When Must You Bring a Wrongful Death Claim?
After the death of a loved one, you might be in shock. As you scramble to schedule funeral and burial services, it is perfectly normal to worry about whether you will be able to pay your bills and continue to stay in your home. After all, the death of a loved one can have enormous financial repercussions.
Fortunately, California allows some family members to bring a lawsuit for wrongful death. In this suit, you can receive compensation for certain losses, such as lost income and the loss of companionship or guidance.
But California gives family members a short amount of time to bring the suit. You can find the deadline in the California wrongful death statute of limitations.
What is the Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations for California?
You can find the relevant statute at the California Code of Civil Procedure § 335.1. It provides that you have two years from the date of a loved one’s death to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. So if a loved one died on August 1, 2017, you have until August 1, 2019 to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in court.
There are severe consequences if you do not bring your claim in time. The defendant can ask the judge to toss the case out of court, and a judge will do so.
You won’t have a chance to refile at a later date because not complying with the statute of limitations serves as a permanent bar to bringing a claim. That means no compensation for your loss.
Are There Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations?
Yes. California recognizes the “discovery rule,” which tolls (pauses) the wrongful death California statute of limitations. If it was not apparent why someone died, but you later discover the cause, you might have more time to bring a wrongful death claim.
This discovery rule is unlikely to apply in a tragic accident, like a car or truck accident, where the cause of death should be apparent. However, if your loved one was poisoned at work, it might take some time before you discover the cause.
There are also exceptions for minors. If a parent has died, a minor under 18 might be in the position to bring the suit. They typically have 2 years from the date they reach age 18 to file. If a child is 14 when her parents die, she gets until age 20 to file.
Is the Limitations Period Ever Less than 2 Years?
Yes. If you are sueing a public entity for the wrongful death, then you will probably have less time. For example, your loved one might have died because of a defect in the road, which the state of California is responsible for repairing. In this situation, you only have 6 months to file a claim with the entity responsible for your loved one’s death. This is a radically compressed timeline.
The entity has 45 days to investigate the death and decide whether to offer a settlement. If the entity denies the claim, then family members have 6 months from the date of the denial to bring a lawsuit in court.
Contact Levinson Law Group Today
Grieving family members must meet the statute of limitations if they want to bring a suit for wrongful death. Failure to file in a timely manner can be disastrous. We encourage you to seek legal help immediately so that you protect your right to compensation.