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Understanding the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims

Published on February 5th, 2020

Families of a deceased person may bring a wrongful death claim when the deceased passes away due to someone’s negligence. This lawsuit lets the survivors recover economic and non-economic damages. A wrongful death case is extremely complex. There are many laws that govern when, how and who can bring a claim. The time frame for bringing a case is called the “statute of limitations.”

How Long Do You Have to File a Lawsuit?

Every state has its own laws that govern time limits on lawsuits. In some cases, the time limit can be one year, but in general, most places have a two-year statute of limitations. It does get complicated, because the statute of limitations usually begins when the harm is discovered. Typically, that is the same day as the date of harm, however, the statute of limitations can also begin when the harm should have been discovered. Finally, it can also begin on the date when the harm was actually discovered.

For example, let’s say that a patient dies in surgery due to the error of a surgeon. The hospital explains the error to the patient’s family. The statute of limitations begins on the day of the surgery. This means that the patient’s family would have two years from the date of the surgery to file a lawsuit. In another example, the patient dies, and no explanation is given. Six months later, it comes to light that the patient died due to a surgical error. It’s likely that the statute of limitations would begin at the six-month mark, rather than the actual date of harm.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations Claims

Minors often have extended statute of limitations. A minor may be able to bring a wrongful death claim up to two years after his or her age of adulthood is reached. Let’s say a six-year-old child loses one of his or her parents. If the estate doesn’t bring forth a wrongful death claim, the child may be able to bring a claim once he or she turns 18 years old. Claims against government agencies are a little more complex. You may have to follow an administrative procedure before bringing a lawsuit against the agency. Administrative claims are often due within 30 to 60 days of the incident. If the claim is denied, then you file a lawsuit in court. One other exception to the statute of limitations is an untimely case. The defendant can file a motion to have the case thrown out because the plaintiff waited too long to sue.

If you have a wrongful death case, talk to a wrongful death attorney, like a wrongful death attorney in Lakeland, FL,to help you make sure you have a timely lawsuit.

Thanks to David & Philpot, PL for their insight into understanding the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims.

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