Can we file a personal injury lawsuit for wrongful death years later? 40 Answers as of February 21, 2012

My sister was killed in August 2008. The person's insurance company paid the insurance policy limited amount within a few months, which was not that much. The case went to trial in 2009, the person got off with no jail or probation time. Now a friend tells the family that we should have filed a civil suit. What is the statute of limitation, and can we file a civil suit now and to what extent?

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Jones, Boykin, & Associates, P.C.
Jones, Boykin, & Associates, P.C. | Noble L. Boykin, Jr.
The answer to your inquiry regarding wrongful death is that it depends on the statute of limitations in the State where the incident occurred. All states have varying statutes of limitation in regard to injury and wrongful death. Here in Georgia the statute is two years from the date of death. However, in Georgia, the statute of limitations is tolled if a criminal charge arises out of the incident and thus, the statue does not begin to run until the criminal action is finally disposed of. As such, if the criminal case went to trial in 2009 and was finalized in 2009, in Georgia you would have two years from the date that the criminal charge was concluded to file a suit against the wrong doer. If you are still within that statute of limitation as tolled then a wrongful death action could be filed for damages. In some states, damages for wrongful death are measured as the loss to the survivors and in other states, such as Georgia where I am located, it is measured from the loss to the decease. As such, in Georgia the measure of damages for wrongful death would be for the full value of the life of the decedent.
Answer Applies to: Georgia
Replied: 6/20/2011
Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC
Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC | Lacy Fields
Typically three years, although there are some things that can toll (pause) the running of the clock. You should act immediately! It may be difficult to find an attorney this close to the statute of limitations date, so start making those calls! Please feel free to call my office for an evaluation.
Answer Applies to: Missouri
Replied: 6/15/2011
Beaver Holt Sternlicht and Courie, P.A.
Beaver Holt Sternlicht and Courie, P.A. | Mark A. Sternlicht
There is a two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death claims. There may also been a release signed when the insurance company paid its money, and, even if the statute of limitations had not passed, a release might also be raised as a possible defense to the claim.
Answer Applies to: North Carolina
Replied: 6/13/2011
Theodore W. Robinson, P.C.
Theodore W. Robinson, P.C. | Theodore W. Robinson
I believe the statute of limitations for wrongful death is one year from the incident, it is three years for negligence claims. Speak to a civil negligence lawyer right away, just to check on the matter. Good luck.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 6/13/2011
Vermeulen Law office P.A.
Vermeulen Law office P.A. | Cynthia J.Vermeulen
The applicable statute of limitations depends on your state's laws. Consult a personal injury attorney in the area in which the death occurred to obtain legal advice on the statute of limitations. There are also a variety of other issues which an attorney would consider in determining whether to move forward with an action, but the statute of limitations is the prerequisite to starting the investigation.
Answer Applies to: Minnesota
Replied: 6/13/2011
    The Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq.
    The Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq. | Bradley Kramer
    My guess is that the insurance company paid the policy pursuant to a settlement agreement where you released all your claims against the policy holder. If not, then you may still have a claim. If you call my office, I'd be happy to discuss this matter further.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Ackley Law Group, PLLC
    Ackley Law Group, PLLC | Andrew N. Ackley
    The statute of limitations for wrongful death based on negligence is three years, so you may be within that period. You should get representation, or at least speak with someone in detail, promptly to make sure you don't miss the deadline. So long as no one signed a waiver when settling for policy limits, there should be no other barrier for the wrongful death claims you can make.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Kelaher Law Offices, P.A.
    Kelaher Law Offices, P.A. | James P Kelaher
    It is too late to file a wrongful death claim in Florida; the statute of limitations for wrongful death is two years from the date of the death.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Law Offices of Tom Patton
    Law Offices of Tom Patton | Thomas C. Patton
    Every jurisdiction has time limits on actions called statutes of limitation. You may still have time to file a civil suit if the time limit in your state has not expired. For example, in the two states where I am licensed, you still have time in Washington, but not in Oregon. You should consult with an attorney licensed in the state where you live. T
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Law Offices of Earl K. Straight
    Law Offices of Earl K. Straight | Earl K. Straight
    The basic statute of limitations for a personal injury claim, including wrongful death, in Texas is 2 years. The time period would begin to run at the time of death. You also mentioned the other party's insurance company paid their policy limits. Normally, an insurance company would require a release to be signed before making such a payment. The purpose of the release is to bar any further legal action against the insured. Therefore, based on the facts you have presented, you may have two major obstacles to filing a wrongful death claim.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Law Office of Travis Prestwich, PC
    Law Office of Travis Prestwich, PC | Travis Prestwich
    The time limits for a wrongful death claim in Oregon is three years. There are some limited exceptions. If you have settled with the person's insurance company, you probably do not have a claim against the at-fault party. You may have a claim against your sister's insurance but that may have been cut-off when you settled with the at-fault party's insurance company. You should speak to a lawyer to discuss the details.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    El Dabe Law Firm
    El Dabe Law Firm | Edmond El Dabe
    The statute of limitations in California runs after two years.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Wilson & Hajek,LLC, a personal injury law firm
    Wilson & Hajek,LLC, a personal injury law firm | Francis Hajek
    Wrongful death statute of limitations differ from state to state. In Virginia, there is even an extension of the statute of limitations depending on factors involving the estate and appointment of an administrator. In this case, the statute may have expired or could be close to expiring based on the date of the accident. You should consult with an experienced injury lawyer in the area where your sister resided as soon as possible.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Ewusiak & Roberts, P.A.
    Ewusiak & Roberts, P.A. | Christopher J. Roberts
    The answer to your question depends on your jurisdiction. Some states have statutes of limitation as long as 4 years, but most are much shorter (1 to 2 years). When the statute of limitation begins to run is also jurisdiction dependent. Some states recognize that the statute does not begin to run until you are specifically aware of the misconduct and the harm caused, which in some circumstances can extend the deadline significantly. There are also some exceptions for minors. Some states allow the statute of limitations to "toll" (not begin running) until the victim reaches the age a majority. Given that the accident occurred back in 2008, chances are good that you are past the deadline for filing suit because most jurisdictions have shorter deadlines than that. But you should talk to an attorney in your area to be sure. You will want to act quickly just in case you still have time left to bring a suit under your local laws. If your jurisdiction has a three year statute of limitation on wrongful death claims, for example, it would likely run in August. So if you do have time left, it is likely a very short period of time from today. You should talk to someone immediately. Most personal injury lawyers will speak to you without charge (free initial consultation). Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 2/21/2012
    Ferguson & Ferguson
    Ferguson & Ferguson | Randy W. Ferguson
    If you received insurance money the case is likely over. It also depends on the state.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Wilson & Hajek, LLC
    Wilson & Hajek, LLC | Eddie W. Wilson
    The statute of limitations in Virginia is two years from the date of the incident. Also, it sounds as if all the insurance money available was paid.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 6/13/2011
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A.
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A. | Paul L. Whitfield
    2 years. If you were paid policy limits you probably signed a full release when that money was paid.
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Ramunno & Ramunno, P.A.
    Ramunno & Ramunno, P.A. | Lawrence A. Ramunno
    Each State may be different. You need to discuss with an attorney in your State.
    Answer Applies to: Delaware
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP | Christine Gonilla
    I am sorry to hear of your tragic loss. You did not state whether a release was signed at the time the responsible party's insurance coverage paid the claim, which would have released the party from any further liability.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C.
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C. | Michael Anthony Wing
    I am sorry about the death of your sister. I am unaware under your stated facts of any way to get around the two year statute of limitations, except that you may actually be entitled to a six year statute of limitations if the death was intentionally caused. Stay well.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Vincent J. Bernabei LLC
    Vincent J. Bernabei LLC | Vincent J. Bernabei
    I am sorry to hear about your sister's death. It is possible, depending on the age of you sister when she died. If she was a minor under the age of 18, then yes, it is possible to file a lawsuit but you must act immediately.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Shulman DuBois LLC
    Shulman DuBois LLC | Joshua Shulman
    This is a complicated question that's tough to answer fully without more information. In Oregon, the normal statute of limitations for a civil suit over a wrongful death is 3 years. Which gives you a couple months, still, but you should RUSH. You are very last minute already. You should also know, though, that if the insurance company already paid its policy limit, they probably had the estate sign a Release so that you cannot sue the person now. And what's more, you cannot get more than the policy limit from an insurance company. The question for me would be: was anyone else (who has not been Released) responsible? That's my off the cuff answer. But please be aware that I cannot give you a true and specific answer without talking with you and getting a lot more information. Feel free to call. No charge.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC | Timothy J. Klisz
    If the insurance company paid off "policy limits" that case is over. You would have signed a release to get that policy money. If I'm missing something, please call me or visit me at my website to discuss.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Kirshner & Groff
    Kirshner & Groff | Richard M. Kirshner
    Normally there is a 2 year statute of limitations on a wrongful death claim but you should speak to a lawyer. If you signed a release for the insurance proceeds that may be the end of your claim.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Richard E. Lewis, P.S.
    Richard E. Lewis, P.S. | Richard Eugene Lewis
    The time period in Washington is three years. If the insurer paid the limits you would have signed a release,which would preclude another claim.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    David F. Stoddard
    David F. Stoddard | David F. Stoddard
    Depending on what month the event happened in 2008, you need to work fast. The statute of limitations is three years, meaning the case must be filed by whatever month and day in 2011 the accident happened in 2008. If it is too late, do not despair, when the insurance paid its limits, whoever settled the case probably signed a release waiving any right to sue. The insurance company would not have paid without this. Furthermore, in most cases, the insurance money is all you get even if you file suit. This is because most defendants do not have assets from which to collect a judgment.
    Answer Applies to: South Carolina
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Rose, Senders & Bovarnick, LLC
    Rose, Senders & Bovarnick, LLC | Paul S. Bovarnick
    The statute of limitations for wrongful death varies from state to state, and is usually 2 or three years. You should consult a personal injury lawyer in your state as soon as possible.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Allen Murphy Law
    Allen Murphy Law | W. Riley Allen
    2 years in Florida for wrongful death.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    David Hoines Law
    David Hoines Law | David Hoines
    No. 2 years is statute of limitations.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Law Offices of Steven A. Fink
    Law Offices of Steven A. Fink | Steven Alan Fink
    Sorry for your loss. There is a 2-year statute of limitations for personal injury. This means that case had to have been filed by July 2010. Usually the payment by the insurance company would have had a release of all claims against their insured so that you could not sue the other person anyway.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Cary J. Wintroub & Associates
    Cary J. Wintroub & Associates | Cary J. Wintroub
    Assuming this is an Illinois wrongful death matter the Statute of Limitations is 2 years from date of death.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Lyle B. Masnikoff and Associates
    Lyle B. Masnikoff and Associates | Lyle B. Masnikoff
    Statute of limitations is 4 years. Call personal injury attorney but you may have received everything from policy already.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Law Offices of Steven R. Kuhn & Associates
    Law Offices of Steven R. Kuhn & Associates | Steven R. Kuhn
    It sounds like you signed a release when you took the money from the insurance company. If so, you cannot file a civil suit against anyone who was released.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Daniel Hoarfrost, Attorney at Law
    Daniel Hoarfrost, Attorney at Law | Daniel Hoarfrost
    The wrongful death statute is 3 years, so you can file a civil suit until Aug. 2011. If the only insurance involved already paid out, there's not much point to filing it unless the defendant has substantial personal assets.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Rogoway Green, LLP
    Rogoway Green, LLP | Douglas Green
    It is difficult to answer this question without knowing all the details. However, if you accepted a settlement from the insurance company that will probably bar a suit assuming that you are talking about the insurer for the person who caused your sister's death. When the settlement with the insurance company was made, I imagine your sister's estate released the insurance company and their insured - the person causing the death - from any future claims. That is how it usually works. You, or your sister's estate, should have a copy of the settlement agreement with the insurance company - review that for more information. If not, request a copy from them. There are statutes of limitations on wrongful death claims as well but that issue is moot if a release was signed pursuant to the settlement agreement. Good luck and sorry about your loss.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Rothstein Law PLLC
    Rothstein Law PLLC | Eric Rothstein
    Statute of limitations for wrongful death is 2 years; 3 years for negligence but who do propose to sue? If the person's insurance company paid a settlement, the administrator of the estate would have signed a general release prohibiting a law suit. Is there someone else to sue?
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/10/2011
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