As the surviving family member of someone who wrongfully died, you may be working on a wrongful death lawsuit. Your lawyer can walk you through the process, but you should be sure you understand all the details that come with a lawsuit. For example, how long do you have to file a wrongful death lawsuit?
The Statute of Limitations
In every state, there is a time limit for which an individual can file a lawsuit after a certain event occurred. This is known as the statute of limitations. It is different for car accidents than it is for wrongful death, and it is different for personal injury than it is for other cases. It’s also different from state to state, so you should be sure your lawyer explains the time frame you have. It does hang around two to four years in most states, but depending on the circumstances, you might only have one year to file, or you might have up to ten years.
When It Begins
The statute of limitations begins when wrongful death occurs. For example, if a person is killed by a drunk driver on January 15, 2019, and the state carries a two-year statute of limitations, the surviving family member would have until January 15, 2021, to file the claim. There are some exceptions to the rule, however, so it’s important to be brought up to speed on what those are.
The Discovery Rule
There are some situations in which the deceased individual knew or should have known that his or her illness or injury was going to lead to death. When that fact was discovered is when the statute of limitations would begin. This means the statute may actually begin before the individual passes away.
There are other situations in which the surviving family members don’t know the cause of death until a period of time after. This might be due to an investigation or other delays, but as soon as it is discovered that a particular person caused the deceased’s death, that is when the statute would begin.
Every case is unique, and as such, could carry some unique exceptions. For example, if an individual dies and has minor children, those children cannot file a lawsuit until they turn 18 years old. It’s possible for a court to uphold a later statute of limitations, beginning at the oldest child’s 18th birthday.
Figuring Things Out with a Lawyer
Sometimes the best way to figure things out regarding wrongful death is with the help of a lawyer. Contact your wrongful death lawyer, like a Wrongful Death Lawyer Minneapolis, MN, today to learn more about the statute of limitations so you get your lawsuit filed on time.
Thank you to the experts at JOHNSTON | MARTINEAU PLLP, for their insight into wrongful death and the law.