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The State of California imposes time deadlines to take legal action.  Such deadlines are called “statute of limitations.”  Under California law, you must fully settle your claim or file a court lawsuit within a certain time period.  If you do not, you forever lose your right to recover any money or damages against the liable person, business or entity.

Acronym Definitions:

"SOL" means "statute of limitations."

"CCP" means California "Code of Civil Procedure."


Examples of general California statute of limitations related to common legal claims (Listed Alphabetically):

Type of Legal Claim:

General Limitation - Time Period,
California Code Section:

1 year for wrongful termination, employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation, denial of medical leave, denial of accommodations, and pregnancy leave; 

2 years for retaliation (whistleblower) claims not connected to discrimination;

180 day limit applies to federal E.E.O.C. filings;

Other types of claims may have other deadlines.
File pre-lawsuit claim with entity within 6 months for an injury or personal property damage claim, or 1 year after accrual for a contract or real estate damage claim.

Then SOL time period is 6 months after written denial of claim by entity or 2 years from accrual if no written denial is made. 

Government Code 911.30, CCP 342; Government Code 911.2(a) and 945.6(a)

See article re: Government Claim Statute of Limitations;
1 year from date discovery or 3 years from injury, whichever occurs first, CCP 340.5, See further S.O.L. discussion at: Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations.

But see article: General versus Professional Negligence

When does the Statute of Limitations time clock start to run (i.e. "accrue")?  See article: Accrual Statute of Limitations - California

Statutes of limitations, and the court rules and cases that interpret and apply them, are complicated.

SOL Exceptions lengthen or shorten the time deadlines may apply to your claim.  For example, the statute of limitations deadline time period may, in many cases, be suspended, and, thus, extended during the time that:

A statute of limitation ("SOL") period also may be waived, tolled, suspended or extended by a signed agreement.  

The SOL may also be "equitably tolled" when, for example, the defendant’s conduct contributed to the plaintiff’s delay in filing suit.

See more details in the article: Exceptions to Statute of Limitations 

Even if you believe that the statute of limitation deadline might have passed, still seek legal consultation to determine if any of the time-extending exceptions or rules to the statue of limitations apply to your case.

Government Entity Defendants - Shorter Deadlines!  Before you can sue a government entity, you must send a prelawsuit written claim to the entity, called a "Government Code Section 911.30 claim."  A 911.30 claim for personal injury or personal property damage must, in most cases, be sent to the government entity within six months. A 911.30 claim for breach of contract or injury to real property must, in most cases, be sent within one year. If the entity rejects the claim (which, in most cases, is rejected), you must usually file a court action (lawsuit)  within six months of the rejection or you'll lose your right to sue.  Note:  This rule may not apply to certain actions based on "federal law."

Minor Children: In many types of claims, a minor child has, depending on the type of claim, a certain amount of time after their eighteenth birthday to file a lawsuit. Notable exceptions to this particular tolling (permitting a longer time period) rule include, but are not limited to, medical malpractice, uninsured motorist claims and government claims.  

Warning: Statute of limitation laws and their application are complex. While certain factors may extend the general time deadline, other factors may shorten the time.  

In order to identify which statute of limitations applies often requires a comprehensive review of your potential claim or case. 

Factors to Evaluating the Statute of Limitations:

1. Where did the harm occur?  Each state has its own statute of limitations laws. 

2. What, if any, legal right was violated?  Different types of harm have different and potentially various statute of limitations.

3. Who suffered injuries, damages, or harm? Different classes of people have different or special statute of limitations periods.  Examples: Minor children (under 18 years old); Mentally incompetent; Incarcerated prisoners; etc.)

4. Who caused the injury, damage or harm?  For example, claim against a governmental agency or employees normally have a shorter period than harm caused by a private party.

5. Are there other factors which affect the time limit to file a lawsuit?  Delayed discovery of the harm or wrongdoing, out of state travel, contractual provisions, a bankruptcy filing, death of a plaintiff or defendant, and other factors may, in certain cases, effect the length of the statute of limitations.


Example #1:

A person may miss a deadline for bringing a breach of oral contract claim (2 year limitations statute) but still might be able to pursue a cause of action for fraud (with a longer 3 year limitations deadline) in certain cases with certain facts.  

Example #2:

A person might miss out on a government claim under California state law due running of the statute of limitations but still might have time to present a similar action under federal law which may have a longer statute of limitations.   Of course, a person who seeks legal representation early often has the advantage of choosing one or both causes of action without being limited due to the statute of limitations running on one or more claims.

Article created by attorney at law, Matthew Tozer.


      Sometimes, but not other times, the statute of limitations begins to run on the same date that an action "accrues."

Traditionally, statutes of limitation begin to run "upon the occurrence of the last element essential to the cause of action." Neel v. Magana, Olney, Levy, Cathcart, & Gelfand (1971) 6 Cal.3d 176. Thus the date of accrual is the date when the last element occurs.  But many statutes of limitations have a "delayed discovery rule" whereby "...a plaintiff need not file a cause of action before he or she has reason at least to suspect a factual basis for its elements." Grisham v. Phillip Morris U.S.A. (2007) 40 Cal.4th 623, i.e. the statute of limitations begins to run after the date of accrual.

Statutes of limitations can also be tolled (suspended, extended) by a number of events, some of which are described earlier in this article.

One infrequent type of SOL, called a "statute of repose," which "begins when a specific event occurs, regardless of whether the cause of action has accrued. It cuts off a right of action even if the plaintiff lacks notice of the claim." Crossman v. Daimler  Chrysler Corp. (2003) 108 Cal.App.4th 370.  Example: California Code of Civil Procedure Section 337.15.

List of Statute of Limitations specific articles on this website:



Accrual Statute of Limitations

Legal Malpractice Statute of Limitations

Defamation Statute of Limitations

Fraud Statute of Limitation

Government Claim Statute of Limitations

Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations


SOL laws are complicated: Statutes of limitations, and the court rules and cases that interpret and apply them, are complicated.  Do not rely on this article, but immediately seek consultation and legal advice from a knowledgeable California lawyer.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is informational, only. The subject matter and applicable law is evolving and/or constant state of change. No legal advice is given and no attorney/client or other relationship is established or intended.  The information provided is from general sources, and I cannot represent, guarantee or warrant that the information contained in this website is accurate, current, or is appropriate for the usage of any reader. It is recommend that readers of this information consult with their own counsel prior to relying on any information on this website.

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