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How Do Statutes of Limitations Apply in Wrongful Death Cases?

On Behalf of Rush Injury Law

When a loved one dies due to the negligence or misconduct of another party, the surviving family members may wish to pursue compensation by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. However, wrongful death claims must adhere to time limits known as statutes of limitations. Understanding these statutes is crucial for preserving your right to take legal action.

What is a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations sets a deadline for initiating a lawsuit. These deadlines vary by state and according to the type of claim being filed. In wrongful death cases, the statute of limitations ranges from 1-6 years in most states. The clock starts ticking from the date of the person’s death.

If you fail to file a claim within the specified time period, you forfeit your right to sue. The statute of limitations is an affirmative defense, meaning the defendant can request a dismissal based on your lack of timeliness. It is meant to encourage the quick resolution of claims and prevent evidence from fading over time.

How Long Do I Have to File?

As mentioned, each state sets its own statute of limitations length for wrongful death lawsuits. Some examples are as follows:

  • Florida – 2 years
  • New York – 2 years
  • Texas – 2 years
  • Illinois – 2 years
  • Pennsylvania – 2 years
  • Ohio – 2 years
  • Georgia – 2 years
  • North Carolina – 2 years
  • Michigan – 3 years

A few states have longer statutes of 4-6 years, while Indiana and Massachusetts have just 1-year time limits. Consult us to verify the deadline in your state, but in our home state of California, the statute is two years.

When Does the Clock Start Ticking?

The statute of limitations clock begins running on the date of the deceased person’s death. The deadline is based on this date, not on when the negligence occurred or when it was discovered. This highlights the urgency of consulting one of our wrongful death attorneys and exploring your legal options quickly after a loss.

Are There Any Exceptions?

In some cases, exceptions can “toll” (pause) the statute of limitations and provide extra time:

  • Minors – The deadline may be extended until a grieving child plaintiff reaches adulthood.
  • Discovery rule – The clock may run from the date the wrongful death was or could have been discovered, rather than the date of death.
  • Fraud/concealment – If vital information was concealed, the statute may be tolled.

Determine if any exceptions apply in your case before assuming you’ve missed the deadline. We can request the court apply an extension.

Strict deadlines make early legal assistance essential in wrongful death cases. Consult a qualified personal injury attorney from Rush Injury Law right away to discuss your options and preserve your loved one’s right to justice. With compassion and dedication, we can guide you through this difficult process.

Visit our offices at:

  • 10 Commercial Blvd, #206 Novato, CA 94949
  • 75 Broadway #202, San Francisco, CA 94111
  • 3558 Round Barn Blvd, Suite 200, Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Call us today for a free consultation on (415) 897-4801.

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