The tragic loss of a loved one can be incredibly complicated and painful, especially when it may have been preventable. In California, a wrongful death suit allows surviving family members to seek justice and reparation for their loss.


However, time is of the essence when pursuing legal action. Knowing the time frame and the factors that could affect a personal injury case is crucial for those deciding whether to file a lawsuit. Here’s an in-depth look at the details you need to be aware of if you find yourself needing to take wrongful death action.



Understanding Wrongful Death Lawsuits
in The Golden State

A wrongful death claim arises when a person dies due to the legal fault of another person. The cause of action can range from motor vehicle accidents to medical malpractice and even criminal behavior. Under California law, wrongful death claims can be filed by specific family members or the decedent’s personal representative.


When you file a wrongful death lawsuit, the goal is to compensate the surviving family members for the losses they suffer as a result of the decedent’s death. This may include lost income, loss of future earnings, funeral and burial expenses, and the loss of love, companionship, and guidance that the deceased would have provided.


The California Code of Civil Procedure outlines the process for filing a wrongful death claim. The first step is to determine who can file the claim. In general, the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased have priority in filing a wrongful death lawsuit. If there are no surviving family members, then the decedent’s personal representative can file on behalf of their estate.


Once it has been determined who will be filing the claim, it must be filed within the statute of limitations period. Failure to file within this timeframe may result in the case being dismissed.

Statute of Limitations to File a Wrongful Death Claim or Lawsuit in California

how long do you have to file a wrongful death suit

How long do you have to file a wrongful death suit? The “statute of limitations” is the time limit within which a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed. In California, the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is generally two years from the date of death due to negligence. Failing to file within this period usually means losing the right to bring a claim to court.


This strict time frame highlights the importance of prompt legal action. Gathering evidence, finding witnesses, and preparing a solid case takes time. The longer one waits, the higher the risk of losing vital information that could help prove the wrongful death claim.

Factors That Can Affect the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Action

There are situations where the two-year window for filing your lawsuit can be paused or extended.


For example, if the wrongful act occurred as a result of medical malpractice, the clock may start from the date the malpractice was discovered, rather than the date of the injury or death.


If the deceased person was a minor, the applicable statute of limitations may not begin until the minor would have turned 18 years old.


The discovery of new evidence or the arrival of new witnesses can also affect the statute of limitations for wrongful death. In such cases, the clock may not start ticking until the new information comes to light.


How long do you have to file a wrongful death suit? The discovery rule states that the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the plaintiff knew or should have known of the facts that gave rise to their claim. This rule is often applied in cases where a person’s death was caused by exposure to toxic substances, which may take years to manifest symptoms. In these cases, the clock will start from the date when the symptoms were first discovered or reasonably should have been discovered.

It is vital to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney in California to determine how these exceptions apply to your specific case.

Steps to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

steps to file a wrongful death lawsuit

Gather Medical Records and Other Documents

Collecting all relevant paperwork is an essential step. Medical records, the death certificate, and any incident reports are critical pieces of evidence that can help support your case. It’s also beneficial to gather any documents that could establish the deceased’s income to calculate the financial loss to the family.

Consult With a Wrongful Death Attorney

It is difficult to deal with the emotional weight of a wrongful death while processing your claim. Hiring an experienced California wrongful death attorney can provide you with the knowledge and expertise needed to protect your rights and seek the compensation you deserve.

Be Aware of Your Rights

Understanding your rights and the laws that apply to a wrongful death suit is empowering. This knowledge can help you make informed decisions about your course of action and allow you to actively participate in the legal process.

Act Swiftly

How long do you have to file a wrongful death suit? Every minute counts! Evidence can degrade, and memories can fade over time. The sooner you act, the better chance you have of building a strong case. If the statute of limitations has expired, you may not be able to pursue legal action.

File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Negligent Parties Within the Statute of Limitations Period.
RTM Law Firm Can Help.

Deciding to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit is never easy, but for many, it’s an important step towards closure and justice.


So how long do you have to file a wrongful death suit? Not too long. Whether you’re in the early stages of contemplating a lawsuit or approaching the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases, remember that time is a critical factor.


Working with the best wrongful death attorney as soon as possible can ensure that you do not miss your window for filing a claim.


RTM Law Firm is here to help. Our experienced wrongful death attorneys understand California law and are dedicated to helping you through this harrowing time. Call us at (949) 287-4342 for a free consultation.




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