In general, a statute of limitations for bringing a lawsuit begins when a negligent or wrongful act causing a loss or injury occurred. A personal injury claimant in California has two years from the date of injury to file a claim (or one year for medical or legal malpractice). If they fail to do so during that time, the court will bar them from suing. But there is an exception—the delayed discovery rule; in California, it lets a plaintiff file a personal injury lawsuit even after the statute of limitations has expired.
How Does the Delayed Discovery Rule Work?
A statute of limitations, by default, starts running when the plaintiff is injured. But suspending, or “tolling”, the statute of limitations is possible under certain circumstances. The conditions for tolling the statute of limitations include if the plaintiff is under the age of 18 at the time of the event, is out of state for a while after, is in prison, or is declared legally insane. The time limit resumes once the condition that triggers the tolling ends.
The reason for a statute of limitations is to bring fairness to the legal process. Over time, memories can become less accurate, witnesses may move or pass away, or documents may be inadvertently lost or destroyed. Filing a personal injury lawsuit several years later isn’t practical because the facts might not be clear. Also, evidence may suggest it could’ve been filed soon after; therefore, the lawsuit’s validity can come into question.
A type of equitable tolling, the delayed discovery rule in California prevents the statute of limitations from starting. That is until the victim could reasonably have discovered their injuries. If they weren’t aware of their situation, they would not have considered filing a lawsuit.
Invoking the Delayed Discovery Rule in California
Authorization and instructions for the use of the delayed discovery rule are outlined in California Civil Instruction 455 (opens in new window). To invoke the rule, it must be proven that:
- The plaintiff didn’t discover or know the facts that would lead a reasonable person to suspect they were harmed by another party’s wrongful conduct.
- Any individual could not have discovered or known the facts that would cause a reasonable individual to suspect they’d been harmed.
- Through reasonable diligence or a good-faith investigation, it wasn’t discovered that an event or product contributed to the plaintiff’s loss or injury.
Does the Delayed Discovery Rule Apply to Every Case?
The delayed discovery rule can apply whenever a statute of limitations can be tolled. Such instances can include automobile or other accidents caused by negligence, slip and fall accidents, dog bites, and product liability claims. California has a different statute for actions involving a written contract; the time limit varies from one to four years, while a six-year statute of limitations applies to wrongful birth cases.
Examples of When the Delayed Discovery Rule Is Used
The delayed discovery rule in California is used in a range of circumstances. Common types of cases in which it may be applied include:
- Automobile accidents, in which the effects of an injury may not be known for months, even with thorough medical examinations and diagnostic testing.
- Medical malpractice cases, in which a surgeon accidentally leaves an instrument in a patient, requiring additional surgery, or when a physician fails to diagnose a condition.
- Wrongful death cases, in which the occurrence of an injury may not be known for months or years due to, for example, the use of a defective product that causes harm over time.
Instead of losing your right to file a lawsuit, the delayed discovery rule allows plaintiffs to pursue compensation for injuries a reasonable person would not have known about. Therefore, you can work with your attorney to reach a settlement that compensates for your losses and covers expenses you cannot otherwise afford.
Call Jacob to Learn More About the Delayed Discovery Rule in California
Our team is familiar with all laws on filing a lawsuit and when the statute of limitations applies. However, insurance companies often find ways to avoid having to pay. At The Law Offices of Jacob Emrani, we represent you and don’t charge any fees until we win. Meanwhile, you can get the medical treatment you need, and be confident we’ll fight until the end. We’ve recovered millions of dollars in damages on clients’ behalf. For a free consultation and high-quality personal injury legal representation in California, call (888) 952-2952 today.