Current California Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
According to the California Code of Civil Procedure § 335.1, plaintiffs have two years from the date of their loved one’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Note that California shortens this time limit to one year for wrongful death cases involving medical malpractice. After this time limit expires, it’s unlikely that the court will hear your case.
Second, it hypothetically prevents frivolous lawsuits from actions that resulted in limited or no damages.
For this reason, it’s important to consider your legal options as soon as possible.
After losing a loved one because of negligence, it’s common for victims to want to hold the responsible person accountable.
However, they may not know how long they have to file or how to begin their claim. Here’s everything you need to know about the California wrongful death statute of limitations and the timeline for filing a claim or lawsuit.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is essentially a time limit for filing a lawsuit. Every type of case has a different statute of limitations depending on state laws and the nature of the incident. This time limit serves two purposes.
First, it helps maintain the evidence, which may deteriorate over time. Witnesses to an incident may forget certain details or pieces of evidence may go missing, such as recordings or documents.
Are There Any Exceptions?
Although rare, there are some exceptions that may apply to the statute of limitations for wrongful death in California. These exceptions either shorten or lengthen the amount of time you have to bring an action.
Plaintiff Is a Minor or Mentally Incapacitated
One common exception occurs when the plaintiff is a minor or mentally incapacitated at the time of the decedent’s death.
If the plaintiff is a minor, the clock doesn’t start until they reach the age of 18. This means they have until their 20th birthday to file.
If the plaintiff doesn’t have the mental capacity to make legal decisions, the statute of limitations doesn’t start running until after their disability ends.
Defendant Leaves the State
In cases where the defendant leaves the state before the plaintiff has a chance to file, California tolls the statute of limitations. According to CCP § 351, the statute doesn’t begin to run again until the defendant returns to the state.
Defendant Is a Government Employee or Entity
Most states have what’s known as sovereign immunity, which protects public entities like the government from lawsuits.
However, under the California Tort Claims Act, the plaintiff must submit a claim to the government entity responsible within six months after the date of death.
This supersedes the California wrongful death statute of limitations, giving the plaintiff much less time.
You Don’t Have to Go Through the Process Alone; Call Weinberg Law Offices Today
The unexpected loss of a loved one through a preventable incident is a tragedy that no one should have to go through.
At Weinberg Law Offices, our attorneys understand how devastating this situation is for families. That’s why our legal team fights tirelessly for families affected by such a terrible loss.
Disclaimer: This content should not be construed as legal advice.