Are There Time Limits for Bringing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Wrongful Death Lawsuits

If someone in your family was killed by another person’s actions, the last thing on your mind is probably pursuing legal action. However, you may want to consider filing a wrongful death lawsuit to be compensated for your loss. This raises the question of how long you have to file. If you wait too long, can you lose the option to file? If so, how long do you have to grieve before you have to start the filing process?

The Statute of Limitations

The legal term for your time limit to file a lawsuit is the statute of limitations. If anyone tries to file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired, the case will almost certainly be thrown out. The statute of limitations begins counting down as soon as the wrongdoing was committed.

How Long Is the Statute of Limitations?

The exact length of the statute of limitations depends on the type of lawsuit and the state it is filed in. For wrongful death lawsuits, the statute of limitations is almost always two years, although it is commonly three years as well. There are only nine states where the statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuit is not two or three years:

  • Florida – Four years
  • Kentucky – One year
  • Louisiana – One year
  • Maine – Six years
  • Missouri – Five years
  • Nebraska – Four years
  • Tennessee – One year
  • Utah – Four years
  • Wyoming – Four years

If you do not live in one of these states and you are approaching the two-year mark after the death of your loved one, you should research to see if the limit in your state is two or three years before it is too late. You can also speak with an attorney to learn more.

The Discovery Rule

There is only one major exception to the statute of limitations. This is called the discovery rule. If the injury that results in the death of the loved one is not discovered at first, the statute of limitations does not start counting down until it is discovered. Likewise, if the identity of the person who caused the injury is not known, it only begins counting down at the time the identity is discovered. Although rare, this can give people in unusual situations the time they need to bring the correct person to justice.

Remember, the first step in filing a wrongful death lawsuit is to speak with an attorney, like a wrongful death lawyer in Bloomington, IL. It can take several weeks to properly file your lawsuit, which means you should not wait until the very last minute.

Thank you to Pioletti Pioletti & Nichols for their insight into wrongful death law.