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Written by: Steven R. Clawson
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Losing a loved one is a tragedy, one that is worse when someone else causes their death. When your loved one dies in a preventable accident, you could have the legal right to bring a claim for wrongful death.

While no amount of money will bring your family member back, you might have the right to hold the negligent party responsible. Under California law, you have only a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit. In general, the wrongful death statute of limitations in California is two years from the date of death.

Be advised that while the general amount of time to file is two years from the date of death, there are some exceptions.

If you believe you have a valid claim for wrongful death in California, it’s crucial to speak with an experienced Northern California wrongful death lawyer at Wells Call Injury Lawyers today. We understand what an emotional and traumatic time this is for your family, and we are here to help.

Exceptions to the Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in California

While the standard two years will apply in most cases, some exceptions could increase or decrease the amount of time you have to file.

The Discovery Rule

People often refer to the first exception as the “discovery rule.” This exception applies when the victim’s family members could not have reasonably found out about their loved one’s death.

In this situation, the statute of limitations will be paused, which is known as tolling. Instead of the time running from the victim’s date of death, the statute of limitations starts on the date that family members discovered the death or should have discovered it.

This situation often applies in product defect cases where a dangerous product causes physical harm over time. When the person dies, no one realizes a negligent product caused their death until months later. In a case such as this, the statute of limitations will likely start running on the date you ascertained the cause of death.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice claims also have a different statute of limitations. If medical negligence is involved in your loved one’s death, then your family likely has three years from when the malpractice occurred or one year from the date that you should have reasonably known about it.

The deadline will be whichever is the one that comes first. Medical malpractice is different from other types of wrongful death claims. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you could have a very limited window left to file.

Calculating the limitations period in medical malpractice can often be complicated. You need an experienced northern California wrongful death lawyer who can assist you.

Claims Against Government Entities

If your claim involves a government entity, the rules are also different. Unfortunately, you do not have as much time to file a wrongful death lawsuit. You could have as short as six months to notify them of your intent to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If you miss the deadline to inform the government, you could lose the right to bring a wrongful death claim.

You may not realize your wrongful death claim involves a government entity right away. Examples include accidents that occur at public schools and vehicle accidents involving someone who works for the government and driving a government-owned vehicle. Another typical example involves medical malpractice at a medical center that is publicly run.

Pursuing a claim against a government entity can be challenging anyway because there are government immunity laws that protect government employees against lawsuits for certain actions. That’s why it’s even more important to contact a skilled northern California wrongful death lawyer right away. You don’t want to risk missing the deadline. 

Minors Suing for the Death of a Parent

Wrongful death claims involving minors are also different. There is a particular statute of limitations in a situation where only a minor is suing for their parent’s death. A minor must file a claim within two years of the date they turn 18.

For example, a parent dies in a work-related accident, leaving behind a ten-year-old child. That child won’t need to file a wrongful death lawsuit by the time they turn 12 years old. Instead, they will have until they turn 20 to bring a lawsuit.

Contact a Northern California Wrongful Death Attorney

If you believe you have the right to file a wrongful death claim in California, you need to speak with an experienced wrongful death lawyer right away. The team at Wells Call Injury Lawyers has a proven record of success with wrongful death cases.

Our top priority is to protect your rights and pursue justice for your family member’s death. Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation to learn how we can assist you. Let us fight for the compensation your family deserves and ensure the negligent party is held accountable.

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