What is the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in California?


The California statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two (2) years.

Source: California Code of Civil Procedure § 335.1

Within two years: An action for assault, battery, or injury to, or for the death of, an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another.

Tolling Provisions

Generally, the 2-year statute of limitations starts running from the date the injury occurred. However, under certain circumstances, the limitations period gets tolled/extended.

Minors: If the injury occurred while the plaintiff was a minor, the 2-year statute of limitations is tolled and does not start running under the plaintiff turns 18.  (See California Code of Civil Procedure § 352)

Inmates: If the injury occurred while the plaintiff was incarcerated, the two-year statute of limiations is tolled for up to two years due to incarceration.  (See California Code of Civil Procedure § 352.1)

Discovery Rule: The two-year statute of limitations may also be tolled by the “discovery rule” when the plaintiff is not initially aware that his injury may have been caused by the wrong of another. Fox v. Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc., 35 Cal. 4th 797, 813 (2005). “Under the discovery rule, the statute of limitations begins to run when the plaintiff suspects or should suspect that her injury was caused by wrongdoing…” Jolly v. Eli Lilly & Co.44 Cal. 3d 1103, 1110 (1998). A plaintiff “has reason to suspect when he has notice or information of circumstances to put a reasonable person on inquiry.” Norgart v. The Upjohn Co., 21 Cal. 4th 383, 398 (1999) (emphasis in original) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Once an injured party has reason to suspect he has been wronged, he is “required to conduct a reasonable investigation … and [is] charged with knowledge of the information that would have been revealed by such an investigation.” Fox, 35 Cal. 4th at 808; see also Jolly, 44 Cal.3d at 1111 (“So long as a suspicion exists, it is clear that the plaintiff must go find the facts; she cannot wait for the facts to find her.”).

Because the discovery rule is an exception to the prescribed statutory limitation, plaintiff bears the burden of proving that he did not and could not discover the wrongdoing until within two years of filing his complaint. “A plaintiff seeking to utilize the discovery rule must plead facts to show his or her inability to have discovered the necessary information earlier despite reasonable diligence.” Fox, 35 Cal.4th at 815(citing McKelvey v. Boeing No. Am., Inc., 74 Cal. App. 4th 151, 160 (1999)). In other words, “[a] plaintiff whose complaint shows on its face that his claim would be barred without the benefit of the discovery rule must specifically plead facts to show (1) the time and manner of discovery and (2) the inability to have made earlier discovery despite reasonable diligence.” Id. at 808 (quoting McKelvey, 74 Cal. App. 4th at 160).