Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
Any type of accident that results in an innocent person suffering harm is a stressful and unfortunate occurrence. When that accident causes someone’s death, however, the situation takes a far more serious and tragic turn. When someone loses their life in a preventable accident, a wrongful death lawsuit offers a legal avenue to pursue compensation and hold the responsible party accountable for the grief and damage they caused.
When considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit, as with any legal action, there are certain factors that are important to know, including the applicable statute of limitations. You do not have unlimited time to file a wrongful death claim, so taking action within a certain window of time is necessary. Statutes of limitations are governed by state laws and vary widely across different states across the country, so becoming familiar with your state’s wrongful death statute of limitations is necessary.
If you have suffered the loss of someone you love in a preventable accident, you have the right to take legal action to seek justice and fair compensation for the pain and absence left behind by their death. By working with an experienced wrongful death lawyer, you can have a strong and compassionate advocate by your side as you make your way through the process of filing a wrongful death claim. Your attorney can provide you with the guidance you need to seek the outcome you deserve.
Wrongful Death Defined
The term “wrongful death” refers to the legal concept in which a preventable incident causes an individual’s death due to the negligence or wrongful conduct of another party. A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit filed (often by one of the decedent’s surviving family members) to seek financial compensation. Most wrongful death claims arise from various accidents, medical malpractice, and other incidents.
A wrongful death claim makes the assertion that the deceased individual would still be alive if the responsible party had not shown negligence in preventing the accident that caused their death. One important aspect to note is that a wrongful death lawsuit is wholly separate from any criminal charges. There are instances in which defendants have been found not guilty on criminal charges related to an individual’s death and yet were still found liable for the same person’s death in a civil lawsuit due to a wrongful death claim.
Overview of Wrongful Death Claims
Before starting the process of filing a wrongful death claim, it is beneficial to have a basic understanding of how such claims work and the specific requirements you must meet to file the case. Being aware of the common causes of wrongful death claims and the legal specifics, such as who is eligible to file a wrongful death claim and the statute of limitations, is crucial.
While your wrongful death lawyer will provide you with more detailed guidance throughout the legal process, starting out with a fundamental knowledge of wrongful death claims in general and how they are filed can be helpful. If you are looking into filing a wrongful death claim following the death of a close relative, read the following information carefully and consult with an attorney for more details.
Common Wrongful Death Causes
The potential causes of a wrongful death claim can stem from a nearly endless list of various accidents. If your loved one lost their life as a result of an accident that was preventable, a wrongful death claim is an option. While a wide range of circumstances and incidents can result in the death of an individual and a subsequent wrongful death claim, some of the more common causes include:
Regardless of what type of incident may have caused the victim’s death, determining how the individual died and that the death was preventable are crucial elements. A knowledgeable attorney with experience in handling wrongful death claims will navigate the process and gather all of the proper documentation and evidence to support your claim.
Eligibility to File
Determining if you are eligible to file a wrongful death claim is also essential. Eligibility requirements vary from state to state, with some states limiting a wrongful death claim to only be made by the legal representative of the decedent’s estate and other states allowing close relatives (spouses, children, or parents) of the deceased person to file a claim.
Determining the appropriate parties involved who are eligible to file the claim and have the legal authority to seek compensation can ensure the legal action is valid and avoids hitting any unnecessary obstacles that may delay the process.
Variations by Jurisdiction
As mentioned above, statutes of limitations on wrongful death claims are not uniform and can vary from one jurisdiction to another. Different states have different time frames to allow the filing of claims, and other variations may exist depending on the specific circumstances surrounding the victim’s death.
Being aware of these details is an important element when considering legal action to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the party you believe to be responsible for the death of your loved one. As always, your best option is to speak with a skilled wrongful death claims lawyer to learn more about the specific laws and regulations pertaining to wrongful death claims in your state.
Importance of Timely Action
There are several reasons why taking timely action to file a wrongful death claim rather than hesitating is a wise decision, even beyond the necessity of making sure you file before the statute of limitations runs out. Other significant factors to consider when understanding the need to take action quickly include:
- Witness Availability — As time passes, anyone who might serve as a witness in your wrongful death claim can potentially forget important details of the incident, relocate, or even pass away themselves. Hence, taking action while witnesses are available is key.
- Preservation of Evidence — Hesitating to file a wrongful death claim in a timely manner can result in the failure to preserve valuable evidence that will support your claim. By acting quickly, you can ensure this evidence remains available.
- Legal and Practical Consequences — In addition to the risk of failing to file within the timeframe allowed under the statute of limitations, you should consider the benefit of taking swift action because it offers an opportunity for a faster resolution.
Deciding to file your wrongful death claim quickly and efficiently allows you to avoid the potential pitfalls posed by the factors listed above and seek a more timely resolution to put the entire ordeal behind you and move forward.
General Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death
The general statute of limitations is one fundamental factor that must be considered when pursuing a wrongful death claim. As stated above, these legal deadlines vary depending on the jurisdiction and details of the claim, but they play a critical role in determining the viability of taking legal action. Understanding the basics of these statutes and the specifics of the applicable versions in place within your state is essential for anyone considering filing a wrongful death claim since failure to comply will likely result in forfeiting any right to pursue compensation.
Common Time Frames
A general statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim establishes the legal time frame when you can file your lawsuit. The specifics of these time frames vary by jurisdiction and the details of the incident, making consulting with your lawyer about the statute of limitations an important step before filing.
Different states have their own laws, including variations of statutes of limitations for different legal actions. For example, while one state may allow a period of two years to file a wrongful death claim, another state may allow a period of up to three years.
Tolling the Statute of Limitations
There are instances when certain specific circumstances or developments may present an opportunity to “toll” the statute of limitations, which essentially means hitting a “pause button” on the deadline to file a wrongful death claim. Various contributing factors can result in a temporary halt in the closing of the window of time in which an individual is allowed to file.
The discovery of new evidence, the plaintiff being temporarily incapacitated, and other possible events can cause such a suspension of the statute of limitations, though it will not be a permanent pause. If there are extenuating circumstances that lead the court to grant you an extension of the deadline to file, consult with your attorney regarding the best ways to utilize the extra time given to you.
Consequences of Allowing the Statute of Limitations to Lapse
The most prominent consequence for failing to file a wrongful death claim within the time allotted by the statute of limitations is the possibility of being barred from filing a claim altogether. The court may simply refuse to accept the filing or hear the case, effectively eliminating the claimant’s opportunity to pursue compensation through a claim.
As mentioned above, there may potentially be exceptions or possible extensions granted, though this is not guaranteed. This underscores the urgency to speak with an experienced wrongful death claims lawyer to get the process started quickly and avoid any chance of missing the deadline.
Why You Need Legal Representation
It should be abundantly clear by now that having a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney guide you through the legal process is absolutely vital. With the help of a skilled lawyer, you can not only ensure you do not miss out on your opportunity to seek justice due to allowing the statute of limitations to lapse but also strengthen your chances of reaching the resolution you desire and the closure you need to move forward in your life.
Once you begin the process, your attorney will take many tasks and responsibilities off your hands, so you can focus on your grief and emotional recovery from your tragic and unexpected loss.
Contact an Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer for Help
Picking up the pieces of your life in the wake of a loved one’s untimely death can be one of the most difficult challenges you will ever face. Adding the complexity and frustration of pursuing justice for their death only brings more stress and heartache while leaving you uncertain about where to turn for help. By filing a wrongful death claim, you have a legal option available to you that can give you the opportunity to obtain the resolution you deserve.
Consulting with a knowledgeable wrongful death lawyer will provide you with a basic understanding of wrongful death claims, how the process works, and other critical details like the statute of limitations for filing such a claim. Your attorney will guide you through the process and adhere to all state laws regarding the filing window. With your lawyer’s help, you can take the necessary steps to avoid losing your legal opportunity to seek compensation.
If you lost someone close to you in a preventable accident, holding the responsible party accountable through a wrongful death claim cannot bring your loved one back, but it can provide you with compensation to help you weather the financial challenges in the wake of their death. Reach out to a knowledgeable personal injury attorney in Phoenix as soon as possible to schedule a consultation to discuss the details of your case, hear more about your eligibility to file a claim and the statute of limitations, and get the process started.