When you lose a loved one to a car accident or other type of accident, especially when it’s caused by the actions of another, your emotions will likely be foremost in your mind. Grief, anger and frustration are the natural consequences of your loss and they may drive you to seek justice through a wrongful death action.
California puts restrictions on how long family members have to bring suit for wrongful death. This is called the statute of limitations. It is a deadline which must be met for most lawsuits. Generally speaking, once the deadline has passed, the family is out of time and the legal claim is no longer valid.
In wrongful death cases, the statute of limitations is two years. The two years is counted from the date the victim passes away. This is not always the same as the date of the accident itself. For instance, a victim may be killed immediately in an auto accident. Or they may suffer severe injuries but not succumb to them until six months have passed.
There are exceptions to the basic statute of limitations. The timing of when the family discovers the death of their loved one can affect the time period. If they are not informed of the death, they cannot bring an action for it, and the law recognizes this fact. If they do not find out until later, that date determines the start of the statute of limitations rather than the day the victim died.
Additionally, if the accident involved a government agency, the statute of limitations is reduced from two years to six months. This may be an accident at a school or a car accident with a government vehicle.
If you are a family member going through the ordeal of a wrongful death, seek the advice of a caring and knowledgeable professional to help you through it. The law in this area can be complex and difficult – it’s important that you understand your rights and your options.