The statute of limitations to file a wrongful death lawsuit varies from state to state. In all states, parties have at least one year to file a lawsuit.
What a Statute of Limitations Is
A statute of limitations is a deadline that sets the time in which a person has to file a legal action in court to seek justice. Statutes of limitations are used to prevent people from filing lawsuits for wrongs that occurred many years in the past.
If that were allowed, evidence could have been lost or destroyed, and witnesses could have died or forgotten key events in the intervening years. Statutes of limitations are meant to give victims a reasonable amount of time to gather evidence while it is fresh and pursue justice.
Statute of Limitations in a Wrongful Death Case
In most states, family members and representatives of the estate of a victim have two years from the date of the victim’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit to seek compensation. In some states, the statute of limitations is longer or shorter.
Under some circumstances, a statute of limitations other than the one for wrongful death applies. For example, in a claim involving a death caused by medical malpractice, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases may apply. That statute of limitations might be longer or shorter than the statute of limitations in other wrongful death cases.
Family members of victims may have additional time to file a lawsuit if the cause of action is discovered after the statute of limitations has expired. For instance, a physician may have committed medical malpractice by failing to diagnose cancer. If the patient later died from the disease, but the individual did not become aware of the failure to diagnose the condition until years after the doctor made a mistake, surviving relatives may have more time to seek justice than they would under other circumstances.
Knowing the relevant statute of limitations is important. If you miss the deadline to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you might be unable to pursue a financial award, even if you are entitled to compensation.
Possible Types of Compensation
You may be entitled to a financial award to cover medical bills for the care your loved one received before their death. You also might be able to recover reimbursement for funeral and burial expenses that you paid out of pocket. An award may also cover the loss of income that your family member would have earned and the loss of an inheritance your relative would have left you.
In addition, you might be able to recover compensation for the emotional harm you have suffered and that you will continue to endure because of your loved one’s untimely death. You may be entitled to a financial award to compensate you for the loss of love, companionship, support, nurturing, and guidance your relative used to provide and that you will no longer receive.
Seeking Timely Legal Advice
The unexpected death of a family member can be emotionally devastating. If you were financially dependent on that person’s income, in whole or in part, you also might be struggling to cope with the growing pile of bills and trying to figure out what to do.
If you are reeling from the sudden loss of a loved one and struggling to get by financially and emotionally, the idea of finding an attorney and filing a lawsuit may feel overwhelming. You may decide to put it on the back burner and think about it later.
Months quickly slip by, which could mean that when you finally decide to act, you may discover that the statute of limitations has expired and that you can no longer sue for compensation. If you are thinking about hiring an attorney to handle your wrongful death action, you might want to consider doing so as soon as possible. An attorney can make sure that you file your lawsuit before the state’s deadline has passed.
Call Ben Crump Law, PLLC
Laws related to wrongful deaths vary significantly across states. If you decide to file a wrongful death lawsuit, a lawyer can help you understand your state’s laws and how they pertain to your case.
Receiving a financial award would not bring your loved one back or undo the harm that your family has suffered, but it could ease the financial and emotional burden and give you some peace of mind. You could have confidence that you would be able to continue to pay your bills and provide for your children in the future.
Time can seem to fly by when it comes to the statute of limitations in a wrongful death case because the shock and stress of losing a loved one can be overwhelming. However, you do not have to manage this by yourself.
Ben Crump Law, PLLC, is here to help. Contact a wrongful death lawyer for a free case review as you consider your next steps.