Coping with the death of a loved one is one of the hardest experiences people go through. In the event of a tragic and potentially preventable incident leading to the loss of life, coping may seem unimaginable. For grieving California families finding themselves in this situation, there may be some recourse. But before asking, what is the statute of limitations in a California civil suit for wrongful death, make sure you understand if your claim qualifies under the statute.
What Is Wrongful Death in California?
California’s wrongful death statute provides that family members of a person who died due to the wrongful or negligent act of another have a cause of action for a legal claim. Certain members of the victim’s family may sue the liable party in civil court for monetary damages resulting from the death. Some family members with legal standing to sue include the victim’s surviving spouse, children, or domestic partner. However, the court’s ability to provide compensation for wrongful death claims expires after a certain period of time, which is codified in the statute of limitations.
Other People Eligible to File Wrongful Death Lawsuits
In some cases, a person may file a wrongful death claim only under specific circumstances. In California, the following people may file a lawsuit for wrongful death if they can show that they were financially dependent on the decedent:
- The victim’s putative spouse,
- The children of the victim’s putative spouse,
- The victim’s stepchildren,
- The victim’s parents, and
- The victim’s legal guardians if the victim’s parents are dead
The putative spouse is someone who mistakenly believed, in good faith, that they were the victim’s spouse and that there was a lawful marriage—despite the fact that the marriage is later shown to be void or voidable.
Wrongful Death Statute Of Limitations
The California wrongful death statute of limitations requires that claimants file a wrongful death lawsuit no later than two years after the victim’s death. The statute of limitations encourages anyone with a claim for wrongful death to have the claim filed by this time. The wrongful death statute of limitations is not subject to many exceptions. However, in certain circumstances, courts have found reasons to extend the statute of limitations.
Exceptions to the California Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
There are really only three situations in which a court will extend the statute of limitations for a wrongful death case.
Wrongful death in the case of medical malpractice has a different statute of limitations period than other wrongful death cases. If a victim passes away due to a doctor’s improper treatment or negligence, the victim’s family has three years from the date of injury. If the injury was not immediately known, the family has one year from the date they discovered (or should have discovered) the injury to file a claim.
Wrongful death lawsuits against government entities reduce the statute of limitations significantly. If a state or local government entity or employee causes the victim’s death, the time period for filing is six months from the date of death. Although this may seem short, it encourages potential claimants to act quickly in their pursuit of compensation. If you have concerns about missing your deadline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit against a government entity or employee, contact a The Larsen Firm Accident Attorney today for assistance.
The Discovery Rule
In fairness, a court allows the extension of the statute of limitations when the victim was unaware of their injuries until after the incident. In a wrongful death case, the discovery rule applies if the victim’s family could not have reasonably discovered the victim’s death until some time has passed. The statute tolls until the date the family learns of the victim’s death and begins to run thereafter.
Recoverable Damages for Wrongful Death
If you decide to file a claim for the wrongful death of your loved one, you should know the potential options for recovery available under the California wrongful death statute. Whether you receive compensation from a verdict or settlement, you may recover for:
- The decedent’s burial and funeral expenses,
- Pain and suffering or disfigurement of the decedent,
- Loss of companionship of the decedent, and
- Loss of the decedent’s future income.
Though some recoverable damages for wrongful death may be the same as damages from a survival claim, recoverable damages may not overlap.
Our Team of Wrongful Death Attorneys Can Help
After losing a loved one, you will need competent representation to ensure that you receive the compensation that you deserve. The Larsen Firm regularly represent clients just like you. Our attorneys have over 40 years of experience specializing in wrongful death cases. Not only do we have the experience, but our clients have received some of the largest settlements and awards available in wrongful death cases. We have won tens of millions of dollars under wrongful lawsuit cases alone. If you are prepared to move forward with filing your wrongful death lawsuit, contact The Larsen Firm to get started.