Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

James P. Carey - SiebenCarey "Know Your Rights" AttorneyOctober 24, 2013

Statutes of limitations are laws that set forth the time in which a case needs to be filed. Each state has its own laws governing the time limitations in which to bring a lawsuit. And each type of injury has its own rules. For example, the limitation for a medical malpractice case may be different from limitation applicable to a car accident case. When death occurs, the wrongful death statute of limitations apply. 

In Minnesota wrongful death lawsuits are governed by Minn. Stat. Section 573.02. As you’ll see, the statute of limitations for wrongful death depends on a number of factors. 

In general, the statute of limitations for wrongful death is three years in Minnesota. But there are numerous exceptions to this general rule: 

First, the action must be filed within six years of the act or omission that caused the death. So, for example, if a person is injured in year one and eventually dies of those injuries seven years later, no wrongful death action could be brought, even if it was brought within three years of the death. 

The rationale seems to be that the general statute of limitations for negligence is six years. If the deceased didn’t file a lawsuit for his injuries within six years, his claim expires. The fact he subsequently dies should not revive the claim. 

Another exception applies if the death is caused by medical malpractice in which case the medical malpractice statute of limitations comes into play. These claims must be filed within three years of the date of death, but in no event may the action be filed beyond four years after the date the cause accrued. 

When exactly “the cause accrues” in a medical malpractice case can also be a complex question that is best left for another posting. 

About the only provision of the wrongful death statute of limitations that doesn’t have some sort of exception to it is the time limitation for deaths caused by an intentional act constituting murder. In these situations, the suit can be brought anytime following the death. 

The point is, if you are dealing with the death of a family member and are wondering about your legal rights, you need an attorney with experience in handling wrongful death actions. Our firm has literally decades of experience in wrongful death actions. Please feel free to give me a call at 612-333-9750.

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