Statutes of limitations are the laws that set a maximum time limit after an event for legal proceedings regarding that event to be initiated. The intention of statutes of limitations is to facilitate the resolution of a legal matter in a reasonable amount of time. In criminal law, a statute of limitation is a law that prevents a prosecutor from charging someone with a crime that was committed more than a specified number of years ago.


In civil law, a statute of limitation restricts the amount of time that an abuse victim has to file a claim for compensation. Civil lawsuits must be filed within a certain, specified amount of time. In general, once the statute of limitations on a case “runs out,” the legal claim is no longer valid, and after the deadline date, an abuse victim no longer has legal recourse. The period of time during which an abuse victim can file a personal injury lawsuit varies depending on the state and the precise type of claim being filed. Listed here are California’s current statutes of limitations for the most common types of legal disputes heard by California civil courts:

  • Personal injury: Two years from the injury. If the accident is not discovered right away, the time limit is one year from the date the injury was discovered.
  • Medical malpractice: Three years from the injury. If the injury is not discovered right away, the time limit is one year from the date the accident was discovered.
  • Breach of a written contract: Four years from the date the contract was broken.
  • Breach of an oral contract: Two years from the date the contract was broken.
  • Property damage: Three years from the date the damage occurred.
  • Claims against government agencies: An abuse victim must file a claim with the agency within six months (or in some cases, one year) of the incident. If the claim is denied, the injury victim can then file a lawsuit, but there are strict time limits.


The law is complicated, and there are a number of exceptions, so determining precisely when the statute of limitations runs out on any particular personal injury claim is not always easy. In the state of California, an abuse victim with questions about how to calculate the amount of time he or she has to file a personal accident claim should consult with an experienced California personal injury attorney.

In fact, anyone injured in California by another person’s negligence should promptly speak with a personal injury lawyer regarding his or her legal rights, legal alternatives, and the amount of time remaining to take legal action. The victims of personal injury in California are entitled by law to complete compensation for their medical treatment, wages lost due to the injury, and reimbursement for all other accident and injury-related expenses.


If someone is bringing an injury claim against a state or local government agency in California, that person first has to file a special claim called an “administrative” claim with the government office or agency in question before any lawsuit can be filed in civil court. Injury victims suing a government agency will most certainly require a personal injury attorney’s help. For a personal injury or a property damage claim against a government agency in California, the initial administrative claim must be filed within six months of the date of the injury or damage.


After an administrative claim is filed, the government agency has 45 days to respond. If the government agency rejects the claim during the 45-day period, the plaintiff then has six months to file a lawsuit in court from the date that the rejection was mailed or delivered. If a plaintiff does not receive a rejection notice from the government agency, he or she has two years from the day the incident occurred to file a lawsuit with the courts. Quite frankly, the statute of limitations for government claims can be particularly complicated to determine, and there are a number of exceptions. Do not count on having two full years to file a claim against a government agency in California.


In a personal injury case where a defendant has allegedly injured someone because of negligence but without any intention to cause injury, the statute of limitations varies from state to state, but in California, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is almost always two years. Examples are injuries sustained in traffic accidents, premises liability cases where someone is injured because of a property owner’s negligence, and product liability cases where someone is injured by using a flawed or defective consumer product – anything from a toaster to a prescription pharmaceutical.

The statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims also varies from state to state. In many states, the time limit is two, three, or four years, but you only have a year to file a malpractice claim in Tennessee, and you have six years in Maine and North Dakota. If you’ve been a victim of medical malpractice, have an experienced medical malpractice attorney explain the details that apply in your own state and help you reach the right decision regarding legal action.

In California, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims is three years from the date a medical malpractice injury occurs. If a medical malpractice injury is not apparent when it happens, the injury victim/plaintiff has one year to file a claim from the date plaintiff knows or should have known about the injury. However, with so many complications and exceptions in the California law, anyone injured by medical malpractice really must speak first with an experienced California medical malpractice attorney.


For justice to be just, it must also be swift. Statutes of limitations ensure that justice takes place within a reasonable amount of time. Statutes of limitations also compel injury victims to pursue their legal recourse without delay – while evidence is fresh and before witnesses become forgetful. In California, when someone is injured by the negligence of another, as soon as that person has obtained medical treatment, the very next step should be arranging to speak with an experienced California personal injury attorney.

Chris Purcell
By: Chris Purcell

Attorney Chris Purcell is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara College of Law. He exclusively represents the victims of personal injury and wrongful death. Chris was part of the team that won California’s largest-ever wrongful death judgment – a $150 million verdict for a family devastated by a tragic trucking accident. In 2011, he received the Top Gun Award given by the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association.