Negligence and the California Statute of Limitations

As we’ve discussed before, neglect is often harder to detect than overt physical abuse and is often not evident until well past the first initial occurrence. Negligence can also lead to death and other illnesses that may not occur for months after the negligent behavior – or, alternatively, death and greater health complications can be the first and only sign that someone was the victim of neglect. Once you’re beyond the actual occurrence of neglect, though, is it too late to report it and seek legal help?

Fortunately, every state has a set statute of limitations for cases of neglect and abuse. Here’s what you need to know.


Though we’ve talked about neglect before, you should know what will justify seeking legal advice and representation in the first place. 

Under California law, neglect is defined as:

“The negligent failure of an elder or dependent adult to exercise that degree of self care that a reasonable person in a like position would exercise.” – California Welfare and Institutions Code section 15600

This definition also includes: 

  1. Failure to assist in personal hygiene, or in the provision of food, clothing, or shelter.
  2. Failure to provide medical care for physical and mental health needs. (Note: No person shall be deemed neglected or abused for the sole reason that he or she voluntarily relies on treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone in lieu of medical treatment.)
  3. Failure to protect from health and safety hazards.
  4. Failure to prevent malnutrition or dehydration.
  5. Failure of an elder or dependent adult to satisfy the needs specified above for himself or herself as a result of poor cognitive functioning, mental limitation, substance abuse, or chronic poor health.*

*Information taken from

Keep in mind that neglect does not happen exclusively at the hands of healthcare workers and nursing home staff. Neglect can also (and is commonly) committed by any form of caretaker, including close family members and friends. 

The California Statute of Limitations

Though it is fairly common knowledge, a statute of limitations is a law that puts a cap on the amount of time in which a person has to report wrongdoing and pursue legal action. Statutes of limitations are set up for almost every case type from fraud to medical malpractice and criminal cases. 

Statutes of limitation save individuals and companies for being sued for wrongdoings that are decades old and help ensure prompt resolution and reparations for legal cases that might otherwise take years to resolve. 

For neglect, California has set a limit of 2 years for lawsuits. This means that individuals have two years from the time of the incident to file a claim for that specific occurrence. 

To look up your state’s statute of limitations, visit the Nursing Home Abuse Center’s page

If you or a loved have been the victim of nursing home neglect or abuse, call Gharibian Law (877-875-1119) today for a free consultation and the best legal representation.