state. If an action has not brought within the statutory time period, absent a legal exception, the right to file a lawsuit seeking money damages or other relief expires.
Generally, the time period within which to file a particular claim begins to run on the date that the claim arises or “accrues”, or when a crime is committed. As it applies to civil actions in the State of California, it may be possible to bring multiple causes of action from a single incident of wrongful conduct due to the various statutes and exceptions that exist. As such, anyone concerned about prosecuting their specific civil action should consult with a qualified lawyer, who can assist to determine which statue applies, to help preserve the right to recover damages.
In the State of California, generally you have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit after you were injured in a motor vehicle accident. If you are the victim of professional malpractice or negligence, the statute of limitations for legal malpractice is one year from the date of discovery up to a maximum of four years from the date of the wrongful act or omission, whichever occurs first. As to medical malpractice, the applicable statute of limitations is three years from the date of the injury, or one year from the date that one discovers or reasonably should have discovered the injury, whichever occurs first. There are exceptions to medical malpractice, including cases involving the presence of a foreign body, fraud, or concealment. The discovery rule does not apply in all civil injuries, so it is important to seek appropriate legal assistance in the event of a late discovery of an injury.
Statutes of Limitations may also be “tolled”, or stopped for a period of time. Typically, these situations occur during minority (injured party was under the age of 18 at the time the injury occurred); victim not mentally competent at the time of injury; or the responsible party was bankrupt during the pendency of the statute of limitations.
Finally, it is important to know whether your claim or cause of action exists as against a public entity in the State of California, requiring as a prerequisite a claim to be presented to that specific governmental entity. The purpose of the claims presentation statute is to put the public entity on notice, giving them an opportunity to investigate the claim. As an example, and generally speaking, a claim relating to a cause of action for death or injury to a person or to personal property shall be presented no later than six months after the accrual of the cause of action. There are far less exceptions and issues of tolling when prosecuting a claim for money damage against a public entity in the State of California.
These are just a few examples of statute of limitations in the State of California. What is described above does not cover everything. In addition, the laws in the State of California may change form time to time, or as stated, there may be multiple possible causes of actions based on any one event. One should always speak to an attorney if you have questions about your causes of action or the applicable statute of limitations in which to bring any such cause of action.
Attorneys at Heiting & Irwin are competent and available to assist in the handling of any of your civil, personal injury, or professional negligence matters. Please feel free to contact us at your convenience to discuss your legal rights and remedies.