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How long after a car accident can I file a damage claim?

On Behalf of | Mar 10, 2023 | Motor Vehicle Accidents |

The consequences of a motor vehicle accident might continue for months and years for victims. After the crash, they still have to cover medical, therapy and car repair expenses. Unfortunately, not all have emergency funds for incidents like this, so most people seek compensation for damages.

However, one thing victims have to take note of is the time limit for filing claims for damages.

When must I file a claim?

In California, there is a time limit, referred to as the statute of limitations, for motor vehicle victims to file for damage claims. Those seeking compensation for bodily injuries must file a claim within two years of the accident. When it comes to property damage, one may file a claim within three years from the collision date. If the claim is against the government or any branch thereof, the victim must file an administrative damage claim within 180 days from the injury or property damage date.

If the vehicle crash victim dies at the fault of another driver, the time only starts from the date of death.

Are extensions possible?

While the law is strict on implementation, it is not completely absolute. The filing deadline can be suspended if:

  • The victim did not discover the injury until a later time. In this case, they can file a claim within a year of the discovery.
  • The victim was a minor at the time of the accident. The limit will start running once the victim turns 18.
  • The victim has a disability. If they become able again, the time limit will start running.
  • The defendant is not in California. Once they return, the tolling ends.
  • The defendant is in prison. The victim must file a claim within the time limit once the defendant gets out of prison.

If you file a damage claim beyond the time limit set by law, the court will refuse your claim. That is why victims and their families need to understand how the statute of limitations and special circumstances can affect their claim for damages.