Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations Losing a loved one unexpectedly isn’t just difficult mentally and emotionally, but also financially. For this reason, many families of wrongful death victims choose to take legal action against the wrongdoer for compensation.

While you may have a valid wrongful death claim, you must know you have limited time to file your lawsuit. For this reason, it’s best to seek legal assistance from a Norristown wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible to avoid missing your chance to recover financially from your losses.

Get A Free Consultation Today!

What is a “Wrongful Death?”

Wrongful death, as the name indicates, is a death that occurs under wrongful circumstances. These deaths are typically the result of a third party’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional action. Unfortunately, in most cases, these deaths could have been prevented were it not for the wrongful act or omission.

Because a wrongful death occurs at the hands of another, rather than being a natural, blameless death, families of deceased victims may have the opportunity to seek monetary recovery from the at-fault party. This helps minimize financial burdens that often arise from the untimely death of a family member.

Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

One of the major details about wrongful death cases to keep in mind is the statute of limitations.

The statute of limitations for these cases is unique to your state’s laws but imposes a time limit on your ability to file your claim.

Missing your deadline can negatively impact your case and chances of recovery.

What is a “Statute of Limitations?”

A statute of limitations is a law that restricts the time period within which plaintiffs can file their lawsuits in court. These statutes affect civil law cases, including personal injury claims and some criminal law cases.

The statute of limitations begins to run on a certain date. For example, for personal injury cases, the statute begins to run on the accident date or incident that injured the victim.

Additionally, the “discovery rule” may apply to specific cases where the statute will instead begin to run on the date the injury was discovered or should have reasonably been discovered.

Statutes of limitations are extremely important laws. You should always consider the statute of limitations when you believe you have a legal claim.

The Purpose of a Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations may seem unfair, as it gives you only a small amount of time to take legal action against your wrongdoer. However, there are specific reasons why statutes of limitations are in place.

Statutes of limitations are important to motivate quicker, more efficient legal cases and avoid stale claims. As time goes on, memories fade, and evidence becomes unavailable. Therefore, the sooner a plaintiff initiates their claim, the better it is for the case. For these reasons, statutes of limitations also serve as some protection for defendants.

Simply put, statutes of limitations exist to promote fairness and justice.

Statutes of Limitations for Wrongful Death 

Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Statutes of limitations vary from case to case and state to state. Generally, statutes of limitations for wrongful death claims range from one to six years.

In most states, the statute of limitations is two or three years from the date of the death, but never assume this is the case in your state.

Because the time range is so great, it’s necessary to determine your state’s specific statute of limitations. This can indicate how much time you have left, depending on how long it’s been since your loved one’s passing.

Remember, the clock begins on the date of the death, not the accident date. Therefore, if your loved one was in a car crash one day and fought for their lives for three months before passing away, the statute of limitations begins three months after the crash happened.

Certain Details Can Impact Your Time Under the Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations typically provides a hard deadline to file your claim. Certain factors may affect how long you have to file a lawsuit, depending on the circumstances and your state's laws.

For example, in some states, the statute may be longer or shorter depending on the cause of the victim’s death or the responsible party. Therefore, you might think you have a set amount of time when, in reality, it’s different than you may believe.

This further emphasizes the importance of seeking legal guidance as quickly as possible after your loved one’s death.

After reviewing your case, a skilled attorney is familiar with state laws and can determine how long you have to take action and file your wrongful death claim.

The Importance of Filing Your Wrongful Death Claim within the Statute of Limitations for Your State

Statutes of limitations aren’t mere suggestions. These laws establish strict deadlines to file your claim. You can potentially file your claim beyond the statute’s time and successfully pursue compensation under very specific circumstances.

Filing your claim too late can result in forfeiting your rights to seek justice and financial recovery. While you may file your claim in court, the expired time limit will not go unnoticed for long.

If the opposing party notes the claim was filed past the allotted time, they can bring this to the court’s attention. The court will then more than likely dismiss your case, leaving you without an avenue to pursue justice.

Taking note of your state’s statute of limitations and hiring a wrongful death attorney straight away can avoid the risk of filing your claim too late and losing your rights as a surviving family member.

Common Incidents Resulting in Wrongful Death

Many different types of accidents and incidents can result in a person’s death. Every year, hundreds of thousands of individuals die for a variety of reasons, including falls and traffic accidents. Additionally, some of the other common events resulting in a victim’s death include:

  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Workplace incidents
  • Medical malpractice, like a misdiagnosis, prescription drug issues, and surgical errors
  • Criminal behaviors, such as a shooting or stabbing
  • Product liability

Depending on the specifics of the incident, the victim may suffer harm and eventually succumb to their injuries, or they may pass away immediately after the event.

If your loved one’s death occurs as a result of another party or entity’s wrongful act or omission, there’s a high likelihood you may have a valid compensation claim. Speaking with an experienced wrongful death attorney can provide much-needed clarity.

Who’s Responsible for a Wrongful Death?

It’s necessary to thoroughly review the details of the victim’s death to figure out who should ultimately be responsible for their passing. Some of the parties often found liable for wrongful deaths include:

  • Drivers
  • A driver’s employer
  • Medical staff, including doctors and nurses
  • Healthcare facilities, such as hospitals and rehabilitation centers
  • Pharmacists and pharmacies
  • Product designers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers

In some cases, more than one party or entity shares liability for a victim’s death. It’s critical to accurately determine fault to ensure you pursue compensation from the appropriate party.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits

A wrongful death lawsuit can give you the chance to get the justice and monetary recovery you deserve after the loss of your loved one. These lawsuits fall under personal injury law, which allows victims to recover financially for the wrongs done unto them.

Victims usually file their own claims, but in a wrongful death situation, because the victim is no longer living, the surviving family members can essentially take their place. Through a wrongful death lawsuit, families can minimize some of their burdens and obtain compensation to help provide for the victim’s financial dependents.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

File a Wrongful Death

One of the most important requirements regarding wrongful death lawsuits is who can file the claim. Not just anyone can do so.

The victim’s personal representative or a family member can file the lawsuit, depending on state law.

A personal representative, also known as an executor, is the individual in charge of the victim’s estate after their passing. When the personal representative files the lawsuit, they do so for the benefit of the victim’s family.

If available, close family members, such as spouses, parents, and children, can file a lawsuit when the law allows. Additionally, depending on the circumstances, more distant relatives and financial dependents may also file a wrongful death claim.

At your consultation, your wrongful death attorney can explain local laws to decide who should handle the claim on your behalf.

Proving Cause and Liability

Cause and liability are two essential parts of a wrongful death lawsuit. Making these claims is insufficient; you must provide solid proof to establish your case.

The argument for cause and liability can be established and strengthened with pertinent evidence. Some of the pieces of evidence often used in wrongful death cases include:

  • Medical records and bills
  • Photos and videos
  • Surveillance footage
  • Witness statements
  • Police reports
  • Expert testimony

If the death were caused by negligence, which many wrongful deaths are, you’d need to satisfy the elements of negligence, which include:

  • Duty: The defendant owed the victim a duty of care.
  • Breach: The defendant breached their duty of care through actions or omissions. 
  • Causation: The defendant’s breach was the cause of the victim’s accident or injuries.
  • Damages: The victim died as a result.

Proving causation and damages can be one of the most challenging parts of a wrongful death case. However, a lawyer can obtain evidence as it becomes available and work diligently to create a strong case on your behalf.

Potential Compensation

Personal Injury Lawsuit Lawyer in Norristown

Compensatory damages in wrongful death claims serve to help victim’s families financially for the losses incurred by their loved one’s passing. Damages cover both monetary and non-monetary losses, such as:

  • Medical expenses for the victim’s healthcare needs before their passing
  • Lost earnings and benefits the victim would have been entitled to had they not died
  • Financial assistance the family would have received from their loved one
  • Loss of companionship, love, and support
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of consortium

Determining what damages you can pursue and how much your damages are worth are key to obtaining the compensation you need and deserve for your loved one’s wrongful death.

Factors Affecting the Value of a Wrongful Death Claim

Wrongful death situations are all unique, as the details of every case vary greatly. This is one of the primary reasons you can expect to receive no “average” payout for your wrongful death action.

To figure out how much your case is worth, it’s necessary to review several factors that heavily impact the value of wrongful death claims, including:

  • The age of the victim at the time of their death
  • The victim’s occupation
  • The size of the victim’s family and how many financial dependents they had
  • The details of the victim’s injuries and death
  • Insurance policy limits
  • The value of economic damages and evidence available to prove them

These and other details can aid in understanding how much your wrongful death claim is worth. While it might seem unfair to essentially assign a value to your loved one’s life, it’s a required step to help ensure you get the financial recovery you’re entitled to.

When to Consult a Wrongful Death Attorney After Losing a Loved One

Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney

After losing a loved one in a wrongful death situation, there is no specific time frame you must consult with a lawyer.

As a rule of thumb, it’s best to schedule a consultation as quickly as possible.

The thought of reliving your loved one’s death with an attorney can be difficult, but it is necessary to take legal action against the at-fault party.

As soon as you discuss your case with a lawyer, you can feel confident knowing your case is in the right hands and your attorney will handle your case promptly and efficiently.

Avoid Missing the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death – Consult a Wrongful Death Lawyer Right Away

Don’t give up your rights to seek justice and compensation after the untimely death of a loved one. Schedule a meeting to discuss your situation with a qualified wrongful death attorney to begin working on your case immediately.

Gabriel Levin Author Image

Gabriel Levin - Attorney

Gabriel Levin is a highly experienced and credible attorney with over 10 years of practice in Pennsylvania. Known for his tenacity, he has represented clients in a wide range of civil matters, trying hundreds of cases. He prepares each case as if it will go to trial, ensuring meticulous attention to detail.

Unlike many firms that delegate tasks, Levin personally handles every aspect of a case and maintains open communication with clients throughout. He has secured millions in compensation, making him a reliable choice for those seeking legal representation.

Learn More