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How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

If you believe someone is at fault for your loved one's death, either through the deliberate actions or negligence of an individual, organization or company, or through a faulty product or service, you may be considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Although your grief over your loss may seem overwhelming, it is important to act quickly to determine your state's statute of limitations on wrongful death personal injury lawsuits. A wrongful death attorney can provide you with valuable assistance.

Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Lawsuits
The time limit from the date of the injury to the final date by which a lawsuit must be filed is called the statute of limitations. Regardless of how much evidence you have or how egregious the responsible party's actions were in causing your loved one's death, if you do not file within your state's statute of limitations, you may lose your right to file. Some states permit as little as one year for the statute of limitations on wrongful death cases, while some allow as much as three years.

So, if your spouse was injured and killed in a traffic accident caused by faulty break pads that prevented the car from stopping, you may have as little as one year from the date of the fatal accident to file your wrongful death lawsuit.

Complications in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Keep in mind that wrongful death lawsuits can be among the most complicated and legally challenging of all personal injury lawsuits.

  • Consider a situation in which the accident referenced above seriously injured your spouse but did not result in immediate death; you could file a lawsuit seeking a personal injury settlement. But, in this same situation, imagine that you do not file for a personal injury settlement in the eighteen months before your spouse dies from the injuries sustained in the accident. If your state only allows for a one-year statute of limitations on personal injury cases, you may have forfeited your right to file a wrongful death case. The personal injury statute of limitations would have run out before your spouse's death occurred.

  • In the same accident scenario, if the brake pads were not faulty, but it turned out that the brakes were deliberately tampered with by an individual, you could bring a wrongful death suit against that person. But if the tampering evidence is not discovered until eighteen months after the accident, it is possible that your state's statute of limitations may start on the day that tampering evidence is discovered. This is often called the "discovery" rule.

  • Wrongful death cases can be further complicated by jurisdictional issues. If your loved one lived in Texas, but died in a skiing accident in Colorado while wearing faulty skis manufactured by a company based in Wisconsin, which state's wrongful death laws would apply to your situation? In which state would you file your suit?

Seek Assistance from a Wrongful Death Attorney
Due to the complications noted above in wrongful death law, as well as the emotional, mental and financial toll that losing a loved one can take, consider immediately contacting a Wrongful Death Lawyer in your area. Your state's State Bar Association website can provide you with a list of attorneys in your area licensed to practice Personal Injury and Wrongful Death law.