A Common Question After A Car Accident Is: How Long After a California Car Accident Can You Claim Injury?
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you may have many questions about how to receive compensation from an insurance claim and whether litigation is the right choice. One of the most common questions accident victims often have is – how long do I have to file an injury claim? The legal term for this is the statute of limitations, and the exact time frame can vary based on the circumstances of your case. Having your case reviewed by a skilled car accident lawyer is always a good idea.
California’s Statute of Limitations
When negotiations with the insurance company are not successful, and an appropriate settlement cannot be reached, filing a personal injury lawsuit is commonly the next step for car accident victims. This decision can but does not always have to wait until the filing deadline, known as the statute of limitations.
In California, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims caused by car accidents is generally two years. Any filing initiated after that time risks being dismissed. One purpose of setting statutes of limitations on cases is to ensure that claims are heard in a timely manner. If you plan to file an insurance claim to obtain compensation for your injuries, medical treatment, and other damages caused by your accident, you will want to begin as soon as possible.
Two years is the general time frame for all California personal injury cases that involve injury or death. In injury cases, this clock starts ticking on the date that the accident occurs. If the car accident was fatal, the two-year timeframe begins counting down on the date of death. There are exceptions to the statute of limitations rules in California, so discussing your individual case with a personal injury lawyer is a good idea to obtain correct information about your possible claim.
General Guidance Following a Car Accident
In order to comply with California’s statute of limitations requirement, it is important to follow certain steps after your car accident. Doing so will help your case stay on track so that you or your personal injury attorney can file with the court within the two-year deadline. Generally, you can use the below list as a guide for what to do following a car accident.
Do not leave the scene:
In California, leaving the scene of a car accident that involved injuries or death can be classified as a hit-and-run, which is a crime that carries strict penalties. If a driver is convicted of a hit-and-run, they could face up to $10,000 in fines and 12 months or more in jail.
Get necessary medical attention:
Your medical care is the top priority after an accident. If you need emergency medical attention, call 911 for immediate assistance. It is a good idea to leave your contact and insurance information with the other drivers, but if you are not able to do so safely until your injuries are dealt with, and you are stable, usually the police will obtain it from you and include it in the police report.
Move your car to a safe place:
If your car is blocking traffic, the safest option may be to move it out of the way of the other vehicles. Leaving your vehicle in the flow of traffic may lead to further collisions and injuries. However, keep in mind that safety is the goal. Do not attempt to move your car if doing so is dangerous. You may also need to leave your car in place if anyone involved in the car accident was killed or severely injured.
Record as many details as possible:
After urgent medical needs and traffic safety have been addressed, you will want to focus on documenting the accident. Try to record details of the scene as thoroughly as possible. Photos of the vehicles and road conditions will be helpful. Document your injuries by taking photos of visible injuries and making detailed notes of your symptoms. As time passes, your memory of all the details may fade. Writing down everything you remember immediately following the accident can create a more accurate record.
Exchange information with other drivers and potential witnesses:
You will need to exchange information and contact information with any other drivers involved in the car accident. It is also important that you obtain contact information from any witnesses. These people could be instrumental in providing a neutral, third-party account of the accident.
Avoid saying anything that could be construed as admitting fault:
When speaking with the other drivers, any witnesses, and responding police officers, be careful not to admit or imply that you are responsible for the accident. You may not be at fault even if you initially think you are. California uses a comparative negligence standard in car accident cases, so your percentage of fault for the accident could impact any potential compensation you receive later. You can ask the other people involved if they are okay but do not say anything else that could be perceived as admitting fault. Let the insurance investigators and your car accident lawyer determine the fault.
Report the accident appropriately:
Your insurance company and the state of California have requirements for reporting accidents. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requires that accidents are reported within ten days if anyone was injured or killed or if property damage exceeds $1,000. These factors are relatively easy to meet, so most accidents do need to be reported to the state’s DMV. Insurance requirements vary, so be sure to check with your insurance company about what is required by your policy.
Due to the DMV, insurance, and statute of limitations requirements, it is a good idea to act quickly after an accident. This can be difficult when you are dealing with injuries, medical treatment, and the stress of how these things impact your life. Working with a skilled California personal injury attorney can alleviate much of the stress involving obtaining an insurance settlement or pursuing litigation so you can focus on prioritizing your recovery.
We offer California Car Accident Victims a Free Consultation, and there are No Attorney’s Fees Unless We Recover Compensation For You
At The Hassell Law Group, our legal team are experts in car accident law and personal injury law with over 100 years of combined legal experience, and experience matters. We stand up to aggressive insurance companies and have a history of obtaining award-winning results for our clients. We fight every step of the way to achieve the best possible outcome for our car accident clients. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means there is no risk in hiring our law firm.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and case evaluation. We welcome your questions, and our legal team looks forward to helping you obtain just and proper compensation for your personal injury claim.
Read next: Can I sue for a hit and run in California?
The general information provided on this website should not be considered legal advice and does not constitute legal advice. For legal advice, you should consult directly with an attorney. If you contact us by telephone, email, letter, or by contact form submission through this website, please note that such communication does not create or constitute an attorney-client relationship. We cannot act as your attorney until we are hired as your attorney by a formal written agreement.