What are the deadlines in California for suing an insurance company?

There are key deadlines to meet if you intend to sue your insurance company.

Unless the insurance company has inserted an enforceable provision in the policy limiting the time within which you may sue and, secondly, it is not unfair under the circumstances for the insurance company to impose this shorter deadline, you must file suit no later than two years after the insurance company first notified you that it was denying benefits. If you file a lawsuit within this two year period, you may seek compensation for your insurer’s bad faith, including damages for mental distress and attorneys fees. You may also be entitled to seek punitive damages.

Punitive damages are meant to “punish” an insurance company for its misconduct and deter it from continuing to engage in the same conduct. California juries have imposed punitive damages in the millions to punish insurance companies and protect policyholders.

If you miss the two year statute of limitations deadline, you still have remedies — although they are far more limited. You normally have four years to sue an insurance company for the policy benefit itself. However, as stated above, beware that in some circumstances, an insurance company may be able to impose a deadline that is much shorter than this four year period. In certain situations where it is unfair for this shorter deadline to apply, California law may protect you by barring the insurance company from asserting it.


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