Anatomy of a Lawsuit – California Statute of Limitations

This is the first post in a new series called “Anatomy of a Lawsuit” where I will explain the process, some legal terms, and considerations that go into a lawsuit.  Comments and questions are appreciated so that I can provide information that is most useful to readers.

We’ll start with “when to file a lawsuit?”

Today’s topic is the statute of limitations (SOL), which is a fancy word for deadline to file a lawsuit.

It’s a simple equation.  Missing the SOL = you’re SOL.

Different types of lawsuits have different deadlines to file a lawsuit (statute of limitations).  If you blow this deadline, you could forever lose your right to sue.

Below is a non-exclusive list of the deadlines to file some of the most common types of lawsuits in California.  You should confirm with counsel what category your dispute falls under and whether there are special statutes of limitations that apply to your case.

What if I want to sue a public entity such as a city, county, school district, or state university?

There are additional requirements for suing a public entity in California.  Failure to comply with these requirements will bar you from suing the public entity.

Here are the basic requirements for suing a public entity.  However, a state agency or local public entity can create its own claims procedures in any written agreement to which it is a party.

1.  Any claim against a public entity for personal injury or death, or for damage to personal property or crops must be presented to the governmental entity within 6 months of accrual of the cause of action.  All other claims must be presented within 1 year.  Cal. Gov. Code § 911.2.  Most actions accrue on the date of injury.  However, some actions accrue only when the injury is discovered.

2.  The public entity then has 45 days to accept or reject the claim.  Cal. Gov. Code § 911.6.

3.  The claimant then has 6 months after delivery or mailing of the notice of rejection to file suit. Cal. Gov. Code § 913.

The law also provides specific requirements regarding what must be in the claim and to whom it must be delivered.

PRACTICAL TIP:  Keep these deadlines in mind and consult with an attorney as soon as you can, especially if you have a dispute with a public entity.  The earlier you speak to an attorney, the sooner you can work towards an amicable resolution while giving yourself the opportunity to seek redress through the courts should negotiations fail.


In: Anatomy of a Lawsuit, California Civil Litigation

Comments are closed.