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Oxnard & Ventura Personal Injury Attorneys

What is a Statute of Limitations?

Alarm clock

A statute of limitations is a deadline set by law during which you must take formal action on your case. This action will typically be the filing of a complaint in the appropriate court and, in some instances, the completion of a required claim form. Statutes of limitations are critical in any case because if the deadline is missed or expires, you will forever be barred from bringing your case to court afterward. This means that no matter how serious your injuries or no matter how negligent a defendant’s conduct, you simply cannot bring your case.

If you have a pending personal injury claim, it is imperative that you consult with a well-qualified attorney as soon as possible to make sure your statute of limitations has not passed. The start date of a statute of limitations can vary depending on the details of your case, but your lawyer can help you sort through the details.

Examples of Statutes of Limitations in California

The following are examples of statutes of limitations in the state of California. Statutes of limitations can be complex and change from case to case. You should not in any way just rely on these examples. As mentioned, work with an attorney to get clear answers about your case’s own statute of limitations.

Personal Injury

Most personal injury cases in California are governed by a two-year statute of limitations. This means that a complaint in your case must be filed in a court of appropriate jurisdiction within two years from the date your accident occurred. Common types of personal injury cases include automobile accidents, trip or slip falls, and dog bites.

Medical Malpractice

Statutes of limitations in medical malpractice are complex and have many layers and exceptions. Without fail, you should consult an attorney that is experienced in this type of case as soon as you believe you have been hurt by a medical provider. The statute is one year from the date the injury occurred or three years from the date you discovered or reasonably should have discovered the injury and its negligent cause. As is readily apparent, this statute is difficult to interpret. Most of the time, the statute of limitations will be one year from the date the injury occurred; however, as seen above, there are several exceptions. One notable exception is when the defendant is a public entity in which case a claim form might need to be filed within only six months from the date of the injury.

Cases Against Public Entities

Like statutes in medical malpractice cases, statutes against defendants that are public entities — like states, counties, or cities — are complex and very different from a personal injury action against a private party. Examples of public entity cases include a trip and fall on a city or county sidewalk, a design or construction defect on a public road, or even an automobile or bus accident when the vehicle that causes the accident is owned by a public entity, such as a police officer or city official.

You must file the appropriate claim form within six months from the date of the injury. That is, however, only the first step. The public entity must then take action on the claim. If the claim is denied, then it begins essentially a second statute of limitations and a complaint in the appropriate jurisdiction must be filed within six months from the date the claim was denied. Again, there are many nuances to these rules, and it is imperative to consult a well-qualified attorney in this field to get more information.

Wrongful Death

Typically, a wrongful death case will have the same statute of limitations as a personal injury case. For example, if a person dies in an automobile accident, the statute will be two years from the date of the auto accident. However, if it is a medical malpractice case—a case when a person dies as a result of the negligence of a healthcare provider—the statute will usually be one year from the date of death. If a person dies as a result of the negligence of a public entity—state, county, city—a claim form must be filed within six months from the date of death.

Don’t Let a Statute of Limitation End Your Case!

In short, statutes of limitations are absolutely critical and if they are missed it acts to completely end your case no matter how serious your injuries. The aforementioned examples are by no means complete and it cannot be emphasized enough that an experienced attorney should be consulted at the earliest opportunity.

If you have an injury claim to file in Oxnard or the surrounding area, The Schurmer Firm can help you understand your rights and how a statute of limitations applies to your case. Call (805) 470-1628 now.