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

A wrongful death suit is a civil lawsuit that a family member can file after a loved one’s death. This type of lawsuit is used to seek compensation for the emotional and financial hardship a family faces after someone’s actions caused the death of a loved one. A wrongful death can be due to someone else being negligent, reckless, or deliberately malicious.

If you think you might have a reason to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you will need to begin the process as soon as possible. Most courts have limits on how long you can wait before suing for a wrongful death. Here’s what you need to know about the statute of limitations for a wrongful death.

How Long Can You Wait Before Filing a Lawsuit?

Every state in the nation has rules about how long people can wait between an incident happening and a lawsuit regarding the incident. This is referred to as the statute of limitations, and it varies wildly depending on where you live and what type of lawsuit you wish to file.

For wrongful death suits, the most common statute of limitations is two years. However, some states require you to file within one year while others let you wait up to six years. You will have to check the laws of your state to find the exact answer.

Can Anything Alter the Statute of Limitations?

Though each state has their own standard for how long you can wait, certain things can change the time period. You may have less time to wait before suing if you are naming a municipality as the defendant in your suit. If the only person capable of filing the case is a minor, the statute of limitations clock will not start counting down until they turn 18.

If you have already passed the statute of limitations but find out new information, such as evidence of medical malpractice, the discovery that a product was dangerous, or purposefully concealed information about the death, the discovery of this evidence may reset the clock. Keep in mind that each state will have rules about what changes the statute of limitations, so you will need to read their laws carefully.

What About Wrongful Deaths That Occur Years After an Incident?

Wrongful death claims get a little trickier when a person is injured due to the preventable actions of another person and then dies years afterwards due to the complications of the injury. Many family members assume that the statute of limitations will start once the person dies. However, the statute of limitations count down normally begins back when the initial injury was received.

There are only a few exceptions to this rule. If the person did not notice harm until far after the incident, such as discovering they had cancer years after a negligent company sold them something carcinogenic, the statute of limitations might not start until the harm was discovered. As always, new evidence coming to light may also set the statute of limitations.