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How does the COVID-19 outbreak affect the personal injury statute of limitations in San Diego?

On March 13, 2020, the San Diego Superior Court issued their first set of procedures related to COVID-19 and how it affects the statute of limitations. As of the time of this writing (April 10th), there have been more than two dozen additional orders issued that clarify how the pandemic affects court operations.


The statute of limitations for civil causes of action, including personal injury, is currently tolled (delayed) until 90 days after Governor Newsom lifts the current state of emergency order related to COVID-19. The state of emergency order was initially issued on March 4th and, as of this writing, is unlikely to be lifted until at least May 2020.


What is the normal statute of limitations for personal injury claims in California?


The statute of limitations for most civil lawsuits in California is two years. CCP 335.1 is quoted below.

"Within two years: An action for assault, battery, or injury to, or for the death of, an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another."

What is a “state of emergency order?”


It is a political act proclaiming or declaring that specified conditions exist that justify the exercise of extraordinary governmental powers as authorized by law to respond to the conditions specified. While that is quite a word salad, it basically says that the government can make more rules than usual during an emergency.


State of emergency declarations in California are not uncommon. The most recent previous statewide emergency declaration was in October of 2019 related to wildfires and extreme weather conditions.


It is very rare however for these state of emergency orders to so seriously impact the operations of the court system.


What cases are being heard in San Diego courts despite the pandemic?


A very limited number of case types are currently being heard in San Diego. Those cases that are moving forward are proceeding with extreme caution from an infection-control standpoint. Limited staff and carefully orchestrated scheduling are keeping the emergency cases moving. Some case hearings are taking place via videoconference.


Some of the case types that are still being heard are: domestic violence restraining orders, juvenile dependency hearings, emergency probate conservatorships, search warrants and writs of habeas corpus challenging medical quarantines. The most recent update, as of April 6, 2020, is located here.


Will the COVID-19 pandemic affect your personal injury claim?


Your personal injury action should not be negatively affected by the COVID-19 suspension of court services. Deadlines and statutes of limitations are being delayed appropriately and, assuming your attorney is competent, your case should not be negatively affected. It will of course be delayed.


Where can I find the most updated information about the court’s schedule?


The San Diego Superior Court website is updating information every two or three days here. The updates include information for attorneys, litigants and court staff.

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