“Who do I sue and how do I recover compensation for my injuries and damages?” these are the two questions asked by those who cannot file a personal injury claim and recover damages because the person who caused their injuries cannot be found.
This happens all the time in hit-and-run car accidents, but it is also a common issue in other cases, including premises liability. Let’s imagine that you were hit by a vehicle in Los Angeles but the driver sped away from the scene. You were badly injured as a result of the collision, and were rushed to the hospital.
Neither you nor any witnesses have any information about the at-fault driver who fled the scene of the car accident. The police cannot find the driver. What happens next? Who do you sue? How do you recover compensation when the at-fault party cannot be found and cannot even be identified?
These are the questions we asked our Los Angeles personal injury attorney at the Compass Law Group, LLP
California’s statute of limitations when the person who caused injuries cannot be found
In order to answer this question it is vital to understand that personal injury cases in California are governed by the statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations if a specific timeframe within which a personal injury claim can be filed by the injured victim against the at-fault party. In Los Angeles and elsewhere in California, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims runs for two years after the date of the injury. It means that, for example, if you were hit by the driver who fled the scene of the car crash in May 2018, you will have a legal right to submit a personal injury claim until May 2020.
Failure to file a personal injury claim within this specific time period will result in the loss of your right to pursue compensation for your injury and damages.
How you can lose your right to pursue compensation
If the at-fault party cannot be found immediately after the accident, there is always the possibility that the police will not be able to find or identify the person who caused your injuries for years to come.
That means by waiting for the police to identify the person who injured you for more than two years after the date of the accident, you will lose your right to obtain compensation for your injuries and damages in Los Angeles or elsewhere in California.
How the statute of limitations can be paused (tolled)
“Does it mean that if the person who caused my injuries cannot be found for two consecutive years, he or she will escape responsibility for his/her actions or omission to act after these two years?” you may be wondering. “Not really,” say our best personal injury attorneys in California.
In accidents where the at-faulty party cannot be found or identified, the statute of limitations can be paused if you are represented by an experienced personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles or elsewhere in California. This pause is also referred to as “tolling.”
The statute of limitations will remain paused for as long as the tolling factor (the circumstances that gave you legal grounds to pause the statute of limitations, e.g. the at-fault party cannot be found) has not be resolved.
More commonly, injured victims toll the statute of limitations when there is a reasonably delay in the discovery of an injury and when the victim has to wait until he or she turns 18 to sue the at-fault person. But if the at-fault person cannot be found or identified, this is considered a “tolling factor” as well.
But how can you obtain compensation for your injuries?
“While this tolling can drag on for years or even decades, in no way does it mean that you will be unable to recover compensation for your injuries, losses, and damages while you wait for the police to find or identity the at-fault party,” says our Los Angeles personal injury attorney at the Compass Law Group, LLP You might be able to recover damages through your own insurance company or through other available coverage.
Consult with our best personal injury lawyers in Los Angeles and all across California to find out the most optimal legal strategy in your particular case.