The Statute of Limitations is the rule restricting the time period that a person can file a lawsuit. These statutes vary by State, but they can also vary by the cause of action. The following is an overview of limitation periods for California and for certain causes of action. There are also special rules for minors that apply to the causes of action in California.
Most common statutes of limitations
This table lists the most common time periods for starting lawsuits also known as filing a claim. The law on time periods for starting lawsuits is found in California Code of Civil Procedure sections 312-366. Check these code sections to confirm how much time you have to file your lawsuit.
Check the Code of Civil Procedure sections if the problem is different from those listed here because the time period to sue may be anywhere from months to many years.
IMPORTANT: Make sure you read the law that applies to your specific case because there may be exceptions or other laws that apply to the facts in your case. Talk to a lawyer to make sure you understand the statute of limitations that applies to your specific case.
|Type of Problem (or Case)||Time Period During Which You May Sue (or Be Sued)|
|Injury to a person. The defendant hurts you with or without intending to hurt you. For example, personal injury accidents, wrongful death, assault, battery, intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress, wrongful act, or negligent act, etc. California Code of Civil Procedure section 335.1.||2 years
from the date of injury
|Damage to property. The defendant damages or destroys your property either with or without intending to damage it. For example, taking your personal property (conversion), crashing your vehicle, going onto your property without permission (trespass), fraud, nuisance, etc. California Code of Civil Procedure section 338. Also for breach of sale of goods, see California Commercial Code section 2725.||3 years
from the date the property
|Libel or slander. The defendant defames you in print, writing, or pictures (libel) or verbally (slander). California Code of Civil Procedure section 340(c).||1 year
from the date of injury
|Oral contracts. Contracts that you and the defendant did not write down. California Code of Civil Procedure section 339. (Most oral contracts will have some sort of writing, e.g., a receipt, a canceled check, etc. This writing may be proof that you had an oral contract.)||2 years
from the date the contract
|Contracts in writing. California Code of Civil Procedure section 337.||4 years
from the date the contract
|Known (apparent) problems (called “patent defects”) in real property improvement design, survey, construction, etc., and resulting injury to property or person. California Code of Civil Procedure section 337.1. These usually are lawsuits against architects, contractors, or builders.||4 years
from the date the construction was mostly finished
|Unknown (not apparent) problems (called “latent” defects) in real property improvement design, survey, construction which cause damage to real estate or personal property. California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 337.15. These usually are lawsuits against architects, contractors or builders.||10 years
from the date construction
was mostly finished
|Personal property left at a hotel, hospital, rest home, sanitarium, boarding house, lodging house, or apartment, etc. California Code of Civil Procedure Section 341a.||90 days after departing from premises|
|Against a health-care provider (medical malpractice). 1 year from the date plaintiff knows or should have known about the injury, or 3 years from the date of the injury whichever is the earlier date. California Code of Civil Procedure section 340.5.
Note: If you are going to sue a health-care provider you MUST give them 90 days’ notice before filing. California Code of Civil Procedure section 364.
|1 year (In some cases, 3 years. Read the law).|
|Against a bank. If a bank paid on a check that was signed without authorization or where the signature was forged. California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 340.||1 year from the date the bank paid out the funds.|
|Against government agencies or offices. These cases require that you file a special claim (called an “administrative claim”) with the government office or agency before you file in court. You have to use the government’s form to file the claim.
||6 months from the time of the injury to file an administrative claim
When to file a court case depends on whether your administrative claim is denied or not responded to. If your claim is not responded to, talk to a lawyer to find out how much time you have to file your lawsuit.
Special Rules for Minors
Except in cases of medical malpractice or wrongful death, a minor has two (2) years from the date of his or her 18th birthday to file a tort claim. California Coded Civil Procedure Section 352.
For Medical Malpractice Cases
Actions by a minor shall be commenced within three years from the date of the alleged wrongful act except that actions by a minor under the full age of six years shall be commenced within three years or prior to his eighth birthday whichever provides a longer period. Such time limitation shall be tolled for minors for any period during which parent or guardian and defendant’s insurer or health care provider have committed fraud or collusion in the failure to bring an action on behalf of the injured minor for professional negligence. California Code of Civil Procedure Section 340.5
Please note: State law information collected from WestLaw electronic database and the California Courts website at California Courts website
The materials at this web site have been prepared by our Law Firm for information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. These materials do not, and are not, intended to constitute legal advice. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel. The information provided at this site is subject to change without notice. Although we try to keep our site current and accurate, you should not rely on this information or its applicability without verbal confirmation with an attorney licensed to practice in the State of California.