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Filing a Lawsuit: Timing is Everything!

Whether your business is the target of a potential lawsuit or it has a claim against another entity, when it comes to filing a lawsuit, timing is everything.

All claims in California are subject to a statute of limitations, which are laws enacted to prevent the filing of old (stale) lawsuits. The reason for these rules is to prevent people and businesses from waiting so long that the evidence is no longer around to prove (or disprove) a claim, and to allow businesses to “move on” after a certain amount of time from any transaction.

But there isn’t a “one rule fits all” when it comes to statutes of limitations: Depending on the type of injury or claim, there are different rules that apply. Here are some of the more common claims and their associated statutes of limitations periods for the State of California (only):

Breach of Written Contract: When parties enter into a written contract, they have four (4) years from the date of any breach of that contract in which to file a lawsuit against the other party.

Breach of Oral Contract: If you do not have a written contract, and the agreement is based on an oral agreement, you have two (2) years from the date of the breach in order to file a claim.

Personal Injury Claims: In the case of any personal injury claim (referred to in legalese as a “Tort” claim), you must file the lawsuit within two (2) years of the date of injury. This would include matters such as where a customer slips and falls at your business, or if one of your drivers is involved in an automobile accident, etc. It would also include any claims of negligence.

Fraud Claims: In these cases, California limits the amount of time that you can file an action to three (3) years from the date of the discovery of the fraud. The clock starts ticking when you discover, or reasonably should have discovered, the existence of the fraud.

Workplace Injuries: For any work-related injury (i.e. any injury to an employee which happens on the job), the worker has one (1) year from the date of injury to file a worker’s compensation claim. There are important exceptions to these rules, which are very specific, and likely require a consultation with an attorney.

With all of the above limitation periods, it is important to note that they apply only to California, and not to Federal claims or claims in other states. There may also be certain exceptions and tolling periods which may apply to the claim. It is therefore important that you consult with an attorney. The attorneys at Vogt, Resnick & Sherak, LLP have experience dealing with statute of limitation issues and are available to assist.