What Are the Statute of Limitations for a Personal Injury Case in California?

What Are the Statute of Limitations for a Personal Injury Case in CaliforniaEach state has a statute of limitations that sets a deadline for when plaintiffs can file a civil lawsuit. Understanding the personal injury statute of limitations in California is crucial if you want to receive compensation. Missing this deadline can complicate your claim or prevent you from recovering any funds.

Henderson Law understands the unique nature of personal injury claims, including procedural requirements like the statute of limitations. If you need help after an injury, contact our firm to seek the best resolution possible.

California Has a Two-Year Statute of Limitations

California Code of Civil Procedure Section 335.1 states that a plaintiff has two years to file a personal injury claim. The clock begins from the date of their injury and applies to nearly all types of injuries or deaths. However, there are exceptions to this rule, and some injuries may qualify for a different statute of limitations.

What Happens If I File After the Deadline?

Generally, a court has the right to dismiss your case if you file after the California statute of limitations for a personal injury case. A court can do this independently, or the defendant can file a motion to dismiss your claim once it receives your legal complaint.

While filing after the deadline can jeopardize your claim, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t file a lawsuit. Your attorney may be able to raise an exception that persuades the court to allow your claim.

Plaintiffs Can Qualify for an Exception to the Statute of Limitations

Courts recognize that imposing a strict time limit on plaintiffs can be unfair. Many circumstances make it impossible for plaintiffs to file a claim within two years. For these reasons, you may be able to file a claim after the two-year deadline by citing one of the following exceptions.

Defendant Is No Longer in California

California courts can only hear your case if they have jurisdiction over the defendant. Since courts don’t have the power to serve process outside of California, you won’t be able to file a lawsuit if the person liable for your injuries is outside of the state.

Without an exception, a liable party could simply avoid responsibility by leaving for two years and then returning once the statute of limitations passes. California understands this issue and essentially pauses the two-year limit while the defendant is outside of the state.

Delayed Discovery

The statute of limitations begins running on the day you are injured. However, some injuries can take years to develop, making them unnoticeable during the two-year time limit. In these cases, a plaintiff can’t file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations because they didn’t know they were injured.

Delayed discovery allows you to file a lawsuit one year after learning of your injuries.

The Victim Is Underage or Mentally Impaired

Filing a personal injury claim requires a certain level of competency, so it is unfair to impose these standards on children and mentally impaired individuals who lack the cognitive ability to take legal action.

If a child is injured, California’s statute of limitations doesn’t begin until the child turns 18. They will then have two years to file a claim, so essentially the statute of limitations expires on their 20th birthday.

For those with mental impairment, the statute of limitations is paused until they regain cognitive function.

What Personal Injuries Have a Different Statute of Limitations?

Although the legislature established the California personal injury statute of limitations, it doesn’t apply to all injuries. The law understands that some situations can be complex, which is why they created specific time limits for the following claims.

Birth Injury

An injury at birth can cause lifelong complications. It can also take years for parents to notice the extent of the injuries and the cost of the resulting damages. Due to concerns like these, a victim of a birth injury has until their eight birthday to file a personal injury claim.

Child Sexual Abuse

In 2023, the California State Legislature removed the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse. Now, there is no time limit on these claims. However, this new law only applies to injuries occurring on or after January 1, 2024. For injuries before this date, the victim has until their 40th birthday to file a claim.

Domestic Violence

Victims of domestic violence often suffer severe emotional and physical harm. They have three years from the last act of violence to file a claim. That said, victims can also file a claim within three years of the discovery of injuries caused by domestic violence.


Pursuing compensation from someone who committed a felony can be difficult. They often must go through the criminal process before you can file a claim. Also, the prosecutors might discover additional evidence that can help you with your claim. Therefore, anyone who is injured due to felonious conduct has one year from the felony conviction to file their claim.

Medical Malpractice

Cases involving medical malpractice often require extensive investigations and evidence. Victims can file a claim within three years of the date of the injury or one year after discovering their injuries. There are additional exceptions to this law, such as if a defendant engages in fraud or attempts to conceal the misconduct and injury.

Sexual Assault

Victims over age 18 generally have 10 years from the last act to file a personal injury claim for sexual assault. However, the legislature understands that assault can be confusing. As such, it also allows victims to file a claim within 3 years of the assault, attempted assault, or appearance of injuries.

Schedule a No-Cost Consultation

For more than 20 years, Henderson Law has helped victims get compensation for their injuries. We have recovered tens of millions of dollars for our clients and are ready to fight for you. Our firm will handle the entire legal process for you, including filing within the personal injury statute of limitations in California and negotiating a fair settlement.

Don’t delay filing your claim. Call today to schedule a free consultation.