How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Case After a Pedestrian Accident?

Wrongful Death Lawyer

Every year, thousands of pedestrians are killed in traffic accidents. According to the CDC, the risk of accidental death while going for a walk is greater than the risk of accidental death while driving in a car. There are more car crashes than collisions with pedestrians, but pedestrian collisions are much more likely to be fatal.

One in five children under the age of 15 who are killed in collisions are pedestrians. Senior citizens are victims of about 20% of all fatal pedestrian accidents. While children and seniors are particularly vulnerable, loved ones of all ages are at risk of being killed by drivers who are drunk, texting, speeding, or not paying attention to the road.

When a careless driver causes a fatal collision with a pedestrian, the victim’s family can seek legal relief in a wrongful death lawsuit. A pedestrian accident lawyer can advise family members about state law procedures for filing suit and for distributing compensation among eligible relatives.

Time Limit for Filing a Wrongful Death Case After a Pedestrian Accident

Every state has a statute of limitations that establishes a deadline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit. The individuals who are authorized to bring a wrongful death claim must settle the case or file the lawsuit before that deadline arrives. Otherwise, the right to go to court for compensation will be lost.

A statute of limitations creates a “limitations period” — the period during which the right to sue exists. The limitations period for wrongful death often starts on the date of death. If the death was not immediate, however, the law in some states might measure the limitations period from the date of the act that caused the death. A pedestrian accident lawyer can help families understand the date on which the clock begins to run.

In a case involving a negligent driver who collided with a pedestrian, the limitations period in many states is the same as the period for bringing a negligence claim for personal injuries. However, some states have a separate limitations period for wrongful death lawsuits. In some cases, that period is shorter than the period for bringing an injury lawsuit.

Limitations periods for wrongful death lawsuits can be as short as one year or as long as six years. Most states have established a limitations period of two or three years. Since letting the limitations period expire will extinguish the right to sue, families should assure their rights are protected by seeking legal advice as soon as they can.

Facts That Affect the Time Limit for Filing a Wrongful Death Case After a Pedestrian Accident

Many states have laws that “toll” a limitations period under certain circumstances. For example, if the only person who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit is a minor, the limitations period might not start until the minor reaches the age of 18.

Some states also toll the limitations period until the pedestrian’s estate enters probate if only the estate can commence the lawsuit. Some states also toll the time for bringing suit if a criminal charge was filed or could be filed, against the negligent driver who caused the pedestrian’s death.

Most states have notice of claim laws in addition to limitations periods. Those laws apply when the negligent party caused the accident while working for the government. When a city truck hits a pedestrian, for example, it will be necessary to give the city notice of the wrongful death claim.

State law usually requires a notice of claim to be given promptly, often within a few months of the accident. The victim’s family may lose the right to sue if timely notice is not provided. A pedestrian accident lawyer can help families prepare a notice of claim when a government employee caused a wrongful death.

If you have questions about a wrongful death case, please contact a wrongful death attorney, today.