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What Is the California Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations? - The Larsen Firm

What Is the California Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations?

If your loved one has been killed in an accident, you may be at a loss as to what to do next. Fear, frustration, and anxiety are all normal emotions after a devastating loss. As you handle your relative’s affairs, you should also consider speaking with a California wrongful death lawyer. California gives certain family members the right to sue for the wrongful death of a loved one. However, the California wrongful death statute of limitations limits the amount of time you have to file to two years, with only a few exceptions. 

By waiting too long to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you might miss your opportunity to hold the wrongdoer responsible for your loss. In this post, The Larsen Firm will help you understand what the California wrongful death statute of limitations might mean for you.

What Are Exceptions to the Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations?

California has only a few exceptions to its wrongful death statute of limitations. These exceptions typically involve situations where a plaintiff is unable to identify a defendant or a cause for the wrongful death until after the expiration of the limitations period. However, be certain to consult with your wrongful death lawyer about your specific claim because the law is complex. Don’t let a misinterpretation of the limitations statute result in forfeiting your right to recovery. That being said, let’s look at some exceptions to the statutory two-year time limit.

Discovery Rule

The discovery rule allows a court to extend the statute of limitations when the plaintiff does not know about or could not have discovered the injuries that caused death for an extended period of time. An example of this exception to the California wrongful death statute would be where a plaintiff dies from accidental brain damage that was not immediately discovered. 

Medical Malpractice

When wrongful death was caused by medical malpractice, the family must bring the claim within three years of when the malpractice occurred. If a death happens later than three years from the date of the medical malpractice, the claim must be brought within one year of the date when the malpractice should reasonably have been discovered. 

Lawsuits Against the Government

While some exceptions extend a filing date, a lawsuit against the government shortens it. The California wrongful death statute allows plaintiffs only six months to file a lawsuit when their loved one’s death was caused by a government entity or employee. 

Lawsuits by a Minor Child

There is a special statute of limitations rule when a minor files a wrongful death claim for the death of a parent. The wrongful death statute is extended so that—even if the parent died when the minor was an infant—the minor has two years from the date of their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit.

Understanding California’s Wrongful Death Statute

Remember, in a wrongful death action, family members file a lawsuit to recover monetary damages when a loved one dies because of another person’s wrongful act. The California wrongful death statute of limitations prevents families from filing lawsuits 50 years after a wrongful act. The wrongful death statute of limitations forces plaintiffs to show how their loved one’s death and the defendant’s wrongful actions are connected.

Some acts that could constitute grounds for a cause of action for wrongful death might include:

  • Car accidents, including hit-and-runs, DUI, and pedestrian accidents;
  • Slip and fall accidents;
  • Drownings;
  • Boating accidents;
  • Assault and battery;
  • Murder or manslaughter;
  • Elder or child abuse and neglect; and
  • Medical malpractice.

This list is not exhaustive, but it shows that any number of wrongful acts could cause another person’s death. If another person’s wrongful act has killed your loved one, speak to an experienced personal injury wrongful death lawyer right away. The right lawyer can help you understand your options and move forward with the right legal consequences.

Why Hiring a Lawyer Can Help

Becoming involved in a lawsuit is always stressful, especially if you are grieving the death of someone you love. A knowledgeable California personal injury attorney can help you properly and timely file a wrongful death claim. Your attorney will also know what kind of financial compensation you are entitled to seek and how much.

You can never replace a loved one after a wrongful death. However, a compassionate and dedicated attorney can help you seek compensation to cover the losses that losing a family member brings.

The The Larsen Firm Difference 

The Larsen Firm are one of the highest-rated personal injury law firms in California. Our firm has been top-ranked by US Best Lawyers in America, Northern California Super Lawyers, and National Trial Lawyers’ Top 100 Trial Lawyers. We have over 40 years of success obtaining excellent results on behalf of our clients. If your loved one was wrongfully killed, our experienced trial lawyers can help. Contact us today for a case evaluation. We can help you understand your rights and file your case on time.

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