Wrongful death claims in Carlsbad often arise out of accidents and injuries that also seem like they could have given rise to a personal injury lawsuit. For example, a serious car accident might result in life-threatening injuries for one vehicle occupant, but that same accident might have led to fatal injuries for the driver of another vehicle. Similarly, construction accidents can sometimes lead to debilitating injuries that prevent construction workers from going back to the job due to a permanent disability, but sometimes a similar type of accident can cause fatal injuries for another construction worker. For example, a fall from scaffolding can produce different types of injuries in different people and in different situations.
How does California law distinguish between a personal injury lawsuit and a wrongful death lawsuit?
Connections Between Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Law
Personal injury law allows an injured person to file a lawsuit in order to seek compensation for her losses as a result of the injury. Wrongful death law in California (California Code of Civil Procedure § 377.60) is related to personal injury law in that it also allows a plaintiff to file a lawsuit when someone sustains fatal injuries. However, a personal injury lawsuit is filed by the injury victim, while a wrongful death lawsuit is usually filed by a surviving family member (a “personal representative”) such as a spouse or child of the deceased.
Wrongful death law essentially says that, since a victim of fatal injuries cannot file a personal injury lawsuit herself, a personal representative can step into her shoes and file a wrongful death claim.
Different Statutes of Limitations for Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Claims
While personal injury and wrongful death law are related, the statute of limitations in these different types of cases begin running at very different times.
The California Code of Civil Procedure § 335.1 specifies that the statute of limitations in most personal injury lawsuits is two years from the date of the injury. This means that an injured person has two years from the date on which she got hurt to file a claim for compensation. Sometimes the statute of limitations can be tolled (paused), but a plaintiff should not rely on that. While the statute of limitations in wrongful death claims is also two years, the statute of limitations does not begin running until the death of the person for whom the claim is being filed.
For example, if a person suffers a serious injury in a car accident and decides to file a personal injury claim, she must file it within two years from the date of the injury in most cases. If that person ultimately dies as a result of her injuries, however, then the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim begins running on the date of death.
Contact a Carlsbad Wrongful Death Lawyer About Your Case
If you lost a loved one in an accident caused by another party’s negligence, it is important to learn more about filing a wrongful death lawsuit in California. A dedicated Carlsbad wrongful death attorney can examine the facts of your case today and can discuss your options with you in more detail. Contact the Walton Law Firm to begin working on your case with an experienced and compassionate injury lawyer.
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(image courtesy of Matheus Ferrero)