California Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
There is nothing more devastating and heartbreaking than losing a loved one in a preventable accident.
Under California law (California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60), close family members of the victim have the right to hold a negligent party who caused a fatal accident legally responsible through a wrongful death lawsuit.
If your loved one was killed in an accident, you should consult with an experienced wrongful death lawyer in Los Angeles, CA right away. You only have a limited amount of time to take action. In this article, our legal team highlights the most important things you need to know about the California wrongful death statute of limitations.
What is the California Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations?
Under California law (California Code of Civil Procedure 335.1), wrongful death claims must be initiated within two years of the date of the accident. To bring a successful claim, plaintiffs must comply with the statute of limitations wrongful death California.
What happens if you fail to abide by these important procedural rules? It is likely that your case will be dismissed by the court. In other words, you will not get a hearing on the merits of your case. Instead, you will automatically lose the wrongful death claim on a procedural technicality.
Do not let this happen to you. If your loved one was killed in an accident in Southern California, an experienced Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer can help. The sooner you take action to protect your rights, the better off you will be.
Are There Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death?
Yes. While the standard two-year statute of limitations applies to most cases, there are some limited exceptions to California’s wrongful death statute of limitations. Depending on the specific nature of your claim, these exceptions could give you a little more time to file your claim. However, at the same time, these exceptions could also reduce the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit.
The Discovery Rule
As a starting point, the California wrongful death statute of limitations may be extended in cases where the family members of the victim could not have reasonably found out about the death. This exception is often referred to as the ‘discovery rule’.
Essentially, it allows the statute of limitations to be tolled (paused) in cases where family members could not have reasonably known that their loved one was killed. When the discovery rule applies, the two-year clock may start running not on the date of the death, but instead on the date that the death was or should have been discovered.
Medical Malpractice Claims
California also has a different statute of limitations for wrongful death claims that are based on medical malpractice (California Code of Civil Procedure 340.5). If you believe that your loved one died as the result of medical negligence, then you must bring the claim within three years of when the malpractice occurred or one year of the date when the malpractice should have reasonably been discovered. Whichever one comes first is the one that applies.
The bottom line: With medical malpractice wrongful death claims, it is imperative that you call a lawyer right away. You may have a limited amount of time to file a claim.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits Against Government Entities
Finally, there are special rules for filing negligence lawsuits against the government. Generally, plaintiffs have significantly less time to start their claim against a government entity. In fact, you may have as little as six months to notify the responsible government entity of your intent to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
If you fail to do so in the appropriate way, you could lose your claim. If your family member was killed because of the reckless or careless conduct of a government entity or government employee, you should contact an experienced California wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.
Get Help From Our Los Angeles Wrongful Death Lawyer Today
At Starpoint Law, our compassionate California wrongful death attorneys are committed to providing strong, effective legal representation to our clients. If you have any questions or concerns about the wrongful death statute of limitations California, we are here to help. For a free, fully confidential consultation, please contact our Los Angeles law office today.