What is the Statute of Limitations on Filing a Wrongful Death Suit?
Like with every California lawsuit, your wrongful death claim must also comply with the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit is two years under state law. However, a complete understanding of the statute and how it applies to your case is important.
Any delay in bringing a wrongful death case can have dramatic consequences. In some cases, a delay that leads to filing a claim after the statute expires could end your right to pursue compensation. To avoid this outcome, speak with a Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible.
How the statute of limitations works in California wrongful death lawsuits
The statute of limitations is governed by state law in California. These guidelines can be found in the California Code of Civil Procedure 335.1. According to the statute, any act for the death of an individual caused by the wrongful or negligent act of another has a two-year statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations serves as a deadline to bring a lawsuit. In a wrongful death case, it begins to expire the day a person passes away. The failure to comply with the statute can have devastating consequences, including the loss of your right to pursue your claim at all. You could miss out on the ability to have your case heard on the merits, even when the underlying case itself is especially strong. Given the potential risks, it is vital to ensure you comply with the statute. A wrongful death attorney can help you ensure you comply with the statute and file your lawsuit in a timely manner.
Filing a wrongful death action after the expiration of the statute of limitations is often doomed from the start. However, there are limited circumstances where you could have additional time to file your suit. According to state law, these exceptions toll—meaning pause—the time frame you have to bring a lawsuit. Tolling the statute of limitations could extend your deadline to file suit substantially.
The first exception to the statute of limitations that applies to wrongful death actions is known as the discovery rule. As previously mentioned, the statute of limitations in most wrongful death cases begins to expire the day the accident occurred. However, it may not be immediately clear when a fatal injury or illness occurred. The “discovery rule” tolls the statute in cases where the family of the deceased person did not immediately discover that their loved one had a viable wrongful death claim.
The second exception applies specifically to medical malpractice. This exception is written into state law. Instead of the normal two-year statute of limitations, a death related to medical malpractice has a three-year deadline to file suit.
While these exceptions exist, you should never assume they apply in your case. These options are rarely relied on by the courts and routinely rejected. Seasoned wrongful death lawyers could advise you on whether you are entitled to toll the statute in your case or not.
Speak with an attorney about a wrongful death lawsuit today
The failure to adhere to the statute of limitations is an avoidable, unforced error. Unfortunately, this error can derail a wrongful death claim. This could be devastating for a family whose only avenue for justice lies with a civil lawsuit.
Ensuring compliance with the statute of limitations is only one way a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer could assist with a wrongful death claim. Your attorney could guide you along the way, ensuring your family avoids the pitfalls that are common among wrongful death lawsuits.
If you are considering a wrongful death claim, let the team at Ellis Injury Law advocate on your behalf. We understand the difficulty of losing a loved one, and we look forward to helping you in your pursuit of justice. Schedule your free consultation with Ellis Injury Law to learn more.