Every state has its own wrongful death statute, and every state sets its own wrongful death statute of limitations. The wrongful death statute of limitations in California includes several exceptions that sometimes apply. Don’t assume that an exception will apply without talking to your lawyer first, however.

The California Wrongful Death Statute

When someone suffers an injury because of another person’s wrongful behavior, the injured person can file a personal injury lawsuit. But what happens if the injured person dies? After all, a dead person cannot file a lawsuit. The California wrongful death statute provides a monetary remedy for surviving relatives and certain financial dependents of the deceased in these situations. The law even provides for intangible damages, such as compensation for loss of companionship. etc.  

What the California Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations Does

The California wrongful death statute of limitations is like a countdown that begins running on the date that the victim dies. The general rule (which is riddled with exceptions) is that the countdown is set at two years. In other words, you must file a wrongful death claim in the appropriate court within two years of the death of the victim. If you don’t, and if no exception applies, the court will permanently dismiss your lawsuit.

Effect on Settlement Negotiations

The defendant (or the insurance company) would just love for you to remain asleep at wheel until the statute of limitations deadline has passed. Once that happens, you cannot file a suit to enforce your claim. Once the threat of a lawsuit is gone, the defendant has no motivation or reason to settle your claim. You can expect the defendant to withdraw from settlement negotiations as soon as the statute of limitations deadline passes with no lawsuit filed.

Exceptions

Let’s take a look at some exceptions to the California two-year statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim.

Medical Malpractice Claims

Suppose your loved one died because the doctor negligently prescribed the wrong medication. In that case, the wrongful death statute of limitations would be three years after the victim’s death, or one year after the plaintiff reasonably should have discovered the negligent prescription, whichever comes first.

The Discovery Rule

The wrongful death statute of limitations countdown normally starts ticking on the day the victim dies. If the potential plaintiffs (relatives and financial dependents) do not learn of the cause of the victim’s death immediately, however, the countdown doesn’t begin until they actually learn the cause of death. Once the cause is ascertained, the clock begins to tick.

Government Entity Defendant

When a government entity such as a school district is the defendant, the statute of limitations is only six months after the victim’s death.

The Plaintiff Is a Minor Who Lost a Parent

When the plaintiff is a minor suing for the loss of a parent, the minor has until their 20th birthday to file a California wrongful death claim.

Act Quickly—Don’t Let Your Claim Grow Stale

Silva Injury Law, Inc. consists of wrongful death lawyer Michael Joe Silva along with partners Cassidy Jensen and Tanner Combs. Together we have successfully represented many wrongful death claimants. Our record of winning at trial has a way of convincing defendants to settle out of court with our clients. If you are the close relative or a financial dependent of a loved one who died as a result of someone else’s misconduct, contact Silva Injury Law today. Telephone us at (209) 600-0874 or contact us online to schedule a free case evaluation.