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California Statute of Limitations – Wrongful Death

Today’s post is going to be another short one. In it, I’m going to go over the statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit in California state court. As a reminder, a “statute of limitations” is the time period within which a plaintiff wanting to file a civil lawsuit (e.g. seeking money) must do it in. If the plaintiff waits too long (e.g. even by one day), they will lose their lawsuit simply because they waited too long.

The topic of wrongful death litigation can get complicated when you look at questions such as (1) who is an acceptable plaintiff in a wrongful death suit?, and (2) what damages can be recovered in a wrongful death suit? I’ll go over these questions in future posts, but for today’s post, I’m going to look at just the time element involved, namely the statute of limitations the plaintiff has to file their civil suit within.

In California, the answer is two years. Under Section 335.1 of California’s Code of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit must file that suit within two years of the date the death in question occurs. Section 335.1 itself says the following:

“Within two years: An action for assault, battery, or injury to, or for the death of, an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another.”

Two years, however, is the general rule of thumb to remember. However, as with many things in law, exceptions can exist which may make the actual statute of limitations in your case shorter than two years. If that applies in your situation, you obviously don’t want to file your case at or near the two-year mark if the actual statute of limitations that applies is, for example, just one year. The best way to find out what statute of limitations applies in your particular situation is to find a lawyer with whom you can discuss the specifics of your case.

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Andy Chen

Andy I. Chen is a lawyer licensed to practice law in California and New York. Andy maintains offices in Los Altos, California and Modesto, California. Under the New York Court of Appeals' 2015 decision in Schoenefeld v. State of New York, Andy does not accept cases from those in New York state. He does, however, know many lawyers in New York state and would be happy to make a referral.

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