A statute of limitations is the legal time limit for filing a lawsuit from the date the injury occurred. In California, the statute varies depending on what happened and who is responsible or, in civil litigation language, liable for your loved one’s death. If you do not file a claim within the time limit set by law, the defendant in your wrongful death lawsuit will file a motion to dismiss your case, and that motion will almost certainly be granted.
The statute of limitations (time limit) for filing most wrongful death claims is 2 years from the date of injury or death, as set by the California Code of Civil Procedure § 335.1. This statute applies in situations where, for instance, your loved one was killed by a drunk driver or by using a defective product or by somebody’s negligent action on the job or in any one of a multitude of situations where somebody’s negligence or wrongful act caused your loved one’s death.
There are special circumstances where a different time limit is applied. Actions for medical malpractice by a healthcare provider are governed by the California Code of Civil Procedure § 340.5. For medical negligence the time limit is 3 years from the time of injury or 1 year from the time the injured party knew or should have known of the injury, whichever is first.
Claims against the State of California, including against a state employee during the course of her/his job or against a government entity must be filed within 6 months after the injury, according to California Government Code §911.2.
Exceptions to the Time Limit for Filing a California Wrongful Death Claim
There are a few exceptions to the legal time limit for filing a wrongful death claim. For most wrongful death claims the time limit can be tolled if a special circumstance exists that would prevent the plaintiff (injured party or their loved one) from even knowing the injury occurred, or that it was caused by the negligence or wrongful action of another person or entity. Examples of tolling are if the plaintiff is a minor or legally insane at the time the injury occurred. Tolling a statute of limitations means to stop the clock for a period of time because of circumstances which could prevent a plaintiff from recovering damages. When the circumstance changes the clock begins to run again.
For example, if the plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit was a minor at the time of a parent’s death, the statute of limitations can be tolled because a minor child doesn’t have legal capacity to file a claim. Once the plaintiff turns 18, the statute of limitations would begin to run.
It’s difficult to make any kind of firm statement regarding the law, because the law is complicated and the statutes are vague. For instance, though a minor cannot file a lawsuit an adult who is legally qualified to act on the minor’s behalf such as a parent or guardian or court-appointed guardian ad litem, could file the suit. If nobody does in fact file a suit, the minor would be eligible to file a claim upon reaching legal majority (age 18).
Because California codes are intentionally vague and are interpreted by judges based on prior cases and rulings it is a very good idea to speak to an experienced Wrongful Death Civil Litigation Attorney as soon as possible if you think you may have a cause to file a legal action for wrongful death.
At Sehat Law we understand how difficult it is to consult an attorney after the untimely death of a loved one. After listening to your story we can give you sound legal advice about what to do next. If you choose to file a wrongful death claim the Sehat Law Firm will aggressively pursue justice on behalf of your loved one and just compensation for your injuries and suffering as a result of this tragedy. Let us take the burden from your shoulders so you can go forward and heal.
Call (855) 468-5291 now for a free consultation and claim evaluation with an experienced and compassionate Sehat Law wrongful death attorney. If you delay seeking justice for your loved one’s death the statute of limitations can expire. Call us now and we will get started immediately.