When someone files a civil action against another individual, there’s a time limit at play. This time limit is called the statute of limitations, and sets a deadline for which the claim must be filed or it is more than likely going to be thrown out, as a wrongful death lawyer, like from Hurwitz, Whitcher, & Molloy – Attorneys at Law, can explain. Every state sets their own statute of limitations for wrongful death claims, so they vary from state to state. For example, in Utah the statute is four years, while just over the border in Nevada it’s only two years.
The Discovery Rule
The statute of limitations doesn’t start running until discovery of the cause of the death. For example, perhaps you thought your loved one died of natural causes. You discover three months later that a doctor prescribed the wrong medication, which actually led to the death. The statute of limitations might not begin until you discovered that medication issue.
There’s also a chance the statute would begin running even before the death. If the deceased should have known that his or her illness was going to lead to death, some courts might rule the discovery took place even before the individual died.
There are a couple special considerations that are related to wrongful death actions. You may better understand these when you speak with a lawyer:
- Derivative Actions – When a death arises out of a personal injury, the claim could be time-barred by the statute of limitations if the deceased failed to bring a personal injury case before death.
- Product Liability – Sometimes the law will require the statute of limitations begin on the date of death, even if the family didn’t know the cause of death was due to a particular product.
- Statutes of Repose – The statutes of repose are only in certain states, and prohibit claims for wrongful death when the death was due to a product that has reached a particular age.
Extending the Limitations Period
If you have missed out because the statute of limitations has passed, there may be a chance you still have a case. There are a couple things you can try:
- Toll the Statute of Limitations – This is basically getting the court to hit pause on your time limit until certain things happen, such as a defendant turning 18 years old or someone being released from prison.
- Have the Statute Waived – There are specific criteria that must be met if you think a court is going to waive the statute, but it is possible. You could also try to get it waived by the opposing party, but that may be even more rare.
Contacting a Lawyer
If you’re dealing with a wrongful death situation, you don’t have to figure out all the deadlines on your own. Contact a wrongful death attorney today for assistance.