According to the laws in California, there is a statute of limitations for filing wrongful death cases. Usually, it will be two years, i.e., if a person wants to claim for the wrongful death of their loved one, then he/she will have to file it within two years from the date of the death. Otherwise, the person will not be able to recover any money from a wrongful death lawsuit. Therefore, if you are planning to file a lawsuit for wrongful death, then consult an attorney as soon as possible.
However, there is an exception to this rule which is known as the “Discovery rule”. This rule will help a deceased person’s relatives or dependants to file a claim even after two years of death. The following section contains more details about the discovery rule associated with wrongful death cases in California.
Discovery rule is an exception for the statute of limitations for wrongful deaths in California. This rule comes into effect when the reason for the death was not apparent when it occurred and was discovered in the later stages. In such cases, the statute of limitations starts from the date of discovery of the reason for the death, and not from the date of death.
For example, according to the statute of limitations in California, if the reason for a person’s death is the negligence or malicious act of another person, then the relatives of the deceased person will have to file a claim within two years after the death. But if the reason was discovered only after a year of death, then the relatives will get two more years from the date of the discovery for making the claim. In this case, the statute of limitations is determined from the date of the discovery of the reason for the death.
If a person wants to invoke the discovery rule, then he/she will have to plead specific facts as to:
- the time and manner of the discovery of the reason for the death
- the inability to determine the reason earlier irrespective of the reasonable diligence
In short, the person who is trying to invoke discovery rule for a wrongful death case will have to plead that, he/she couldn’t have reasonably discovered the actual reason for the death within the period of the applicable statute of limitations, despite the diligent investigation. In this case, the plaintiff will get two years to file the wrongful death lawsuit from the date of discovery.