What is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death?

By Chris Dixon


A Statute of Limitations states how long victims or their family members have to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim. It can be challenging to figure out a state’s wrongful death laws and if you are eligible to file a wrongful death claim, but with an experienced wrongful death lawyer and information on your state’s Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death, it can be easier to obtain justice and recover compensation for your family member’s wrongful death.

Wrongful Death Statutes

If someone is injured or killed because of another person’s negligence, the victim’s immediate family members are eligible to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the victim, but claims are subjected to a Statute of Limitations. In some states, claims must be filed as soon as a year after a victim’s death, while in others, wrongful death claims must be filed within six years of the fatal accident.

Generally, if a state’s wrongful death statute is surpassed and the victim’s family members haven’t filed a claim, the victim’s family forfeits all rights to file a claim and recover compensation for their loved one’s fatal injuries and financial damages. However, in some cases, though uncommon, a Statute of Limitations can be tolled, and victims or their surviving family members can file a claim despite surpassing the state’s wrongful death statute.

It’s essential to keep in mind that having an experienced lawyer by your side during this terrible time is vital. A lawyer can quickly figure out whether you are eligible to file a wrongful death claim, determine what damages you are likely to recover for the victim’s wrongful death, and if you have surpassed your state’s Statute of Limitations for wrongful death claims, whether you are eligible to appeal and file a delayed wrongful death claim.

The “Discovery Rule” in Wrongful Death Actions

Most states have a “discovery rule” in place for wrongful death claims that extends the amount of time that a victim’s family members have to file a claim on behalf of a victim. In most states, the discovery rule doesn’t apply to harm that is obvious but is applicable in cases where the effects of harm are delayed and easier to overlook. For example, if a surgeon forgets to remove surgical clips after a procedure, and the patient doesn’t experience pain until months afterward, the Statute of Limitations wouldn’t kick in until the harm was “discovered.”

An example of a situation where the “discovery rule” would apply in a wrongful death case is if someone becomes critically ill, but is unsure of the cause of their illness and it’s later found that someone else’s negligence caused their death. In both of these cases, fault in the accident can be proven with proof of critical injuries or death, evidence from the accident, and by filing a personal injury or wrongful death claim with the help of an experienced lawyer.

What Damages Can Be Recovered for Wrongful Death?

Generally, when a victim’s family files a valid wrongful death claim, they are eligible to recover compensatory damages, which includes economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages (loss of income), property damage, and other expenses from the accident aren’t subjected to a damages cap, but non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, loss of affection, and medical malpractice damages are limited in some states by a cap. It can be difficult to determine if there is a cap on the number of damages you can receive for your family member’s wrongful death, but hiring a wrongful death lawyer to represent your case offers insight on the situation. Your lawyer has your case’s best interests at heart and wants your case to succeed, so they’ll do everything in their power to produce the best results for your case and make sure that you and your family are taken care of during this terrible time.

Talk to a Wrongful Death Lawyer Today

If you or someone you know is unsure whether they can file a claim for their family member’s death, the sooner that a wrongful death lawyer is consulted about the situation, the better. A lawyer can determine if you are within your state’s Statute of Limitations for wrongful death and if you aren’t, whether the “discovery rule” applies to your loved one’s case. If you are ready to discuss your family member’s wrongful death case with a lawyer and find out more about your state’s Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death, contact the Dixon Injury Firm today to schedule a free consultation and explore the options available to your case.

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