What Is The Statute Of Limitations For Wrongful Death in Every State?

man stands in front of graves at a cemetery

Although there are federal laws, each state also has its own laws and sets conditions related to them. States govern criminal and civil matters, and their statutes determine who qualifies to file a lawsuit under certain circumstances.

The statute of limitations is a legal statute determining how much time the authorities have to file charges or eligible parties have to file lawsuits. Once the statute of limitations expires, it’s usually impossible for anyone to seek legal recourse against the accused. To receive compensation, people who are coping with a wrongful death case must familiarize themselves with the statute of limitation period that applies to their case to ensure they file a wrongful death suit before the statute expires.

To get the peace of mind from knowing an expert legal team is ready to fight for your rights and get you the justice you deserve, schedule a free consultation.

What is a wrongful death claim?

A wrongful death action involves filing a civil suit against the party responsible for the decedent’s death. Wrongful death claims include medical malpractice cases. When a person’s negligence or deliberate actions lead to another person’s death, the decedent’s surviving family members may sue them.

What is the “date of discovery” in a wrongful death lawsuit?

There must be a point when the timer starts to determine the limit to pursue legal action. This point is often the death date; however, in some cases, the date of discovery would be when the window of opportunity to file a lawsuit begins.

The date of discovery refers to the date when the potential plaintiffs discovered their loved one died a wrongful death. When evidence emerges after the death occurs, the window for filing a claim is reset, extending the time limit for taking legal action.

Suppose a driver fails to stop their vehicle and strikes a pedestrian. The pedestrian dies. The initial evidence suggests the driver did everything in their power to stop the vehicle. There’s no evidence of distracted driving, their blood alcohol level was zero, and video footage shows they attempted to apply the brakes.

However, once authorities investigated the brake’s failure, they determined that the vehicle’s owner knew their brakes were in terrible condition and didn’t replace them. The date of discovery would apply to the date when authorities uncovered evidence of the owner’s negligence and choice to act without demonstrating a duty of care to motorists and pedestrians. The victim’s family may not file a claim against the driver but may sue the vehicle’s owner.

The Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims by State

3d graphic of united states

Each state sets a statute of limitations for wrongful death suits, determining the time available to pursue legal action.

The following states have a wrongful death statute of limitations of one year:

The following states have a wrongful death statute of limitations of two years:

The following states have a wrongful death statute of limitations of three years:

Some states alter their statute of limitations based on the cause of death. For example, Colorado extends the statute of limitations to four years if the decedent was the victim of a hit-and-run accident. Other states extend the statute of limitations for wrongful deaths resulting from intentional violence.

At what point does the clock start ticking to file a wrongful death claim?

File a wrongful death claim is subject to a time limit that either begins with the time of death or the date of discovery. However, some surviving family members may have to wait to file a wrongful death suit. For example, Colorado permits a decedent’s surviving spouse to file a wrongful death suit immediately, but the decedent’s children must wait until 365 days from the death date before filing. A wrongful death lawyer can ensure you qualify to file a lawsuit and file within the time allocated based on your relationship to the decedent.

Can you toll the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim?

Tolling the statute of limitations means stopping the clock. It’s possible to toll the statute of limitations when specific conditions apply to the case. For example, if the would-be plaintiff is a minor, the statute of limitations doesn’t start until the plaintiff becomes an adult. The statute may also be tolled if fraud prevented the discovery of grounds to pursue a wrongful death claim.

How a Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help You

wrongful death attorney shaking hands with client

Hiring a wrongful death attorney enables you to proceed confidently with your wrongful death suit. When you hire wrongful death attorneys with Elite Litigation Group, you’ll receive an expert assessment of your case and the potential compensation you could receive. We’ll look after all the legal steps when you hire our team. We’ll ensure your paperwork’s filed before the statute expires and lead negotiations with the defendant.

Contact our wrongful death attorneys for assistance today to discuss your situation and discover your options.


Discovery Rule: Definition. (2023).
How Understanding Tolling and the Statute of Limitations Can Help Your Personal Injury Case. (2023).
Wrongful Death Lawsuits: 50-State Survey. (2023).