What is the Statute of Limitations to Sue a Doctor for Wrongful Death in California?

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To pursue a wrongful death claim, your loved one must have died because of another party’s negligence. Otherwise stated, this means a health care provider caused a patient to sustain injuries that directly or indirectly resulted in that patient’s death. That party’s surviving heirs then have a claim for wrongful death against the other party. As with any injury-based lawsuit, there is a statute of limitations for pursuing a wrongful death claim. We are going to look at the California statute of limitations for pursuing a wrongful death claim against a doctor. 

Wrongful Death Claims In California

In California, you generally have two years from the date of the individual’s death to bring a wrongful death claim against the negligent party. HOWEVER, if that death is the result of medical malpractice, the statute of limitations to file a claim is reduced to ONE YEAR from the date the heirs knew or reasonably should have suspected that some negligent act resulted in the death of the patient. In almost all circumstances, that date is one year from the date of the patient’s death. 

Statute of limitations is a legal term that means the time limit for bringing a lawsuit against the other party. If the claim is not filed before the statute of limitations expires, it will be dismissed, and the representatives or the estate will not be able to be compensated for their loss. The California wrongful death statutes allow immediate family members to recoup compensation for damages when a loved one has died because of the wrongful act of another. This law is codified as Code of Civil Procedure 377.60

Medical Malpractice And Wrongful Death

If there is a wrongful death claim in which the death of the victim was caused by a health care provider’s medical malpractice, the victim’s family members generally have only one year from the individual’s death to file a wrongful death claim. If a hospital, doctor, or other healthcare provider causes injury or acts negligently, the victim of the negligence can sue them for medical malpractice. 

While, in general, there is a two-year time limit for a wrongful death claim to be filed in California, medical malpractice cases do NOT follow this rule. Rather, the discovery rule states that the statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit runs or expires one year after the surviving loved ones of the victim discover or have reason to discover that the victim died because of someone else’s negligence. This can significantly decrease the timeframe in which a wrongful death claim can be filed, and in medical malpractice wrongful death cases, the timeframe shrinks to just one year. 

Enlisting Legal Help

If your loved one died because of medical malpractice, you should enlist the help of a wrongful death lawyer who is knowledgeable about medical malpractice cases. If you need a California wrongful death lawyer, contact the Trial Law Office of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq., for a free consultation. As a medical doctor and an attorney, Dr. Kramer has extensive experience and knowledge about all aspects of wrongful death which have resulted from medical malpractice. 

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