In personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death claims, there is a deadline within which a family must file with the court. If this deadline is not met, the case will not be heard, even if the claim is viable.
A delay in filing can happen for many reasons. The family may not know that there is a time frame that limits filing, or they may be so consumed by grief and trying to survive financially after their loved one’s death, they do not get around to contacting an attorney. Let’s review the deadline for wrongful death in California, also called the statute of limitations.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations represents the time limit when a lawsuit can be filed after someone is injured or killed by a negligent or intentional act. This is not an arbitrary number but is written into state law and differs from one state to another.
In California, the Code of Civil Procedure 335.1 specifies that a person has two years to file a lawsuit after a person’s death due to negligence, assault or lack of care. There are nuances to this rule, however. This means that the time limit may be extended, depending on the circumstances. Your wrongful death lawyer will ensure that all documents are filed on time.
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations in Wrongful Death Cases
Some situations will affect the length of time a claimant has to file in a wrongful death case:
- Late discovery of facts: There are times that the family will discover that the at-fault entity caused their loved one’s death, something that was not apparent early on in the case. This is called the discovery rule. It can extend the statute of limitations by 24 months from the time that the discovery was made.
- Medical malpractice: When a health care professional is negligent and causes a patient’s death, there is a different statute of limitations. The medical professional may be part of a wrongful death claim filed three years after the injury occurred or one year from the time the injury was discovered whichever comes first under California Civil Code Procedure 340.5. In no case will a lawsuit be allowed if it exceeds the three-year limit unless:
- Fraud in the case is proven
- The proof is concealed intentionally
- A foreign object that does not provide a benefit within the person’s body is the cause of death
- Minors: The time limit in wrongful death claims filed by a minor is extended to three years after the minor turns 18
- Government entity: If a government agency in a city, state or county is responsible for a loved one’s death, the timetable for filing the lawsuit is different. The first hurdle is to file a government tort claim within six months of the injury. If the government claim is denied, which happens frequently, the family has another six months to file a lawsuit. However, in many instances, the initial claim is ignored, and there is no response from the government agency. This gives the family two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
File Your Wrongful Death Case Before the Deadline Hits
As you can see, filing a wrongful death lawsuit can be complicated, and one mistake can forever keep you from seeking justice for the death of your loved one. That is why a Los Angeles attorney can help. Not only will they file the lawsuit on time but they will investigate the accident, medical malpractice or intentional act to determine liability. Without evidence, the success of the claim will not proceed successfully.
Free Case Review with a California Wrongful Death Lawyer
David has been successfully helping clients with wrongful death lawsuits for the past 25 years. A family member’s wrongful death is never painless, and it is made worse when a negligent person or entity causes it. The family faces a mix of emotions, the least of which is the need to find justice for the decedent. That is where David can help. He will investigate the accident and determine who or what caused it.
In some cases, he will bring in experts such as those experienced in medical negligence. David successfully concludes 98 percent of all cases he handles. His sense of duty and legal acumen are several reasons that Super Lawyers calls him one of the top personal injury lawyers in Los Angeles.
Call David at (800) 991-5292 to schedule a free wrongful death case review. David will meet with the family and let them know their options moving forward. You can also contact David online or meet with him in a virtual consultation if you wish.