Statute of Limitations for Filing Lawsuits in California Courts

Statutes impose limitations illustration

The word limitations and smiling attorney thinking against futuristic black and blue background.

There is a statute of limitations for most lawsuits; this is the deadline, in which the case must be filed with the court. In cases where the statute of limitations has run out, the legal claim will not be valid in most cases. The amount of time that a lawsuit can be filed will depend on the type of case.


The statutes of limitation for the most common lawsuits that are filed include:

  • Personal Injury: Personal injury lawsuits must be filed within two years from the time of the injury. In cases where the injury was not discovered immediately, then there is a one year time limit from the date that the injury was discovered.
  • Property Damage: There is a three year time limit to file a lawsuit for property damage, from the date that the damage occurred.
  • Breach of a Written Contract: In cases where there has been a breach of a written contract there is a four year time limitation from the date that the contract was broken.
  • Breach of Oral Contract: when there is a breach of an oral contract there is a three year time limit to file a lawsuit, from the date that the contract was broken.
  • Government Agency Claims: The claim filed against the government agency has a time limit of six months from the date of the incident. However, in some cases the deadline can be one year from the date of the incident. Should the claim be denied, then a lawsuit can be filed in court and the normal statutes will apply for the time limitation.

There are some crimes that do not have a statute of limitations, like murder that has no statute of limitations. If you believe that you have a claim, it can be difficult to determine the statute of limitation. If you are unsure about the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit, it is important to consult an attorney. The court self-help resources might be helpful, but it is vital to remember if the statute of limitation expires, your lawsuit will not be accepted by the court.


Claims Against Government Agencies

When you have a claim against a government agency, it is started with a special claim, called an “administrative claim.” This is filed with the government office or agency, before filing a claim in court. Filing this claim, it will be necessary to use the government’s form, when filing the claim.

  • Personal Injury Claims: Personal injury claims include injuries and property damage. The statute of limitation is six months for these claims from the date of the injury or property damage. For this type of government claim you should review California Government Code section 905 and section 911.2. Consulting a personal injury attorney, will ensure that the claim is filed properly and within the given amount of time.
  • Real Property Damage and Breach of Contract: Both of these types of claims have a one year statute of limitation from the date the property damage occurred or the contract was broken.

Once your claim has been filed with the government has 45 days to respond, to your claim. During this 45 days, if your claim is denied, then you will have six months to file a lawsuit in court from the date of the denial was mailed or hand delivered. Government claim statute of limitations can be confusing and if there are any doubts, it is crucial to consult an experienced lawyer. They will be able to discuss the statute of limitation time period and can help protect your rights, if your government claim is denied.


Statute of Limitation Suspension

There are some occasions when the statute of limitation is suspended for a period of time, and then will restart. This is known as “tolling the statute of limitations”, and happens in circumstances where the defendant is a minor, is in prison, is out of the state, or is insane. The tolling will end, when the minor reaches the age of 18, the person is out of prison, has returned to the state of California or is no longer insane the period of limitation will resume. When tolling is involved in the claim against a government office or agency it can be extremely complicated and it is highly advisable to consult a lawyer.


Common Statute of Limitations

The common time periods in which a lawsuit must be filed or a claim can be found in the California Code of Civil Procedure sections 312-366. This can be read to determine the amount of time that you have to file your claim. It is important to be certain that the laws you read apply specifically to your type of case. If it does not, or you are not certain about the statute of limitation for your claim, then you should consult an attorney to ensure you understand the time limit you have for your specific type of case.


Types of Claims

  • Personal Injury: This is a claim that occurs when the defendant injures you, with or without the intention of causing the injury. Personal injury accidents, assault, battery, or wrongful death, whether intentional, a wrongful act, negligent acts or due to negligently inflicting emotional distress are covered in the California Code of Civil Procedure section 335.1. The time period in which a claim can be filed is two years from the date the injury occurred.
  • Property Damage: When a defendant damages or destroys your property, whether it was intentional or accidentally. This can be personal property, such as a vehicle collision, fraud, creating a nuisance or trespassing on your property without permission. These statute of limitations are found in the California Code of Civil Procedure section 338. The breach of sale goods is found in the California Commercial Code section 2725. The statute of limitations time is two years from the date the property damage occurred.
  • Personal Property Left: Personal property left at a hospital, nursing home, sanitarium, hotel, lodging house, apartment or boarding house is covered under the California Code of Civil Procedure section 341a. There is a 90 time limit to filed a claim, from the date you left the premises.
  • Claims against a Health-Care Provider: This is known as Medical Malpractice and there is a time limitation of one year from the date the plaintiff knows about the injury, or three years from the date when they should have known about the injury. This will go by which ever date is earlier and is outlined under the California Code of Civil Procedures section 340.5 .Outlined in California Code of Civil Procedure section 364, is a statute that when filing a claim against a health-care provider, they must be given 90 days notice prior to the claim being filed. The statute of limitations is one year to file a claim, however in some cases it can be up to a three year time period.
  • Breach of Written Contracts: The breach of written contracts is outlined in California Code of Civil Procedures section 337 and has a four year time limit from the date that the contract was broken.
  • Breach of Oral Contracts: Oral contracts are ones that are not written and is an agreement between the plaintiff and defendant that was not adhered too. In many cases there is some type of written proof, whether it is a receipt, a cancelled check or other paper document that could be proof of an oral contract. This is found in California Code of Civil Procedures section 339 and has a two year time period in which to file a claim, from the date that the contract was broken.
  • Libel and Slander: Libel is when a defendant vilifies you in writing, print or photographs and slander is when they verbally insult you or your character. This is covered under the California Code of Civil Procedures section 340c and has a one year time period from the date of the injury.
  • Unknown Problems, “Latent Defects”: Latent defects occur with real property design improvement, construction that caused damage to real estate or personal property, and survey of real property. This type of legal claim is usually filed against an architect, builder or contractor and is found under California Code of Civil Procedures, section 337.15. There is a ten year statute of limitations from the date of construction that was mostly finished.
  • Claims Against Banks: A claim against a bank when a check was paid, which was signed without authorization or when the signature was forged is outlined in California Code of Civil Procedure, section 340 and has a one year time period from the date that the bank paid the funds.
  • Claims Against Government Agencies or Offices: The claim that is filed against a government agency or office is known as a special claim or “Administrative Claim.” This administrative claim must be filed prior to filing a claim in court and it is required to use the government’s form to file this special claim. The statute of limitations on this type of case is six months from the date of the injury to file the administrative claim.
  • (1) Personal Property, Personal Injury and Wrongful Death: Filing these types of claims against a government agency or office, will mean filing an administrative claim within a six month period from the date of the injury or death. This is outlined in Government Code, section 911.2.
  • (2) Real Property Damages and Breach of Contract: When real property damage or breach of contract has occurred and the defendant is a government agency or office there is one year time period from the date of the damage to file an administrative claim. This is found in Government Code, section 911.2, under “any other cause of action.”

After an administrative claim is filed the government agency or office has 45 days in which to respond, as outlined in Government Code, section 912.4

In cases where the government agency:

  • Does Not Respond: If the government agency or office does not respond to the claim during the 45 day statute of limitation. Then you will have six months to file a lawsuit in court and this time period applies if your administrative claim was denied. In the case of an administrative claim that was denied the six month time period to file a lawsuit in court will be from the date that the denial was mailed or hand delivered to you. This is outlined in Government Code, section 912.4 and 912.6

When filing a legal claim, whether it is to the court or a government agency or office, consulting with an attorney can help to prevent errors in the computation of statute limitations or the time period that the defendant has to file their legal claim from the date of the injury.

Sources:

http://www.courts.ca.gov/9618.htm