Losing a loved one is devastating under any circumstances. If you believe that someone had the power to prevent the death but failed to do so, it can be even more difficult to cope and move forward. Your family may have grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault party for justice and answers. However, a wrongful death lawsuit in Pennsylvania must be filed by the statute of limitations, or else you will lose the right to file at all.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is a law that gives a deadline to file a lawsuit. Statutes of limitations are important for both sides of a case: the plaintiff and the defendant. It is important for a plaintiff to file in a timely manner to make sure that key evidence is still available, such as eyewitness accounts of the incident. It is also important to prevent the unjustness of a potential lawsuit hanging over a defendant’s head indefinitely.
What Happens if You Miss the Statute of Limitations?
The courts in Pennsylvania take statutes of limitations very seriously. They expect claimants to know and obey the legal deadline to file. Most civil courts will refuse to hear a case that is brought after the expiration of the statute of limitations. Even if the court allows you to move forward with a claim, the defendant can use the broken rule as a defense to liability against you. This is why it is critical to file promptly and make sure you are within your statute of limitations.
How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Pennsylvania?
Each state has its own statute of limitations for civil causes of action. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations on a wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the date of the individual’s death. Although this may seem like a lot of time, the deadline can approach quickly. This statute of limitations is different from the deadline on a personal injury claim in that it starts counting down on the date of death rather than the date of injury.
Are There Any Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations?
You may qualify as an exception to the general rule when it comes to filing your wrongful death lawsuit. This could give you more or less than two years to file, depending on the case. For instance, Pennsylvania has special rules for cases involving the government. If your loved one’s wrongful death was caused by a government agency or employee, you will most likely have less than two years to bring a civil cause of action. Under Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Section 5522, claimants must file notices to the government agency within just six months of a fatal accident.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Pennsylvania?
Although many states give the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit to surviving family members, Pennsylvania is unique in that for the first six months after the date of death, only the representative of the deceased person’s estate can bring a lawsuit. The personal representative, also called the executor of the estate, may be assigned by the decedent’s will or by the courts during the probate process. If the personal representative does not file within six months, any surviving family member who can prove that they were dependent upon the decedent financially can file on behalf of all beneficiaries.
When to Speak to a Wrongful Death Lawyer
It is important to speak to a wrongful death attorney in Pittsburgh as soon as possible about a potential lawsuit. If you believe that your recently deceased loved one is a victim of a wrongful act, negligence or unlawful violence, contact a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to arrange a free consultation. An attorney can take over your claim, deal with confusing paperwork and work quickly to meet the statute of limitations on your behalf.
While legal action cannot make up for a devastating loss of life, a wrongful death lawsuit may have the power to provide your family with justice and closure, as well as the financial compensation that you deserve for your related economic and noneconomic losses. Consult with a wrongful death attorney right away to avoid missing your statute of limitations.