When should I file a wrongful death lawsuit?

Losing a loved one due to the intentional or negligent behavior of someone else is a traumatic experience for any family. There are a lot of emotions and sudden plans to make, all of which can be overwhelming.

Nonetheless, it is important to know the timeline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the party who caused your loved one’s passing. Time is limited in these cases, so getting started right away is crucial.

What constitutes wrongful death?

For someone to file a wrongful death lawsuit against another party, you will need to prove the defendant did the following:

  • Acted negligently
  • The negligence caused the deceased person’s death
  • There is a surviving spouse, children and/or other beneficiaries or dependents
  • The survivor(s) have suffered financial damage as a result of the death

Only the personal representative of the deceased person’s, or decedent’s, estate can bring forward a wrongful death lawsuit. If one isn’t designated in the decedent’s will, beginning the process of probate will be important to appoint who that individual will be.

Time limits for lawsuits

Every state’s statute of limitations on filing a wrongful death lawsuit is different, but in New York it is two years after death. Some states have a “discovery rule” in wrongful death lawsuits, which allows the running of a limitations period in a wrongful death action to commence when the party bringing the suits discovers the cause of the decedent’s death. New York is not one of those states.

As a result, quickly proving the cause of death for your loved one was the fault of another party is critical. Working with an attorney who can help you establish proof while you focus on grieving can help keep the case moving in a timely manner so that the statute of limitations doesn’t become an issue.


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