A 69-year-old grandmother from California has come forward to claim a $23m lottery jackpot after the winning ticket languished in her car's glove compartment for months and almost expired.

Julie Cervera of Victorville received her winnings yesterday after lottery officials did a media blitz in hopes of identifying her.

Grainy surveillance video from the liquor store where the ticket was purchased in May showed a dark-haired woman - who turned out to be Ms Cervera's daughter.

"I put my 99-cent glasses on, and I had to put two pairs on to see it," said Ms Cervera.

She recognised her daughter in the grainy photo, but she still couldn't read the caption.

"And I thought she robbed a bank," Ms Cervera joked.

However then she realised what it meant and was overjoyed to learn that she had won the prize money.

Ms Cervera had been driving home when her daughter got car sick and wanted to stop to buy a bottle of water.

Ms Cervera gave her one dollar to buy a lottery ticket, which was left in the car.

"She's like 'Get me a lottery ticket!' and I was like 'No, no, no, no, no, I'm just getting water.' And then she's digging in her purse for a dollar. And I'm like 'OK, OK, I'm just getting you a lottery ticket.' So I went, grabbed water and grabbed her a ticket,” explained Charliena Marquez, Cervera's daughter who bought the winning ticket.

With 180 days to claim the prize, Ms Cervera only had until 25 November to cash in.

However when she finally looked in the glove compartment, the winning ticket was right where she left it.

Having lived with a disability for 20 years, Ms Cervera said her family has been through difficult times recently.

Last year her 47-year-old son Rudy was killed in a motorcycle accident, leaving four teenage children.

"My grandkids are all going to be taken care of, and my daughters," she said. "I'm just so happy. I'm going to buy me a pair of Reeboks."

If Ms Cervera had not acted, the millions would have gone to California schools.

A $52m jackpot winner in Fremont was found in August by a similar public appeal by lottery officials.

In the last fiscal year, more than $20.5m in cash prizes went unclaimed.