What is the Statute of Limitations on Airplane Accident Cases in California?

Much like an airline, lawsuits operate according to a schedule. However, if an airplane arrives late, it simply inconveniences the passengers. If a lawsuit arrives late, it will find itself with nowhere to land. That’s because of time limits set by a statute of limitations. For this reason, if you have been injured in an airplane accident, you have little time to delay in calling a personal injury attorney.

What is a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations is simply a law (or “statute”) that establishes a timeline for lawsuits to be brought to court, and cases that aren’t filed before the deadline will be dismissed without being heard!  Unfortunately, there isn’t just one statute of limitations; instead, there are different statutes for different kinds of claims.  For example, there is no statute of limitations for murder—a prosecutor can bring a murder charge at any time if they have sufficient evidence to put on a case.  On the other hand, some statutes of limitations establish very short timelines, such as that for damage claims against government agencies and other public entities.  Plaintiffs filing these sorts of claims have only 6 months to submit their initial paperwork.

When Does the Timeline Begin?

In general, a timeline established by a statute of limitations begins when the injury or damage occurs.  In most cases, it’s pretty clear when that occurred.  For example, when an airplane crashes, it’s usually very easy to determine when the crash occurred, and everybody involved tends to be aware that it happened.  But some cases aren’t so clear.  For instance, suppose a piece of a plane flying overhead falls during the winter and damages a building on a rancher’s land, but because of the weather the rancher is unable to visit the range until the spring.  Should the timeline begin when the damage occurred, or when the rancher discovers it?  Especially in cases like this, it’s very important to have an expert attorney.

What Statutes of Limitations Apply to Airplane Accidents?

The amount of time you have to file a lawsuit depends on the type of claim you are making.  In general, California Code of Civil Procedure §335.1 allows cases for injuries to a person (including death) to be brought to court within two years of the date of the injury.  The timeline for damage to physical property is slightly longer, with California Code of Civil Procedure §338 permitting cases to be filed within three years of the date of the damage.

There are some special cases that change the timelines, however.  For example, a Californian appellate court recently ruled that under certain circumstances a medical helicopter crashing can be considered medical malpractice, which has a three-year statute of limitations.  That means that two and a half years after the crash, if the patient tried to file a claim for physical injuries he sustained during the crash the court would have to reject his suit; but the same patient would be allowed to file a claim for the exact same injuries by framing them as the result of medical malpractice.

If you’ve been injured in an airplane accident, it’s very important to act quickly to protect your legal rights within the timelines established by the applicable statutes of limitations.  Our attorneys have been representing accident victims in California and across the country for years, and are available to represent you!  If you have questions about your rights after an accident and would like to speak with an attorney, contact J&Y Law today for a free consultation.