How Long Do You Have to Sue for Wrongful Death?


Losing a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or intentional actions is a devastating experience. When such a tragedy occurs, you may have the right to seek compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. However, it is essential to understand the statute of limitations that governs the timeframe within which you can file such a claim. In this article, we will explore the critical aspects of filing a wrongful death lawsuit, including the duration you have to sue, the factors influencing this timeline, and important steps to take during the process. Let’s delve into this sensitive topic and empower you with the knowledge needed to pursue justice for your loved one.

How Long Do You Have to Sue for Wrongful Death?

The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit varies by state. This is the legal timeframe within which a lawsuit must be filed after the death occurs. If the lawsuit is not initiated within this specified period, the right to seek compensation may be lost forever.

Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims by State

State Statute of Limitations
Alabama 2 years
Alaska 2 years
Arizona 2 years
Arkansas 3 years
California 2 years
Colorado 2 years
Connecticut 2 years
Delaware 2 years
Florida 2 years
Georgia 2 years
Hawaii 2 years
Idaho 2 years
Illinois 2 years
Indiana 2 years
Iowa 2 years
Kansas 2 years
Kentucky 1 year
Louisiana 1 year
Maine 2 years
Maryland 3 years
Massachusetts 3 years
Michigan 3 years
Minnesota 3 years
Mississippi 3 years

Continued in the article for all 50 states.

Please note that these limitations can change, and it’s essential to consult with a local attorney to confirm the exact timeline applicable to your case.

Factors Influencing the Duration to Sue

  1. State Laws: As shown in the table above, the statute of limitations varies by state. Understanding your state’s specific laws is crucial in determining the time available for filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
  2. Type of Claim: The type of claim, whether it’s related to medical malpractice, car accidents, or workplace accidents, can affect the statute of limitations. Different claim types may have different timelines.
  3. Discovery Rule: In some states, the statute of limitations may begin from the date the injury resulting in death was discovered, rather than the date of death.
  4. Government Entities: If the wrongful death involves a government entity, there may be specific deadlines and procedures to follow.
  5. Age of Victim: Some states have special provisions for wrongful death claims involving minors or individuals with disabilities.

Steps to Take When Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

  1. Gather Evidence: Collect all relevant documents, records, and evidence related to the incident, including medical records, accident reports, and eyewitness testimonies.
  2. Consult an Attorney: Seek guidance from an experienced wrongful death attorney who can assess your case, explain the statute of limitations, and help you understand your rights.
  3. Notification and Investigation: Your attorney will notify the parties involved and conduct a thorough investigation to build a strong case.
  4. Determine Damages: Assess the full extent of the damages, including medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of income, and pain and suffering.
  5. Settlement or Trial: Your attorney will negotiate with the opposing party for a fair settlement. If a satisfactory agreement cannot be reached, the case may proceed to trial.

Common FAQs About Wrongful Death Lawsuits

  1. Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?Usually, immediate family members such as spouses, children, or parents of the deceased have the right to file a wrongful death claim. In some cases, extended family members or dependents may also be eligible.
  2. What damages can be claimed in a wrongful death lawsuit?Damages in a wrongful death lawsuit may include medical expenses, funeral costs, lost wages, loss of companionship, and pain and suffering.
  3. Can I file a wrongful death lawsuit if the deceased had a pre-existing condition?Yes, you may still be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit even if the deceased had a pre-existing condition. The compensation will be based on how the pre-existing condition was affected by the negligent act.
  4. Can I file a wrongful death lawsuit if criminal charges have been filed against the responsible party?Yes, a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim and can be pursued independently of any criminal charges.
  5. What is the difference between a wrongful death lawsuit and a criminal case?A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil case seeking compensation for the victim’s death. A criminal case, on the other hand, is filed by the government to hold the responsible party accountable for any criminal actions that led to the death.
  6. Can I file a wrongful death lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired?In most cases, once the statute of limitations has expired, you lose the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. It’s crucial to act promptly and consult with an attorney as soon as possible.


The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is a critical factor in seeking justice for the loss of a loved one. Understanding the specific timeline for your state and the factors influencing the duration is essential in pursuing a successful claim. If you believe you have a wrongful death case, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process and help you navigate this challenging time with empathy and expertise.

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