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What is the wrongful death statute of limitations in California?

Posted on Friday, December 20th, 2013

As a general rule, a person has two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit for the wrongful death of a loved one. There are some exceptions, but probably 80 percent of the time it is two years, just as it would be for a personal injury case.

If the wrongful death case is against a public entity, for instance if there is a road design case against the state of California, the heirs of the deceased person only have six months to file a claim with that public entity. Then, typically within 45 days the public entity will deny the claim and the heirs have another six months within which to file a lawsuit.

If it’s a minor, there are special rules. If it’s only a minor who’s suing for the death of a parent then they have until two years from the day they turn 18. And then finally, if it is a medical malpractice case, there are special rules there regardless of whether it’s wrongful death or whether it’s personal injury. And in that kind of case you generally have only one year from the date of the death…and even that rule has exceptions, but these are some good general rules.


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