How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

When a loved one dies due to another party’s negligence or misconduct, filing a wrongful death lawsuit is a way to pursue legal accountability and compensation. However, these lawsuits must be filed within a certain time period or the claim is barred. Understanding the statute of limitations is crucial when contemplating a wrongful death claim.

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Statute of Limitations for Filing

Every state has statutes that prescribe the time frames within which certain civil actions must commence. For personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits, most states set a 2-3 year deadline from the date of injury or death to file the claim. However, some specifics vary among states, such as:

  • The date when the clock starts – Some states run the statute of limitations from the date of the person’s death, while others calculate from the date when the survivors/dependents knew or had reason to know about the wrongdoing.
  • Claims allowed – Some states limit wrongful death claims only to specific relatives, while others allow a deceased person’s “estate” to also pursue damages.
  • Scope of damages – States have different parameters regarding financial damages permitted, e.g., some don’t allow pain and suffering damages.

So, it’s essential to understand your state’s unique wrongful death statutes and case law precedents when evaluating timeline requirements and filing eligibility. An experienced attorney can best clarify an individual state’s protocols.

What are the Statutes of Limitations for Georgia?

In Georgia, you have 2 years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

  • The clock starts running from the date of the person’s death.
  • Only a surviving spouse or child of the deceased may recover damages for wrongful death.
  • Damages may include the full value of the life of the decedent.

What are the Statutes of Limitations for South Carolina?

In South Carolina, you have 3 years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

  • The clock starts running from the date of the person’s death.
  • The executor or administrator of the deceased person’s estate can bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Damages recovered pass to the deceased’s heirs-at-law.
  • Permitted damages are mainly financial losses suffered by beneficiaries such as lost wages, compensation for pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and medical and funeral expenses.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations

While the statute of limitations creates firm filing deadlines, certain exceptional circumstances can provide grounds for an extension. Reasons a court may apply a statute of limitations exception in a wrongful death lawsuit include:

  • Defendant Fraud – If vital information was deliberately concealed, that fraudulent deception may allow the court to extend or waive the statute of limitations.
  • Gross Negligence – Particularly extreme misconduct could persuade a judge to grant extra filing time in the “interest of justice.”
  • Minor Status – The clock may be paused until any surviving minor children become legal adults.
  • Insanity – If the deceased person’s mental incapacity contributed to missing the deadline, added time could be warranted.

While extensions are not guaranteed, factual evidence supporting an exception can help gain court permission to file a claim past the standard statute of limitations for wrongful death. This is why it is essential to consult an experienced wrongful death attorney from The Brown Firm.

Preserving the Claim

To avoid timeliness pitfalls, proactive steps can help secure the opportunity to pursue wrongful death compensation through a lawsuit. Key measures include:

  • Record Details About the Death – Documenting the sequence of events, parties involved, deceased’s statements, medical examiner findings, etc. can support allegations later.
  • Hire a Lawyer Soon After Death Occurs – An attorney from The Brown firm can immediately initiate investigative efforts, evaluate liability issues, and monitor case development.
  • Send Preservation Letters – Dispatching legal notices demanding that relevant parties preserve evidence relating to the death puts them on alert not to destroy important materials.

Taking quick action aids credibility in claiming timeline exceptions later if needed. It also arms your wrongful death lawyer with information to assemble the strongest wrongful death case possible within the statute of limitations window.

The Clock is Ticking

Statutes of limitations uphold legal rights for an appropriate period. But filing a claim too long after a loved one’s death risks having it barred and unable to be heard based on tardiness alone. Savvy plaintiffs consult attorneys promptly so no window of opportunity is lost. Understanding state laws and case variables with counsel is key to navigating strict filing deadlines. Acting fast is imperative to best position a wrongful death case for just compensation.

Contact The Brown Firm today to get advice on your wrongful death claim. You can visit our offices at the following locations:

  • 7176 Hodgson Memorial Drive, Savannah, GA 31405 
  • 320 East Clayton Street, Athens, GA 30601 
  • 197 14th St. NW, Suite 200, Atlanta, GA 30318 
  • 110 Traders Cross #226, Okatie, SC 29909 

Or call now for a free consultation on (800) 529-1441.

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