How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

Wrongful death can be devastating for the survivors. Losing a loved one is always difficult. However, if they die in some sort of accident, it can be devastating. When you feel somebody is directly responsible for their death, you want justice. You want to make sure they’re held accountable for their actions. At the same, you need to focus on taking care of your family and taking time out to grieve.

The last thing you’ll want to do is deal with legal matters. This is why it’s a good idea to call and talk to a skilled Orange County wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible after you lose your loved one. They can take care of the legal side of things while you and your family try to move forward with your lives.

One of the reasons we suggest you not wait too long to reach out to an attorney is that you don’t want to miss your filing deadline. In Orange County, you only have a certain amount of time to file a lawsuit. If you miss this deadline, you’ll lose your right to take legal action. The courts make very few exceptions to this rule. Rather than risk having this happen, you’re better off entrusting your case to an experienced attorney in Orange County.

The Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death in California Is Only 2 Years

According to the California Civil Code Section 335.1, you only have 2 years to file suit for wrongful death. This is true for most personal injury cases. The reason the court only gives you a couple of years is that they don’t want people pursuing stale cases. If you waited more than 2 years to sue somebody, there’s a good chance that witnesses would disappear. Evidence may also disappear. Even witnesses who are around could have forgotten what happened on the day of the accident. Rather than risk this happening, the courts limit your filing window to just 2 years.

The courts also don’t feel it’s fair to blindside someone with legal action more than 2 years after the event. Once this much time goes by, the defendant would have no reason to believe they were going to be sued. After that much time passes, they may have no way to defend themselves. They likely got rid of any records related to the accident after 2 years passed. The courts don’t want to get involved in cases with stale or absent proof.

When Do the Two Years Start?

The 2 years period starts on the day of your loved one’s accident. It’s important to note that the law doesn’t say the 2 years start when the victim dies. They could be in the hospital for months before they pass away. This time is counted in the 2 years statute of limitations period. If your Orange County wrongful death lawyer is already working on a personal injury lawsuit for your loved one, they can amend it to a wrongful death claim. It all depends on the facts of the case. If this happens, total damages would change. So would the approach your attorney takes to prove your case.

If your loved one dies as a result of an accident, you don’t want to waste any time meeting with a lawyer. It takes months or longer to prepare a wrongful death case. You want to give your Orange County lawyer as much time as possible to get ready.

What Happens if You Miss the Deadline?

If you miss the filing deadline, there isn’t much your attorney can do to help. The courts rarely make any exceptions to this rule. If they did it in one case, they’d have to do it for everybody else. The only times the judge will make an exception is when one of the following conditions applies:

  • The victim was a minor at the time of the accident
  • The plaintiff is not mentally competent for a period of time
  • The defendant evades service
  • The defendant commits fraud to prevent you from filing legal action

Since it’s rare that these things happen, it’s also rare that the courts will extend a filing period. Once this time passes, there’s nothing your Orange County wrongful death lawyer can do to help you.

Call and Speak With an Experienced Orange County Wrongful Death Lawyer Right Away

If your family member is killed in an accident, you may have a claim for wrongful death. The only way to know for sure is to talk to an experienced Orange County wrongful death lawyer. You can call and set up a time to meet with one of our lawyers. The initial consultation is free, and you wouldn’t pay anything until your case settles.

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