Wrongful death actions, as well as all other civil actions, have time limits in which individuals must file their claims. Known as statutes of limitations, these periods must usually be strictly adhered to. Once the statute of limitations window closes, you can lose your right to sue another party with the help of a personal injury attorney Newport Beach. Each state has its statute of limitations laws regarding wrongful death claims, in most states, the time frame is only two or three years, with a few states offering a wider window of time. If your loved one was killed in an accident, it can be helpful to talk to an attorney about statutes of limitations in your state.
When Can A Person File a Wrongful Death Claim?
If you and your family suffered losses as the result of the death of a loved one, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim if you believe their death is the result of another person or party’s negligence. You may file a wrongful death claim with the help of wrongful death attorney Newport Beach under such circumstances, especially if their death was caused by an accident or medical malpractice. Individuals may also be able to obtain more compensation if they can prove their loved one suffered before their death.
The Discovery Rule
Statutes of limitations usually extend from the time the party intending to bring suit discovers the cause of death of a loved one. Many states have ruled that the right to bring a wrongful death claim is fundamental, and courts in these states hold that the limitation period for a wrongful death suit starts at the time of death unless there is some other reason it should not. This is known as the “discovery rule.”
If the loved one of a deceased person discovers evidence of a wrongful death outside of the allotted time frame, they may still be able to file suit with the help of a wrongful death attorney Newport Beach. In some cases, the law may be able to provide claimants with additional time.
If a wrongful death claim is considered a derivative action, which means it arises from a personal injury action, the claimant may be able to file their action outside the statute of limitations. They may do this if they had no wrongful death claim while during a personal injury lawsuit, but they later discover they have reason to believe their loved one’s death was wrongful.
In some states, product liability cases involving wrongful deaths are subjected to unique limitations periods. These periods usually start at the time of the deceased individual’s death, even if their loved ones had no reason to suspect a wrongful death. Loved ones of a deceased person should consult a wrongful death law firm Newport Beach if they believe a defective product is responsible for the death.
Filing A Wrongful Death Claim Outside the Statute of Limitations
With the help of a personal injury attorney Newport Beach, you may still be able to file outside the statute of limitations window if a loved one was killed in an accident. You may be able to do this by:
- Tolling the statute of limitations
- Having the statute of limitations waived by the other party
- Having the statute of limitations waived by a court
It may be possible for claimants to get the court to waive the statute of limitations if their claim meets certain criteria. This is very uncommon, and not likely to happen in most cases.
It may also be possible to toll (suspend or delay) the statute of limitations time frame, which is far more common. Tolling laws vary from state to state, so claimants will need to work with their wrongful death law firm Newport Beach to see if tolling is an option in their case.
If the claimant is a minor, they cannot exhaust their statutes of limitations while they are under 18. For example, if the child of a person who died in a car crash is 9 at the time of the death of their parent, they may still file suit at the age of 18, even though it will be well beyond the statute of limitations time frame. Courts will typically weigh both the positive and negative benefits of tolling before allowing a claimant to file.
Damages Awarded in a Wrongful Death Case
When deciding how much money a loved one is entitled to, the court will take certain factors into consideration. Pecuniary damages, which are explicitly calculated by the courts, rely heavily on these factors. In general, the more money a person earned during their lifetime, the more pecuniary damages their family will be awarded. Before awarding damages, the court will ask the following questions about the deceased person:
- How much money did they typically earn?
- How much money did they have saved?
- Were the claimants financially dependent on the deceased person?
- How old was the deceased person?
Families of working individuals are usually awarded more than families of children and older, retired individuals. The court will also take expenses incurred by the family of the deceased, such as medical and funeral costs into consideration. The higher these costs are, the more a family is likely to receive.
Courts may also choose to award punitive damages to the family of a deceased person. Punitive damages, as their name implies, are awarded to punish the defendant and prevent them from engaging in any wrongdoing in the future. Punitive damages are typically awarded when malice is involved in the death of a person.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
Losing a loved one is painful enough, but when their death is caused by the carelessness or recklessness of a person, it is even more painful. Fortunately, when a person files a lawsuit within their state’s statutes of limitations, they can recover the damages they deserve. Contact a personal injury attorney Newport Beach for additional information about wrongful death claims.