The statute of limitations states how much time you have to file a lawsuit if you’ve been wronged. The law requires most lawsuits to be filed within a specified time frame. Generally speaking, once the statute of limitation passes, your claim is no longer legally valid.

The length of time you have to file a lawsuit depends on which type of legal claim you’re making.

Personal Injury Claims

If you’re making a personal injury claim, you have a full 2 years from the date you were injured to file your lawsuit. However, if you did not realize you were injured right away, then you are given 1 year from the date you discovered your injury.

Statute of Limitations on Personal Injury Claims
Statute of Limitations on Personal Injury Claims

Claims Against the Government

If you’re making a claim against a governmental agency, you are allowed 6 months, or for certain types of cases, 1 year of when the incident occurred to file your claim with that agency. If the agency denies your claim, you can file a lawsuit in court. However, there are certain limits on when this must be done. Please read the information below on Claims Against Governmental Agencies, then read the chart below on the laws regarding statute of limitations.

Claims Against Governmental Agencies

If you intend to sue a governmental agency, you are required to file an “administrative claim” with that particular governmental agency or office before you actually file your lawsuit in court. The government has a special form that must be used when filing the claim.

  • If this is a personal property damage claim or personal injury claim, you have a 6-month window for filing your administrative claim from the date of the damage or injury. However, there are a number of exceptions to this, which you can read about in California Government Code section 905 and section 911.2 plus it would be in your best interests to speak to an attorney.
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Once your claim has been filed with the proper governmental office or agency, they must respond in writing within 45 days. If they respond by denying your claim, you are allowed 6 months from the date you received the denial (in the mail or via personal delivery) to file your lawsuit in court. If you do not receive a denial letter, you’re allowed 2 years from the day of the occurrence to file your lawsuit.

But you cannot rely on having a full 2 years to file your lawsuit because the statute of limitations regarding governmental claims is quite complicated. Speak to an attorney if there is any doubt in your mind about how long you actually have to get your lawsuit filed. The Law Firm of O’Connor, Runckel and O’Malley will provide you with a free consultation and may even be willing to represent you on your case.

What if the statute of limitations is tolled?

There are times when the statute of limitations gets tolled (suspended) for a period of time before it starts running again. In cases in which the defendant is in prison, a minor, legally insane, or out of state, tolling may occur. When the justification for the tolling is over, (when the defendant is released from prison, turns 18, is declared legally sane, comes back to California), the statute of limitations begins running again.

Cases in which tolling is an issue are very complicated, so it is highly recommended that you speak with an experienced attorney.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure you review and fully understand the laws that pertain to your specific issue since there may be other more applicable laws pertaining to the facts of your case or even exceptions. Speak to an attorney to ensure that you have a full understanding of the statute of limitations that pertains to your particular case.

Type of Case (or Problem)

Period of Time in Which You May File a Lawsuit or Have a Lawsuit Filed Against You

Person is injured: The defendant injured you whether intending to or not. For example, an assault or battery, wrongful death, personal injury accident, negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent act, or wrongful act, and etc. See California Code of Civil Procedure section 335.1.

2 years from the date the injury occurred.

Against governmental offices or agencies: In a case like this you must file an “administrative claim” with that exact governmental agency or office before you can file a lawsuit in court. A special governmental form must be used in filing your claim.

If the governmental office or agency:

  • Responds within 45 days by denying your claim, you can file your lawsuit in court within 6 months of receiving the denial letter in the mail or by personal delivery. See Government Code sections 912.4, 912.6.
  • Fails to respond within 45 days to your claim, you have 2 years from the occurrence to file your lawsuit in court. Government Code section 945.6 (a)(2).
  • You are advised to consult with an experienced lawyer to ensure that you file your administrative claim and your lawsuit before the statute of limitations expire.

6 months from when the injury occurred to file your administrative claim.

When you’re allowed to file a lawsuit in court depends on whether the governmental office or agency denied your claim or failed to respond to it. If you do not get a response regarding your claim, speak to an attorney to find out when the deadline is for filing a lawsuit.


O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley LLP is a highly experienced personal injury law firm that serves the people of the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Our lawyers represent clients in many different types of personal injury claims.

The law partners at O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley have over 50 years of experience representing victims and protecting their rights. We take pride in having negotiated very generous settlements on thousands of cases while having presided over and tried over 250 cases before juries. Our vast experience and courtroom tactics are unparalleled. We can put our knowledge, experience and tactics to work to see that you prevail in your case.

Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP. The information presented in this article is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice.
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