Is there a deadline for my child to file a claim or lawsuit in California?
Yes, and the time limits are different depending on the type of claim or lawsuit being brought on behalf of the child.
(1) State law claims of children against the State of California, and its cities or counties:
Generally speaking, in order to bring a state law claim against a governmental agency, a claim must be presented within six (6) months from the "date of accrual" of the claim. See Gov. Code 911.2(a)
The "date of accrual" is typically the date of injury, but may be later if the claim is based on "delayed discovery" of the claim. See Gov. Code 901. "Delayed discovery" means that the parent/guardian does not suspect or should not suspect that a wrong has been done to a child, such as when sexual molestation of a child has occurred and where the parent/guardian was unaware of the molestation. A claim against a government agency or employee which is based on "delayed discovery" involving sexual molestation of a minor where the molestation has been continuous accrues on the last date of molestation. See Ortega v Pajaro Valley Unified Sch. Dist. (1998) The "delayed discovery" rule may be applied in child molestation cases when the parent/guardian had no reason to suspect wrongdoing and the child claimant does not understand that what had happened to him was wrong. See Curtis T. County of Los Angeles (2004)
(2) Federal law claims of children against the federal government:
With respect to claims brought on behalf of minors against the federal (United States of America) government, for the acts of its employees, agencies or a Federally Qualified Health Center, these must be brought pursuant to a law known as the Federal Tort Claims Act. These claims must generally be brought within two (2) years from the date of the tortious act. See 28 U.S.C. 2401(b). A presuit claim (Form 95) must be submitted prior to filing the action in federal court. The Defendant is the United States of America, and not the agency, employee or Federally Qualified Health Center.
(3) State law claims of children against private parties (e.g. persons and corporations):
(a) For injuries suffered pre-birth and during the course of birth:
An action by or on behalf of a minor for personal injuries (other than medical malpractice suits) sustained before or in the course of his or her birth must be commenced within six years after the date of birth. See CCP 340.4
(b) For medical malpractice claims:
A minor's medical malpractice suit must be initiated within three (3) years of the act of malpractice, or one year after parents discovered or reasonably should have discovered the injury, unless he or she is under six (6) years old. If the child is under six (6) years of age, the lawsuit must be started within three (3) years of the act of malpractice or prior to the child's eighth (8th) birthday - whichever is the longest period of time. See CCP 340.5
(c) For general personal injury claims after birth (e.g. other than medical malpractice claims, state law government claims and federal tort claims, but including federal civil rights claims brought pursuant to 42 USC 1983):
If a child is entitled to bring a lawsuit for personal injuries, or civil rights violations, the time during which the child is a minor (e.g. up until his or her 18th birthday) is not part of the time limited to start the lawsuit. See CCP 352. The general time within which all persons have to file personal injury lawsuits - which is two (2) years (See CCP 335.1) - begins to run at the eighteenth (18th) birthday of the child - meaning that it must be filed on or before his or her twentieth (20th) birthday.