How Long Do I Have to Sue for a Loved One’s Death in California?

How Long Do I Have to Sue for a Loved One’s Death in California?

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If you’ve lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This claim may compensate you for economic and non-economic damages related to the death, which can then help you focus on your healing. It’s important to know that there’s a time limit for filing a wrongful death suit under California’s statute of limitations. If you need legal guidance, don’t hesitate to speak with an attorney from The Zucker Law Firm.

What is the Time Limit for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

The statute of limitations is a law that sets a time period within which you may file a lawsuit. In California, the statute of limitations for wrongful death is generally two years. This means you have two years to sue, starting from the date of death. After this period, you would lose your right to sue.

However, in a few cases, the statute of limitations can be either tolled (paused) or shortened.

The “discovery rule” may extend the statute.

There are situations where the cause of death is not immediately apparent. For instance, a person’s death may have looked like an innocent accident, but after months of investigation, it turns out to have resulted from someone’s negligence. In cases like this, the statute of limitations starts running not on the date of death but on the date you discovered the cause of death.

Another scenario where the discovery rule may apply is if the death resulted from a hazardous product or chemical exposure, and the danger of that product wasn’t discovered until later. Many cases throughout the US have involved companies who did not warn the public of the hazardous quality of their products. There are also numerous cases of industrial workplaces that failed to protect their workers from dangerous chemical exposure.

The statute can be tolled for minors and the incapacitated.

If the person who wishes to file for wrongful death is under 18 years of age, the two-year time period to sue starts on the day of their 18th birthday.

Likewise, if the plaintiff is currently incapacitated, the statute can be tolled or suspended until they regain capacity or have an appointed legal representative. “Incapacitated” generally means not having the ability to handle one’s own affairs, such as if a person is in a coma or has memory loss.

Note that minors and incapacitated persons must still meet the eligibility for filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Persons who can file include the decedent’s spouse, children, and those who were financially dependent on the decedent.

The statute may be shorter for medical malpractice cases.

The statute of limitations is different if the wrongful death was caused by medical malpractice. In this case, the time limit is either:

  • Three years from the date of the malpractice, OR
  • One year from the date when the malpractice should reasonably have been discovered.

Whichever comes first.

It can be extremely challenging to investigate the actual date of the malpractice or prove the reasonable discovery date. If your loved one died after a medical procedure or treatment, it’s best to speak to a lawyer as soon as you can. Your attorney should help you establish the cause of your loved one’s death and effectively navigate California laws to assert your rights.

The time limit may be shorter if the defendant is a government entity.

The window to sue is also shorter if your wrongful death lawsuit is against a government agency or public office. You’ll have only six months from the date of death to file your claim, and the case will follow a special process. Contact an experienced wrongful death attorney to advise you on your unique case.

Call a Temecula Wrongful Death Lawyer Today

Don’t wait to consult an attorney. It may seem like you have ample time to file a wrongful death lawsuit, but many claimants have sadly missed their opportunity due to many delays in the process.

At The Zucker Law Firm, we’re ready to provide you with high-quality legal guidance through a free consultation. You risk nothing just by speaking with us. Our attorneys are trusted in Riverside County for our excellent track record in wrongful death and personal injury cases. Call (951) 699-2100 today for a free case evaluation.

The accident lawyers at The Zucker Law Firm in Temecula offer legal services exclusively in the areas of personal injury and wrongful death.

How Long Do I Have to Sue for a Loved One’s Death in California?
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