California, like every other state in the U.S., has set deadlines that victims of accidents must follow if they want to bring their claims for damages before the civil court. The deadline, called the statute of limitations, requires a victim who suffers a personal injury to file their case within two years of the injury, or if the injury is not immediately known, within one year of the date the injury is discovered.
There are several reasons that state laws have a statute of limitations in place. The main reason is evidence-based. As time passes, reliable evidence becomes harder to come by. For example, it may become harder to track down witnesses or analyze physical evidence after a great deal of time. In addition, the statute of limitations protects people from having to defend themselves from alleged victims bringing up events and injuries that may have happened long ago.
Car accident and other personal injury victims shouldn’t wait to bring their claims. If they don’t take immediate action, they could lose out on the damages they are entitled to, either by virtue of the statute of limitations, by missing out on evidence, or jury perception. For one thing, the evidence will never be as fresh and reliable as the time that the accident occurred, and people need to act quickly to work with their attorney to gather as much physical evidence as possible. Secondly, the jury may question the truthfulness or seriousness of a legitimate injury just because the person waits too long to file a lawsuit. A juror may ask why a person waited many months or years after suffering a debilitating injury to try to obtain compensation, especially if they are suffering all the while.
People who suffer an injury should never wait to stake their claim for damages. An experienced California personal injury attorney is available for consultation, and can help people through filing and representing them in their case.
Source: California Courts, “Statute of Limitations,” accessed on Sept. 14, 2014