A wrongful death lawsuit is brought by families that have lost loved ones to someone else's negligence or wrongdoing. If you are considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit in California, it is important that you know what the “statute of limitations” in your case is. In other words, you need to know the time limit within which you are required to bring the lawsuit, under California law. If the case is not filed by this deadline, it cannot be brought to court and will likely be dismissed.
Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations Law and the Exceptions
In California, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the date of death. However, there is a crucial exception to this statute of limitations. Known as the “discovery rule,” the exception applies in cases where the cause of death was not apparent when the decedent passed, but is later discovered. This could give the decedent's family the additional time they need to file a wrongful death lawsuit based on the newly discovered facts. In such cases where the discovery rule applies, the statute of limitations will be two years from the date on which the cause of death was determined.
On the other hand, there are also circumstances in which the decedent's family will have much less time to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. For example, if your loved one was killed in a fatal auto accident caused by a dangerous roadway, then you would need to file a claim against the governmental agency responsible for maintaining the dangerous or defective roadway.
Under California Government Code Section 911.2, the survivors of the deceased person have only 180 days or six months to file a claim against the governmental agency. Once you file a claim, the public entity will deny the claim within 45 days and then, you will have another six months within which to file a wrongful death lawsuit in court.
There are also exceptions for minors. If a minor is suing for the death of a parent, then, he or she would have until two years from the day they turn 18. There are also special rules if the death involves medical malpractice. In such cases, survivors of the decedent have one year from the date of death.
Why You Need an Experienced Lawyer
As with every state, California has limits on the amount of time individuals have to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Even though there are general guidelines when it comes to time limits and filing lawsuits, these time limits can vary significantly depending on the nature and circumstances of each case. Sorting through these complex laws can be tricky and challenging.
To make matters more confusing, the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims can vary depending on the underlying cause of death. If you have lost a loved one, do not allow the statute of limitations to expire. Contact an experienced California wrongful death lawyer who will analyze the details of your case and help you understand how much time you have to file your claim.