Wrongful Death Lawsuits: A Primer

Losing a loved one is always an excruciating experience, but losing someone due to another person's negligence is especially painful. Although nothing can bring your loved one back, pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible parties can at least offer some financial compensation and perhaps some closure. Here a few key facts about wrongful death suits to keep in mind.


The most common type of wrongful death case involves auto accidents. When the driver of a vehicle, such as a car truck or motorcycle, causes an accident that results in the death of another person, the family members of the deceased have the right to file a civil lawsuit against the negligent driver.

Another type of wrongful death that often results in a lawsuit is medical malpractice. For instance, if you lose a loved one because a doctor's misdiagnosis led to a delay in your family member getting vital treatment for a serious disease, you can sue for wrongful death and receive compensation for your loss.

Workplace accidents that result in fatalities are usually settled through the workers compensation, but might result in wrongful death suits in certain instances. The other main example of wrongful deaths is fatalities due to defective products.

Time to File

One of the most crucial points to remember about wrongful death suits is that plaintiffs have only a certain amount of time to file before the statute of limitations comes into effect. Generally, most states have a time limit of one or two years after the death (or the injury that led to a person's death) occurs for the family to file. The laws vary, so the limit might be more or less than this depending on your state of residence.

Some exceptions exist to statute of limitation laws. One of the most critical is the discovery exception. In this instance, the clock would start for a plaintiff only after they discovered the cause of death. This exception sometimes occurs in medical malpractices cases. For example, if a surgeon leaves an instrument in a patient and the patient dies many months or years after the operation, the discovery rule would be relevant. If the statute of limitations in that state is two years, the family would have two years after the discovery of the surgeon's mistake to file, not two years after the mistake occurred.

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit is a momentous decision, not to be taken without expert advice. For more information about this topic, consult with a qualified wrongful death lawyer in your town.