It’s unthinkable to imagine your life without your loved one.
Discovering that their death was caused by someone else’s conduct can make it even more difficult to cope with the pain of your loss.
While no money can ever compensate you for your loss, it’s important to remember that a wrongful death claim can provide you and your family with vital financial support you need to move forward.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when you’re considering bringing a lawsuit is the California wrongful death statute of limitations.
What Is Wrongful Death?
You might have grounds to file a wrongful death claim if a loved one’s death occurred due to someone else’s negligent or wrongful act.
Wrongful death lawsuits permit surviving family members to pursue compensation from the party responsible for their loved one’s death.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is a legal term meaning the time limit a person has to file a lawsuit. Generally, if the California wrongful death statute of limitations has expired when someone files a claim, the court will dismiss it.
What Is the Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in California
The time designated by law to file a legal action is known as the statute of limitations. Depending on the type of claim, this time limit may vary.
The California statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is two years from the date of death. If you don’t file your claim before this two-year period expires, your claim can be dismissed by the court.
That means you will not be able to receive compensation for that wrongful death claim.
There are also some exceptions that can give you less or more time to file. For example, for a California medical malpractice wrongful death claim, a plaintiff has either three years from the date of injury or one year after they discovered, or reasonably should have discovered, the injury to bring a lawsuit.
The applicable date will be whichever of these two dates occurs first.
Suppose a wrongful death was caused by medical malpractice that had already been discovered. In that case, the statute of limitations will likely be reduced to one year from the date the heirs of the decedent knew or reasonably should have known the malpractice caused the wrongful death.
An experienced attorney can determine whether an exception may apply to your case. Without the assistance of a qualified personal injury attorney, you may believe you have more time to file than you actually do.
Are There Any Exceptions to the California Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations?
There are several exceptions to the California wrongful death statute of limitations. Here are the main exceptions.
The Discovery Rule
One common exception to the wrongful death statute of limitations in California is the “discovery rule.”
The discovery rule applies when the cause of the wrongful death wasn’t discovered, or wouldn’t have been discovered by a reasonable person, until after the two-year deadline. If the discovery rule applies, the time limit begins from the discovery of the wrongful death instead of the date of death.
Statute of Limitations in Medical Malpractice Cases
If the decedent’s wrongful death was due to the medical malpractice of a healthcare provider, family members have to file suit within the earliest of:
- One year from the date of discovery that death was caused by medical negligence; or
- Three years from the date of death.
If you do not file your medical malpractice suit before the statute of limitations deadline, it is likely to be dismissed.
Wrongful Death Claim Against a Public or Government Entity
Examples of wrongful death claims against the government can include accidents at public schools, car accidents with government-owned vehicles, and malpractice incidents at a publicly run medical center.
Minor Suing for the Death of a Parent
In California, the statute of limitations may be extended when only a minor is filing a wrongful death claim for the death of a parent. Here, the minor must file their claim within two years from the day they turn 18 years of age.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
California’s wrongful death statute permits certain surviving family members to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of a loved one. The people who can bring a wrongful death claim include:
- The children of the deceased;
- The spouse of the deceased;
- The domestic partner of the deceased; and
- Issue, or descendants, of any children of the deceased who are no longer living.
Contact an attorney to determine whether California law entitles you to bring a wrongful death claim.
What Happens If I Don’t File My California Wrongful Death Claim in Time?
If you don’t file your California wrongful death claim within the two-year statute of limitations and none of the exceptions apply, your case will likely be dismissed.
It is important not to let the statute of limitations run out, as it may prevent you from having your case heard in court.
Contact Us To Learn More About the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death in California
If you’re grieving the sudden death of a loved one that was caused by someone else’s actions, the compassionate team at Peerali Law can assist you.
In addition to emotional stress, bills and medical expenses might be making it difficult for you to make ends meet. The experienced wrongful death attorneys at Peerali Law are here to guide you through every step of bringing a legal claim.
While filing a lawsuit can never bring your loved one back, it can set you and your family on the road to financial recovery and a more stable future.
Contact us online or by phone to schedule a free case evaluation to find out how we can help you.