How Long Do You Have To File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

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The right to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California typically arises after an accident or intentional act that leads to the death of a family member. For example, if your family member died due to a car crash in California that occurred due to the driver’s negligence, you have a right to initiate a wrongful death claim.

That said, the right to initiate a wrongful death claim in California isn’t absolute. Many procedures and substantive laws guard the whole process, making it complex. One of the stringent procedures relates to the time frame for filing the claim, which provides the time within which a claim should be filed.

Oftentimes, it isn’t easy to file a claim within the required time frame, leading to the claim being dismissed or quashed. For this reason, it is imperative to have a wrongful death attorney in California who can help you navigate the wrongful death claim process easily.

Here is a breakdown of what you need to know about California’s time frame for filing a wrongful death claim.

What is Wrongful Death in California?

Wrongful death is a legal term that denotes the death of a person that arises due to the legal fault of someone else or an entity. The applicable law is provided under the code of civil procedure 376.60.

Succinctly, a wrongful death lawsuit can be understood as a claim for compensation that would have been initiated by the deceased if they were alive.
Generally speaking, wrongful death may arise due to acts like medical malpractice or negligence-based incidents like car accidents.

Who can file a wrongful death claim in California?

Put briefly, not everyone is eligible to file a wrongful death claim in California. California’s wrongful death statute provides that for someone to be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California, they need to be:

  • The decedent’s surviving spouse
  • The decedent’s surviving children
  • The grandchild of any deceased child of the decedent.

That said, there are certain exceptions that tend to be special circumstances. For instance, the law allows a wrongful death lawsuit to be brought by a person other than the ones listed above if it can be proved that there is no surviving person in the deceased person’s line of descent. What’smore, the person needs to demonstrate that they will be entitled to the decedent’s property by intestate succession.

What is the Statute of Limitations for wrongful death cases under California law?

The statute of limitations is legislation that provides the specific time frame for filing any civil claim in California. It is an astringent enactment whose provisions have to be adhered to for any claim to be successful.

To put this into context, the statute of limitations provides that a party can bring a wrongful death action in California within two years after the person’s death.

Although this might seem straightforward, it is imperative to note that there are certain situations where this time frame may seem problematic. For example, consider these two situations: a person is involved in a car accident and dies instantly. Another person is also involved in an accident but goes into a coma for approximately seven months, after which he dies.

In the first instance, the two-year period starts to run as soon as the person dies. On the other hand, the second instance is problematic due to the complications between the victim’s accident and death. However, it is imperative to note that the statute of limitations will only start to run at the victim’s passing and not at the date of the accident.

For this reason, it is imperative to have a wrongful death attorney by your side in order to help you avoid the complications that may arise from the claim.

What is the time frame for filing a wrongful death lawsuit arising out of medical malpractice?

Medical malpractice is one of the leading causes of wrongful death in the United States. Oftentimes, victims of medical malpractice have a cause of action in a court that requires them to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the liable party.

However, when it comes to wrongful death cases, the victim’s family has a right to file the lawsuit. In order to succeed, the claim must be filed within :

  • One year from the date of discovery, if the death was caused by medical negligence.
  • Three years from the date of death of the decedent.

Can you file a wrongful death claim against a government entity?

A government entity is not immune from legal proceedings. As such, you have a right to initiate a wrongful death claim against a government entity in California.

In this regard, the statute of limitations provides that legal action against a government entity should be brought within six months from death.

Understanding the time frame for a wrongful death claim filed by a minor

The statute of limitations accommodates minors by incorporating a special rule in relation to the statute of limitations. Put briefly, the statute of limitations provides that a minor can file an action within two years from the day they turn 18 years of age.

How can you start a wrongful death claim in California?

To initiate a successful wrongful death claim in California, the deceased’s family must be prepared to prove that the deceased died due to someone else’s negligence or intentional act of harm. What’smore, they need to establish that they suffered monetary losses due to the death of their loved one. And finally, the family needs you to select a representative for the deceased’s estate.

These elements are crucial, and there is a need to ensure that you abide by the strict provisions regarding wrongful death claims in order for your claim to be successful.

Need help? Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney in California

To succeed in a wrongful death claim in California, you need to file the claim within the stipulated time frame. As noted above, this tends to be two years after the deceased’s death.

That said, the complications that follow the process make it a daunting task to succeed in the claim process. For this reason, you need a competent and qualified wrongful death attorney to help you.

Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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