(Last Updated on: September 18, 2020 )

What Is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations?

No matter how minor, car accidents are traumatic experiences. The shock from an accident may make it difficult to think clearly about what to do next. In many cases, the psychological effects of the accident can even mask a serious injury. It’s important to act swiftly when reporting a personal injury after a car accident. You may have limited time to file a claim to seek compensation for your damages. This is known as the car accident statute of limitations, which is the window of time you have to bring a lawsuit against another party for negligence.

How quickly you must report an injury will depend on whether you are dealing with an insurance claim or filing a personal injury lawsuit. If you’ve been hurt in an auto accident, read on to learn more about how to protect yourself legally in both instances.

Dealing With Insurance After an Accident

A male insurance adjuster in a suit inspects the damaged bumper of a silver car with a clipboard in hand.

First, proving that you sought medical attention directly following the collision is critical in strengthening your claim. Certain injuries like whiplash may not show up immediately after a crash. The more time that passes, the harder it will be to prove your injuries were a direct result of the accident, and not something else.

After a car accident, be sure you:

  • Visit your doctor immediately following a car accident, even if you aren’t sure that you’re injured
  • Never admit fault for the accident, even if you think you might be responsible
  • Report the car accident to your insurance company within 24 hours
  • File a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible if you were injured (no later than three days after the accident)
  • Don’t give any recorded statements to the other party’s insurance company if they question you
  • Take pictures of the scene of the accident and document what you can recall; if possible, do this while you’re still present at the scene after the incident
  • Speak with an attorney before deciding whether to accept an insurance company’s settlement offer

Statute of Limitations for Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit

When filing a personal injury lawsuit, you will still want to follow the steps outlined above. However, the personal injury statute of limitations (filing period time) will apply, and the clock starts running as soon as you know you’re injured. 

Once the statute of limitations is up, you lose your right to file a lawsuit, except in rare circumstances. If you suspect your injuries are a result of another’s negligence, consult a knowledgeable personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

Each state has specific laws when it comes to statutes of limitation. For instance, the California statute of limitations on car accidents depends on varying factors. Injured individuals must file a lawsuit within two years from the date of the crash. However, if someone dies as a result of a car accident and a wrongful death claim is brought, the time period begins from the date of death, not the date of the accident.

When filing a personal injury lawsuit, the clock starts running as soon as you know you’re injured.

Damages in a Car Accident Lawsuit

A key reason for filing a car accident lawsuit is reimbursement for your losses. This is usually done through a monetary damages award ordered by the court. The award will compensate the injury victim for losses caused by the accident. 

Damages awards can cover losses like:

  • Medical bills, hospital stays, and other health care expenses
  • Lost wages or loss of future earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Any property damage directly caused by the accident
  • Wrongful death expenses (if applicable)

As you can imagine, financial compensation would undoubtedly be helpful for a person injured in a car accident. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of filing deadlines. 

Be mindful of when you need to file so you don’t miss the opportunity to bring a lawsuit. As with any legal claim, a missed deadline can be costly.

An African-American male patient sits in a hospital bed as an Asian doctor explains what is on her iPad screen.

Can I Get an Extension on the Car Accident Statute of Limitations?

If you missed the deadline to submit your car accident lawsuit or won’t have time to file, it might be possible to get an extension. 

However, be aware that extensions are typically only granted in specific situations. For instance, if a person is incapacitated due to the accident and unable to file a claim as a result, the court may grant an extension. This often requires medical proof. 

Other extensions and exceptions may be available. It’s best to speak with a car accident attorney for more details on these, as they require additional documentation.  

When to Contact a Car Accident Attorney

If you or a loved one were injured in a crash, the experienced attorneys at Hodes Milman are here for you. We understand the importance of filing a claim as quickly as possible, so you don’t miss out on the recovery that you are owed.

We have a strong track record of successfully fighting for our clients’ rights. If you need help preparing for a car accident claim on time, contact us today by calling (949) 640-8222 for a free case evaluation. We will guide you towards getting your life back on track right away.





HMI team

When you work with us, you’ll see the difference. A lot of firms are quick to show you numbers, and it is absolutely true that your lawyer should have experience and a strong track record in the area that you require. However, we’ll take it one step further. We also believe that your attorney should put your needs, cares and desires first. Because you deserve more than just compensation for your losses - you deserve a true advocate.

HMI team