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  • Christopher J. Fry, Esq.

Reporting an Accident and Statute of Limitations in California


If you are in a car accident, then it is crucial that you follow the correct accident reporting procedures in order to prevent creating problems for yourself down the down. Car accidents are traumatizing, expensive, and can result in severe bodily damage.


The last thing that you want to happen if you are in a car accident is to find out that you did not follow reporting procedures correctly.


Here is a guide to reporting an accident and information about car accident statutes of limitations in California.


Table of Contents

  • Time Limit for a Car Accident Claim

  • What if You’re in a Car Accident in California with no police report?

  • What if you try to file your lawsuit after the applicable deadline has passed?

  • What is a Statute of Limitation?

  • Statute of Limitations for California Personal Injury Cases

  • Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents


What’s the time limit for a car accident claim in California? Can you file a police report days after an accident?


The amount of time that you can wait to file a car accident claim varies from state to state. In California, car accident victims have two years to file a bodily injury claim and three years to file a property damage claim.


As for filing a police report, most insurance companies stipulate that you have to file the report within “a reasonable amount of time.” Usually, this means within 24 hours. However, you should call 9/11 immediately if you are in an accident that results in bodily injury or property damage just to be safe.


In cases involving possible Government liability (City, State, County, etc.), victims may only have up to six months to file their claim! In some cases, it is not apparent to a non-lawyer that a Governmental entity may be responsible so reaching out to an attorney immediately after the accident is the best bet. If you’re not sure you need an attorney, you can call the Sacramento car accident attorneys at Fry Law for a free consultation.


What if you’re in a car accident in California with no police report? Reporting an accident to police after the fact.


A police report is not necessary to file an insurance claim or to sue the other party that was involved with the accident in most cases. All that is necessary is to make sure that you take your legal action before the statute of limitations passes, which, as mentioned before is two years for bodily harm in California, and three years for property damage (may be as early as six months as explained above).


However, if something unusual happens like the other driver fled the scene or a crime took place, then you will need a police report. Just be safe and call the police every time you are in an accident. It is simple to do and it can give you peace of mind. Car accidents with no police reports are something that you can easily avoid. You can also report an accident to the police after the fact. Just try to do it as soon as possible so you can get the accident on record.


What if you try to file your lawsuit after the applicable deadline has passed?


If you try to file your lawsuit after the statute of limitations has passed, then your lawsuit is almost guaranteed to be dismissed. However, there are some special circumstances where a judge may allow it. For example, if you were a minor when you were in the accident.


What is a Statute of Limitation?


If you are unfamiliar with the concept of a statute of limitation, it is a certain amount of time that you have to file a lawsuit against another party. Fun fact: In ancient Athens, the statute of limitations for all crimes was 5 years except for homicide.


Statutes of limitations exist in order to incentivize people to file their lawsuits in a timely manner and to not wait decades to file a suit. The more time that passes, the harder it can be to collect evidence, which is another reason why statutes of limitations exist.


Statute of Limitations for California Personal Injury Cases


In California, the statute of limitations for a personal injury suit is two years. This means that if you plan on adhering to the statute of limitations for injury or accident suits, then you need to act quickly after you are involved in a car accident.


I can't stress this enough. DO. NOT. WAIT.


The last thing you want to happen to you is to not be able to file a suit to recover damages for your accident.


Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents


If you are going to sue someone for a personal injury that resulted from a car accident in the California courts, then you have two years to do this unless there is a special circumstance such as not knowing about your injury until years after the fact.


If you are going to sue someone for property damage that resulted from a car accident, then you have up to three years to do it (may be as early as six months as explained above). Lawsuits filed after that time limit will most likely all be thrown out.


Car accident claim time limit, especially in California, should be taken very seriously and not neglected.

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