In California, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of your loved one’s passing. There are no exceptions to this rule except for one. You may think: that’s ok, two years is a long time. But two years is not a long time, and below is why.
Why File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit As Soon As Possible?
The statute of limitations that applies to most wrongful death claims in California is the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 335.1. The statute states:
“Within two years: An action for assault, battery, or injury to, or for the death of, an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another.” (emphasis added).
If the deadline passes, it passes, and you have no alternative but to forfeit your right to file a claim. Two years is not a long time, considering:
- You will be suffering the loss of your loved one and may be depressed, thus, may let days, weeks, even months slip by without notice.
- You will need to gather evidence, but evidence in these types of situations can get lost (either by intent or not) or can simply disappear for no reason, depending on the type of evidence it is.
- For the evidence that remains, it takes time to gather the evidence, to review it, and to identify what pieces of information are still in want.
- There may also be a need for an investigation before a clear understanding of your rights and compensation are realized.
- Plus, among other things, you will have to identify a wrongful death attorney in California that suits your personality and is willing to fight for you.
Added up, these things take time. So, if you wait, you may just wait yourself out of a claim. You don’t want to do that. You lost your loved one due to someone else’s fault. You likely have bills piling up. You also have to think about your future, too — no matter how hard it is to do.
What’s The Exception To The California Two-year Statute Of Limitations For Wrongful Death Claims?
Sometimes, however, you may have a way to file a wrongful death claim outside the 2-year mark. There are two exceptions and the first exception is known as “the discovery rule” and the second exceptions applies to minors.
With regard to the discovery rule, sometimes it may not be clear what the cause of death is at the time the person dies. It may, in fact, not be realized until after the person dies. In such cases, you will have from the discovery date — the date you discovered the cause of death or should have reasonably discovered it — to file your claim.
With regard to minors, if they sue for the wrongful death of a parent, they have two years from the date they turn 18. So, if a child’s parent dies of mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos on the job, and the child was 14 at the time of his or her parent’s death, then she should have six years to file a wrongful death claim.
Understanding when to file can be confusing for some, especially when you are in pain due to the loss of the loved one. It is always in your best interests to seek a free initial consultation with an experienced wrongful death attorney to discuss your options and know what all a wrongful death claim entails. It’s true, you don’t want to wait to file a claim, but it’s also true you have two years to file it. So take the time you need but be mindful of the time. Your future and the future of any dependents are at stake.