July 22, 2014

California Statues Of Limitations For Civil Matters

Many people are surprised to find that while they may have a great case, the case cannot be pursued due to the statute of limitations on their case having expired.

What is a statute of limitations? A statute of limitations is the deadline for filing a lawsuit. In California, a lawsuit MUST be filed within a certain period of time. Once the statute of limitations has been exceeded, the legal claim is no longer valid and cannot be pursued. The interval of time during which you can file a California lawsuit varies depending on the type of legal claim. Here are some common California statute of limitations:

  • Fraud and Negligent Misrepresentation: 3 years.
  • Breach of an oral contract: 2 years.
  • Breach of a written contract: 4 years.
  • Suits for libel or slander: 1 year.
  • Personal injury claims based on negligence: 2 years.
  • Property Damages: 3 years.
  • Unknown (latent) problems in real property improvement design, survey, construction which cause damage to real estate or personal property: 10 years

California employment-related lawsuits have a different statue of limitations, requiring the claimant to first file a claim with the California Fair Employment and Housing Authority and then file a suit in court.

Sometimes it is not reasonably possible for a person to discover the cause of an injury–or even to know that an injury has occurred–until considerably after the act which causes the injury. For example, a person might not realize that they have been defrauded in a business transaction until years later. In these instances the statute of limitations does not begin running in California until the injury (fraud, in this example) is discovered. This is known as the “delayed discovery rule” and permits a lawsuit to be filed within a certain period of time after the injury is discovered–or reasonably should have been discovered–by the claimant. Determining whether or not this rule applies can be complicated, so you should consult with a qualified civil attorney to help you determine whether or not it applies in your case.

In other instances, the California statute of limitations is “tolled.” This means that something has stopped the statute from running for a period of time. Common reasons for tolling a statute of limitations include:

  • The victim of the injury was a minor at the time the injury occurred.
  • The victim of the injury was not mentally competent at the time the injury occurred.
  • The “automatic stay” in bankruptcy ordinarily tolls the statute of limitations until such time as the bankruptcy is resolved or the stay is lifted.

As with delayed discover, determining whether the special rule of tolling applies in your case requires the expertise of a qualified attorney.

Finally, while one claim may be barred due to the statue of limitations having expired, an attorney from Beverly Hills Law Corp., PC may be able to help you find another way to make that claim that may still be filed. Contact us for a free case evaluation.

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