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How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

| Jul 20, 2015 | Firm News

Experiencing the death of a loved one can be very traumatizing. It can cause a prolonged period of sadness and grief, also known as a bereavement period, and leave a person feeling a wide range of emotions. An unexpected and surprising loss of a loved one can be an even more emotionally challenging experience, partially due to the suddenness of the loss.

In cases where another person is at fault for the death of a loved one, the law allows the survivors of the deceased to file a lawsuit. This action is commonly referred to as a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death is a death caused by the actions or omissions of another person. For more information on what a wrongful death lawsuit is click here.

Under the law, certain family members can bring a lawsuit for the wrongful death of their loved one. For a brief discussion on who can file a wrongful death lawsuit click here.

In the wake of such a death, it is important to realize that the statute of limitations applies. This means that a survivor must file a lawsuit within a certain time period or they will lose their ability to file such a claim.

In most cases, a two-year statute of limitations period applies to wrongful death and survivor actions. This two-year period begins when the person dies. Basically, a surviving family member must file the action within two years of the death of their loved one.

If the death occurred due to the actions of a health care provider (also known as medical malpractice) a different time period applies. In those cases, the surviving family member must file the lawsuit within three years of the injury (ex: botched operation) or within one year of the “reasonable” discovery of the injury, whichever comes first. However, if the surviving member is a minor, then a different time period applies. In medical malpractice cases involving minors the applicable statute of limitations is, either three years from the date of the alleged wrongful act, or if the minor is under the age of six, then within three years or prior to their eighth birthday, whichever period is longer. This period allows for minors to have the benefit of more time after the death to initiate a lawsuit.

Finally, in wrongful death actions against government entities, the claim must generally be filed within six months of the death.

The applicable statute of limitations depends on the specific facts of the case.

The San Diego wrongful death attorneys at Martinez & Schill LLP understand how devastating it can be for families that have lost a loved one due to another’s negligence or wrongdoing. We can assist you to understand your legal options if a loved one has been the victim of wrongful death. Please call our San Diego office at 619-512-5995 or our Riverside office 951-200-4630 to discuss your case with a compassionate and experienced wrongful death lawyer.