Delayed Discovery Tolling for Injury Lawsuits
In California, as in other states, the statute of limitations period for your claim may be tolled (in other words, suspended or paused) under limited circumstances. Normally, when the statute of limitations period passes, the plaintiff loses their right to litigate their claim.
If you have been injured due to the fault of another, but failed to file a lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations period, then it’s critical that you consult with a California personal injury attorney as soon as possible to assess your claim and whether it may still be possible to recover.
A statute of limitations applies to every injury claim in California. It essentially sets a deadline for filing your claim, so that defendants are put on notice of the lawsuit within a reasonable timeframe of the incident that gave rise to your claim.
Depending on the circumstances of your particular case, the statute of limitations can vary significantly. For example, an injury claimant must file a notice claim against a public entity (e.g., an injury claim against the City for pedestrian injuries suffered due to the negligence of a City bus driver) within 6 months of the date of injury, while a negligence-based injury claim against a private individual or entity must be filed within 2 years of the date of injury.
There are some possibilities for tolling this time period. One of the most common is the delayed discovery rule.
The Discovery Rule
The statute of limitations period in California injury claims runs from the date of injury. But what if the injury is of a kind that is not readily discoverable at the time?
California courts may apply the discovery rule, which tolls the statute of limitations period until the plaintiff discovers (or should discover, with reasonable efforts) the injury at-issue. Under the discovery rule, the statute of limitations period only begins to run from the date that the plaintiff discovers or reasonably should discover the injury.
The discovery rule may also apply when the injury is known, but it is not clear that the defendant is the cause of the injury. If it is not clear who caused the plaintiff’s injuries, then until the plaintiff identifies (or through the exercise of reasonable efforts should have identified) the correct defendant, the statute of limitations period may be tolled.