How Long Can You File a Claim After an Accident

Accident settlement

After an accident, you may understandably feel angry, confused, and overwhelmed. An unexpected accident and injury can change your life forever. The thought of filing a lawsuit or pursuing compensation may add to these feelings. It’s important to remember that if someone else caused your accident, you have the right to hold them responsible.

But you need to know that you have a limited time to file your injury claim in California. A qualified personal injury attorney helps alleviate these feelings while also providing you with the legal support you need to pursue an accident settlement in a timely manner. Act quickly to contact an attorney. You don’t want to miss your time window to seek the compensation you deserve.

Contact us at Henderson Law today.

What Is a Statute of Limitations? 

The laws for each state define the statute of limitations and enforce strict guidelines for filing a claim. If you suffered injuries due to an accident, California gives injured parties two years to file a lawsuit from the date of the accident. If you fail to file a claim within these two years, you will likely lose your right to file a personal injury claim. And it doesn’t matter if you have a great case. Even the strongest case will be defeated by allowing the statute of limitations to expire. 

Unfortunately, an accident victim may not know when to file a claim after an accident without a personal injury attorney. Losing out on the opportunity to recover compensation for your injury claim is devastating. Most injured parties rely on compensation to assist them financially as they recover from their injuries to help pay medical expenses, cover lost wages, and support them emotionally and psychologically. 

There are a few exceptions to the two-year statute of limitations. For accident victims who are minors, the two-year period doesn’t begin until the minor turns 18. There are other exceptions (e.g., delayed discovery, absent defendant), but you don’t want to rely on those when it comes to something as important as receiving the compensation you deserve. Having said that, if you think the limitation period has expired, you should still talk to a personal injury attorney to find out if there might be a way around the time bar on your accident claim. 

Why Do I Need an Attorney? 

Although California allows injured victims up to two years to begin filing their injury claim, it’s vital to start the process as soon as possible. Prolonging the initial filing of your case may hurt your case in the long run. 

Gathering Evidence 

For example, gathering evidence is a crucial element of any claim. After an auto accident, in the rush of adrenaline, an accident victim may forget the following important information:

  • Name and contact details of all involved parties, 
  • Name and contact details of any witnesses, 
  • Insurance information of involved parties, and 
  • Photographs of the scene, damage, and injuries. 

An attorney understands the importance of this type of relevant evidence and gathers it to strengthen your claim for compensation. 


Insurance companies and other parties may attempt to push you into an early settlement without any room for negotiation. While you may feel tempted to accept the first offer of financial relief, it’s wise to put on the brakes and let your attorney do the negotiating. Your injury attorney determines the actual value of your accident claim so they can negotiate a better accident settlement on your behalf. 

Calculate of Value of Accident Claim 

A qualified personal injury attorney carefully analyzes the details of your case to create an average value. Many injured victims don’t understand how much their claim is worth. With this information, you level the playing field regarding negotiations for a possible settlement. 

What Can I Recover? 

In California accident cases, injured victims may recover compensatory damages. Compensatory damages seek to make the victim “whole” after suffering losses due to an accident. 

Injured victims may understandably feel straddled with financial pressures due to their mounting medical expenses, inability to work, and emotional effects of their injuries. Compensatory damages seek to alleviate this burden and help victims begin to heal. Compensatory damages make up the value of your claim and are split into two principal categories: economic and non-economic damages. 

Economic Damages

Economic damages represent those substantial and calculable losses directly related to your accident. These include the following:

  • Medical expenses, 
  • Lost wages, 
  • Future loss of earnings, and 
  • Property damage.

It’s easy to calculate economic damages with supporting evidence such as receipts, pay stubs, income tax returns, and invoices. Retain all documentation for your attorney to calculate a value for your claim. 

Non-Economic Damages 

Non-economic damages represent subjective losses related to your injuries’ psychological and emotional effects. Non-economic damages include the following:

  • Pain and suffering, 
  • Loss of enjoyment of life, 
  • Emotional distress, and 
  • Loss of consortium.

Although more challenging to prove, non-economic damages are often substantially larger than economic damage awards. Without the assistance of a personal injury attorney, it is challenging to recover these damages. However, non-economic damages more adequately compensate an injured victim for the subjective losses related to their injuries. 

Punitive Damages 

In particularly egregious cases, your attorney may seek punitive damages on top of your compensatory damages. As the name suggests, punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for their behavior and deter future similar conduct. California does not place a cap on the amount of punitive damages awarded. However, they must be reasonable in light of the harm to the plaintiff and compensatory damages recovered. Also, know that punitive damages are rarely awarded.

Contact Us 

Possessing decades of experience and knowledge, Michael Henderson of Henderson Law provides his clients with a unique advantage in personal injury cases. For over 25 years, Michael has tried and settled hundreds of clients for his clients, securing their road to recovery and a positive path forward in life. From car crashes to medical malpractice, premises liability to product liability, Michael focuses his practice on helping injured victims and their families suffering after a traumatic experience. 

Michael understands that you may be facing one of the most challenging times of your life after an accident. Henderson Law Firm helps you through the legal issues to obtain the justice you need to move on with your life. Contact Henderson Law Firm today to request a free consultation.