Few events are as difficult as dealing with the unexpected death of a loved one, especially when that death was caused by someone else’s negligence. Medical bills and funeral costs may have your finances out of control, even as you mourn, but filing a wrongful death lawsuit may be the answer. Should you decide to take this route, there are a few points you may want to understand about the time limits that often accompany these suits, along with several exceptions that may apply to you.
About Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
When a wrongful death occurs, the negligent party is usually charged with failing to provide a standard of care, reasonable care, or with gross negligence. These cases can stem from a variety of circumstances, including:
- Medical/surgical errors
- A workplace accident
- A drunk driving/speeding car accident
Most states allow you anywhere from one to three years to file a claim or collect any type of financial award. For many states, the limit is two years from the time of your loved one’s death. There are several circumstances, however, that may extend that time period.
If your loved one’s death was caused by homicide, your state of residence may allow for more time if you want to file a wrongful death case because of the investigations that take place after such a crime. This also gives the authorities time to discover a motive and name any alleged guilty parties, which may take up to a year or more. The extension usually varies depending on the circumstances of the case and your state of residence.
When someone dies due to a medical error, the investigation that follows can take months or even years to complete. Not only must the doctor or surgeon answer for the error but medical boards and hearings may also take place before you can file the lawsuit. These proceedings can take a great deal of time, especially if what caused your loved one’s death is not completely clear. While courts may grant additional time for these types of cases, you may want to ask your attorney about the laws in your state.
The unexpected death of a loved one is always a difficult burden to bear, especially if someone else was at fault. Nevertheless, you do not have to deal with this painful situation on your own, especially when it comes to the legal aspects of a wrongful death claim.