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Statute of Limitations California (Overview: All You Need To Know)

What is the Statute of Limitations California?

How long do you have to file a lawsuit?

What are the essential elements you should know!

Keep reading as we have gathered exactly the information that you need!

Let’s dig into our California Civil Procedure knowledge!

Are you ready?

Let’s get started!

What Is Statute of Limitations California

Statute of limitations California refers to the legal time a person or entity has to file a civil lawsuit against another.

Federal laws and California state laws set time limits for the commencement of a lawsuit.

In essence, if a civil lawsuit plaintiff files a legal action against the defendant “within” the statute of limitations time periods, then the court will have the ability to hear the case and render a judgment on its merits.

However, if a plaintiff files a lawsuit “outside” of the limitations time period, then the court will dismiss the case as it is no longer legally admissible to be heard in California courts.

In other words, the case is said to be “time barred”.

Depending on the type of lawsuit a person or company is looking to file, in California statute of limitations can range from one year to ten years.

In California, the California Code of Civil Procedure outlines the time limits for commencing action in general, for the recovery of real property and other property, action for professional negligence and other.

Statute of Limitations Definition 

Statute of limitations is defined by the California Courts as follows:

A statute of limitations is the deadline for filing a lawsuit. 

It’s a simple and short definition but the legal consequences can be enormous.

A plaintiff must file a civil lawsuit within the legally specified time period, otherwise the statute of limitations of the case is said to “run out”.

Depending on the nature of the lawsuit and the applicable laws, the amount of time awarded to a party to file a lawsuit may vary.

Start of Time Limitations Clock

The starting point of the legal statute of limitations clock is generally the date of an incident causing the plaintiff harm or the date a wrongdoing was committed.

In some cases, the harm is only discovered by the plaintiff weeks, months, or even years after the wrongful time.

In such cases, the clock may start running from the moment the injuries manifested themselves or the wrongdoing was discovered.

It’s important to speak to an experienced attorney in California to understand the time periods you may have to file legal action against another in any type of civil matter such as personal injury lawsuits, medical negligence, car accidents, wrongful deaths, or other.

The rule of thumb is if you feel you have been wronged, you should act quickly to file a claim to avoid losing your opportunity to seek relief.

To avoid losing the possibility of getting a fair settlement or getting compensation, you should consult with a qualified attorney to evaluate the nature and specifics of your case.

Tolling Statute of Limitations

The “tolling” of statutes of limitations refers to the possibility for civil parties to extend the expiration or deadline for the filing of legal action.

In some cases, the limitation clock is tolled by virtue of the law and in other cases it is based on a mutual agreement of the civil parties.

For example, if a minor suffers damages or is harmed, the statute of limitations may be tolled until the age of adulthood allowing him or her to directly bring legal action against the defendant.

Another example when the statute of limitation can be tolled is when the defendant deliberately acted in a way to delay the action where the application of statute of limitations may result in an injustice.

Motion To Dismiss

A defendant receiving service of a civil lawsuit outside of the statute of limitations time periods will generally move to dismiss the action right from the outset by filing a motion to dismiss.

The courts generally apply the statute of limitations delays to ensure that the court resources and staff are dedicated to cases that have legal merit and basis to be heard.

A motion for demurrer can also be filed by a party to a lawsuit against a pleading filed by the opposing party.

Demurrer is a pleading against the filing of a pleading by the other party.

A defendant can “demur” to the complaint and the plaintiff can demur to an answer filed in response to the complaint.

Common California Statute of Limitations

Let’s look at different types of cases and how the statute of limitations apply in California:

Injury To Person

  • Personal injury is 2 years (Section 335.1 Civil Procedures)
  • Fraud is 3 years (Section 338 Civil Procedures)
  • False imprisonment is 1 year (Section 340(c) Civil Procedures)
  • Libel or Slander is 1 year (Section 340(c) Civil Procedures)

Injury to Property

  • Property damage is 3 years (Section 338(b) and (c) Civil Procedures)
  • Known problems (patent defects) is 4 years from the date construction was mostly finished (Section 337.1 Civil Procedure)
  • Unknown problems (latent defects) is 10 years from the date construction was mostly finished (Section 337.15 Civil Procedure)
  • Personal property left at hotel, hospital, rest home or other is 90 days after leaving the premises (Section 341(a) Civil Procedure)

Professional Malpractice

  • Veterinarian malpractice is 1 year for injuries or death of the animal (Section 340(c) Civil Procedure)
  • Medical malpractice is 1 year from discovery and 3 years if injury is known (Section 340.5 Civil Procedures)
  • Legal malpractice is 1 year from the discovery and maximum of 4 years from the wrongdoing (Section 340.6 Civil Procedure)


  • Trespass is 3 years (Section 338(b) Civil Procedures)

Collection of Rents

  • Collection of rent is 4 years (Section 337.2 Civil Procedures)

Breach of Contract

  • Breach of written contract is 4 years (Section 337 Civil Procedure)
  • Breach of oral contract is 2 years (Section 339 Civil Procedure)

Collection of Debt on Account

  • Collection of debt on account is 4 years (Section 337 Civil Procedure)

Enforcement of Judgments

  • Enforcement of judgments is 10 years (Section 337.5 Civil Procedures)

Government Agencies

  • Claims against government agencies are within 6 months to 1 year of the incident 


  • Crimes or criminal actions do not have any statute of limitations 

Statute of Limitations In California Takeaways 

So, what is the statute of limitations in California?

Let’s look at a summary of our findings.

Statute of Limitations California

  • The statute of limitations is the deadline you have to file a lawsuit against another person
  • California laws provide specific time limits to file lawsuits allowing a person or entity to pursue a claim for a certain period of time
  • Every type of case may have a different deadline for filing a lawsuit where, for instance, personal injury claims or automobile negligence in California must be filed within two years in California but breach of written contracts are four years
  • Legal action filed after the statute of limitations will be rejected by the court and the defendant can raise an affirmative defense against it
  • The beginning or commencement of the statute of limitations in CA may not be easy to define in some cases, sometimes is from the date of an incident or at other times is from the discovery of an injury 
Cause of action 
In personam jurisdiction
In rem jurisdiction
Involuntary dismissal 
Medical malpractice
Personal injury claim
Small claims court
Statute of frauds 
Tolling statute of limitations
Voluntary dismissal 
Wrongful death
California car accident lawyer 
California corporate lawyer 
California criminal lawyer 
California entertainment lawyer  
California motorcycle accident lawyer 
California personal injury lawyer 
Car accident injury 
Cross motion 
Forum non conveniens 
Motion to dismiss
Motion hearing 
Negligence definition 
Personal injury lawsuit 
Request for admissions 
Requisition for production

Editorial Staffhttps://lawyer.zone
Hello Nation! I'm a lawyer and passionate about law. I've practiced law in a boutique law firm, worked in a multi-national organization and as in-house counsel. I've been around the block! On this blog, I provide you with golden nuggets of information about lawyers, attorneys, the law and legal theories. Enjoy!


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