What Is the Statute of Limitations on a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Dealing with the sudden death of a loved one is difficult enough, even without lawsuits. But sometimes, legal action might be necessary, especially if the deceased person's family has another party to blame. In that case, they should initiate a lawsuit within the prescribed period. But what is the statute of limitations on a wrongful death lawsuit in Iowa, and why do people file it?
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit and Who Can File It?
The first thing to know about wrongful death lawsuits is that they are not criminal cases. Instead, they are claims brought when a person's death results from someone else's misconduct or negligence. In this case, the surviving family members can sue the liable party for "wrongful death." Typically, they file the lawsuit in civil court in the hope of getting financial compensation for their loss.
In most cases, the person who initiates a wrongful death suit is a representative of the deceased person's will or estate plan. If such documents do not specify anyone, it is up to the court to appoint a personal representative. This person then lists any survivors that might have a possible interest in the case. In Iowa, the following individuals can expect to recover damages from someone's death:
● the deceased person's spouse and children
● the parents of the victim
● the administrator of the deceased individual's estate
Still, it is crucial to note that not every tragic death qualifies as a basis for initiating a wrongful death claim. If death arises from the legal fault of another individual, relatives can collect financial compensation. All negligence-based incidents (traffic accidents), medical malpractice, and intentional acts (crimes) that result in someone's death can be reasons for filing a wrongful death suit.
Generally, the people who initiate the lawsuit can recover the following damages:
● funeral expenses
● medical expenses
● pain and suffering
● loss of consortium
● lost estate value
● lost benefits, wages, and other earnings
What Is the Statute of Limitations on a Wrongful Death Lawsuit In Iowa?
Typically, a personal representative can file a wrongful death suit in Iowa within two years of the individual’s passing. This period of two years counts as the statute of limitations on lawsuits following wrongful deaths in this state.
If the deceased person's family does not initiate this claim before the statute of limitations expires, the court will not hear their case. Luckily, there are also many exceptions to this rule, some of which will be presented below.
What Are the Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations on a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In some cases, it might be possible for the deceased person's family to file a lawsuit even after two years. Typically, this happens due to one of the following reasons:
● Medical malpractice claims. In some cases, it can take a while until the deceased person's relatives have learned about the true causes of their loved one's death. The statute of limitations can, thus, begin after the family finds out which medical malpractice caused the wrongful death. In other words, it starts when they learn about the liable party who performed it.
● Homicide and murder claims. Because murder investigations usually take long, the liable party might not even be discovered within two years. Thus, the statute of limitations sometimes might not begin until the law enforcement has identified the murderer.
● Government entity claims. The court can prolong the statute of limitations if a government entity is guilty of wrongful death. In this case, the deceased person's family has four years to file a lawsuit.
The period after a loved one's sudden death can be traumatizing in many ways. Be it on the grounds of losing their emotional or financial support, the victim's family has the right to recover damages from the liable party. Thus, they need to file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years from the date of the passing — until the statute of limitations expires. Find out here if siblings can sue for wrongful death.
Luckily, initiating wrongful death claims in Des Moines, Iowa, should not be a problem. With the help of a Des Moines wrongful death lawyer at Tom Fowler Law Firm, all liable parties will soon be brought to justice.