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Statute of Limitations For California

WHAT IS “THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS”?

Generally speaking, the statute of limitations is a specific law (or “statute”) that states when a lawsuit must be filed. It is a specific measurement of time (i.e. 1 year) that “limits” the length of time one has to file a lawsuit. Lawsuits filed after the passing of this specific amount of time can be challenged and dismissed merely because the time has passed. The amount of time allowed depends on the type of claim. For example, in California, you must file a lawsuit for any losses due to an automobile negligence claim within 2 years of the date you were injured. If you claim someone breached a written contract, you must bring your lawsuit within 4 years. If it was an oral contract, the time is 2 years.

Many people are under the mistaken belief that they can not be sued after the specific time period has expired. This is not entirely correct. You can be sued. And if you do nothing, you will lose and you will also lose the opportunity to assert the defense of an expired statute of limitations. That is, it is an absolute defense- But it Must be Asserted! The obligation to tell the court is your responsibility. The court will assume what is said in the lawsuit is valid if no one shows up to tell them otherwise.

WHEN DOES THE TIME START?

Sometimes this is very easy to spot (such as the date of an accident) and other times it can be difficult to determine exactly. As it pertains to debts, specifically say credit card debt, the creditor has 4 years from the date the written contract was “breached”. Typically the breach occurs when no payment is made. This why it is important to know when you made your last payment. Generally the creditor has a record of your payments, but they are not always reliable. Also remember that the date of your last payment is not your breach date. It is the next date that at payment is due and no payment is made. This is why many advise to not make a payment on an account when the statute of limitations is about to expire, as this may reset the clock and thereby allow the creditor more time to file a lawsuit.

BELOW IS A CHART OF THE “STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS” IN CALIFORNIA

Description

Statute
Personal Injury, 2 yearsCal. Civ. Proc. Code § 335.1
Product Liability, 2 years
Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 335.1
Wrongful Death, 2 yearsCal. Civ. Proc. Code § 335.1
Contract (in writing), 4 years
Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 337
Enforcing Court Judgments, 10 years
Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 337.5
Fraud, 3 years
Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 338
Property Damage, 3 years
Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 338
Trespass, 3 yearsCal. Civ. Proc. Code § 338
Contract (oral or not in writing), 2 years
Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 339
False Imprisonment, 1 yearCal. Civ. Proc. Code § 340
Libel, 1 year
Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 340
Slander, 1 year
Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 340
Medical Malpractice, 1 or 3 years (Depending on when the victim “discovers” the injury)
Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 340.5
Legal Malpractice, 1 year
Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 340.6