All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.
How long do I have to pursue a wrongful death claim?
The period of time can be as short as one year or as long as eight years
Wrongful death cases are governed by the statute of limitations which essentially provides time limits within which a case must be filed. These limitation periods vary in length. When the time begins and ends is based on the facts and circumstances surrounding a particular case and the unique facts of that case. The period of time can be as short as one year or as long as eight years. If you are bringing a claim against a public entity such as a municipality, there are additional requirements including filing a notice of claim within six months of your injury. If you fail to comply with any of these deadlines, it typically means that your claim is completely barred regardless of the merits of your case. Even if you have not decided to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit, it is extremely important to get immediate legal advice to avoid missing any of these critical deadlines. Additionally, there are some circumstances under which the time deadline may be “tolled”, or does not run for some period of time.
While the instinct to delay such issues is entirely understandable, there can be significant risk to not taking prompt action following a fatal car accident or other incident resulting in wrongful death. When parties delay pursuing a claim for wrongful death, the ability to gather the vital evidence necessary to prove liability and causation may be compromised. When a loved one dies in a crash, evidence like skid marks, vehicle damage, paint transfer and other critical proof may disappear. Anyone who is familiar with the construction trades knows that the array of sub-contractors and other entities can change making it extremely difficult to track down a day laborer who may have committed the negligent conduct that caused a construction accident or that may be a crucial witness to what occurred.
The obstacles raised by these evidentiary challenges are only part of the problem. The law imposes strict deadlines. Failure to comply with these timing requirements can result in severe damage to one’s ability to obtain the full measure of compensation to address all forms of loss. The statute of limitations for initiating a wrongful death claim generally is two years, but it can vary depending on the facts of the case and specific circumstances. However, failure to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations will almost always prove fatal to one’s wrongful death claim. There can be disputes regarding when the statute of limitations has expired so families should consider seeking legal advice even if they are under the impression the statute of limitations has run.