how long does a wrongful death lawsuit take

Losing a loved one is one of the most heart-wrenching experiences anyone can go through, and when their death is due to someone else’s negligence or misconduct, it only adds to the grief.


In such cases, pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit might be a way to obtain some measure of justice and compensation. However, the legal process in California can be lengthy and complex.


In this blog, we will break down the timeline of a wrongful death lawsuit, explain the stages involved, and discuss factors that influence the duration of these legal proceedings.



The Initial Steps: From Consulting With a Personal Injury Lawyer to Establishing a Wrongful Death Case

Choosing the Right Wrongful Death Attorney

How long does a wrongful death lawsuit take? The journey typically begins with selecting an attorney who specializes in wrongful death cases. This step is crucial as the skill and experience of the attorney can significantly impact the course and duration for wrongful death.


Ideally, this selection should be made thoughtfully, involving consultations with several lawyers to find one who not only has a proven track record but also understands the nuances of California law, can communicate with insurance companies, and connects well with surviving family members or dependents on a personal, compassionate level.

Investigative and Preparatory Phase

Once a wrongful death attorney is selected, they will start building your case and gather evidence of the wrongful act, such as witness statements, medical records, and expert analyses. All of these can establish liability and the impact of the loss on your family.


This phase is meticulous and can take anywhere from a few months to a year, depending on the case’s circumstances and the efficiency of the involved parties in gathering requisite information. If the lawsuit is also seeking punitive damages, the attorney will take extra time to gather evidence to support this claim.

How Long Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Take? Filing the Lawsuit to Obtaining the Settlement Verdict

court proceedings for wrongful death

Filing the Lawsuit

With sufficient evidence at hand, your personal injury attorney will file a wrongful death claim in the appropriate California court. The paperwork itself is intricate and requires careful preparation to ensure all aspects of the case are properly presented.

Discovery Between Legal Teams

Following the filing of a wrongful death suit, the discovery phase begins where both parties exchange information related to the case. This phase is designed to prevent surprises in trial and allows each side to fully understand the other’s claims and defenses.


Discovery can be very time-consuming, often extending over several months or even longer if new information prompts further investigation.

Mediation and Negotiation

Most wrongful death lawsuits in California try to reach a settlement before going to trial. Settlement negotiations can be quicker and less costly than a full trial, and they allow for a more private resolution. However, the duration for wrongful death processes in this phase is unpredictable as it heavily depends on the willingness of both parties to compromise and the complexity of the situation.

The Trial

If a settlement isn’t achieved, the case will proceed to trial. Trials can last from a few days to several weeks, but the scheduling of a trial date itself can be delayed due to busy court calendars. The trial is the culmination of all previous efforts, where the evidence is presented and a jury or judge makes a final decision.

Appeals and Post-Trial Motions

Even after a verdict is reached, there may be additional legal maneuvers such as appeals, which can prolong the conclusion of the case. These are particularly common in high-stake cases where the losing party wishes to contest the court’s decision.

How Long Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Take? Factors Influencing the Timeline

  • Case Complexity: More defendants or complicated evidence tends to extend the lawsuit duration.
  • Jurisdictional Variations: Local legal procedures and caseload can impact how quickly the lawsuit progresses.
  • Legal Representation: Experienced attorneys might navigate the process more efficiently but also take the necessary time to ensure a thorough handling of the case.
  • External Circumstances: Unforeseen events like changes in law or pivotal legal rulings can alter the course of the lawsuit.

Given all this information, the estimated time it takes to file and settle wrongful death claims is around one to four years. However, it is important to note that each case is unique and the timeline can vary greatly depending on the circumstances.

Do Insurance Companies Have a Say in the Timeline for a Wrongful Death Settlement?

Yes, they may. In many cases, they will try to delay or deny payouts in order to protect their profits. This can result in longer and more drawn out legal battles, extending the time it takes to settle the claim.


Insurance companies may also try to negotiate lower settlements or dispute the validity of the claim altogether. This can lead to further delays and potentially even court trials that can prolong the process.

File a Wrongful Death Claim Within the Statute of Limitations. Talk to an Experienced Lawyer and Seek Justice for Your Suffering. Free Consultation.

The timeline for a wrongful death lawsuit in California is influenced by many factors, including the specifics of the case, the parties involved, and external circumstances. Generally, the duration for wrongful death cases can take anywhere from one to four years, sometimes longer. Note that the deadline to file a claim is typically two years.


How long does a wrongful death lawsuit take? It’s a path fraught with legal complexities and emotional challenges. Having a competent attorney who can guide you through the process can make a significant difference in coping with the outcomes and how long it will take to settle wrongful death in California.


Losing a loved one is never easy, but understanding the process can provide some comfort and preparedness for what lies ahead. If you or someone you know is facing this difficult journey, remember that you are not alone, and there are resources and professionals who can support you every step of the way.


RTM Law Firm is dedicated to helping individuals and families navigate the legal aspects of wrongful death claims in California. With years of experience, we aim to provide our clients with the support they need during this painful time.


Call our California wrongful death attorneys at (949) 287-4342. No fees until we win.




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