What is the Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Claim in New York?

Scales of justice on a wooden table

In New York State, you generally have two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit against a negligent party whose conduct caused the fatality. This general rule is subject to certain exceptions and qualifications depending on how the death occurred and whose negligence caused it.  

To avoid missing an important deadline for filing a lawsuit, a decedent’s family or estate representative should retain a New York City wrongful death lawyer as soon as is possible. At Douglas and London, we have represented numerous families in wrongful death actions. We can review a case quickly to assess the critical filing deadlines that apply to the case under the State’s statute of limitations.

Does the wrongful death statute of limitations depend on who files the lawsuit?

The two-year statute of limitations applies regardless of whether a deceased party’s family members or estate representative will file the case. In certain situations, the victim’s estate will have claims that are not available to the family. The estate representative will need to file those claims, but a probate court must first approve the representative’s appointment before the case is filed.

Delays in the commencement of an estate probate matter can lead to further delays in the approval of an estate representative. This can impact the filing of a wrongful death lawsuit. A knowledgeable and experienced personal injury lawyer can help the family to manage the interaction of all filing deadlines to verify that no important statute of limitations dates are missed.     

Are there any exceptions to the New York statute of limitations for wrongful death actions?

There are certain exceptions and modifications to New York’s two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits:

  • If the only potential beneficiary of the wrongful death lawsuit is a minor child who is less than 18 years old, the timing of the statute of limitations will be tolled until the child turns 18 or a legal guardian is appointed to manage their affairs.
  • If the State has filed a criminal case against a defendant because of the victim’s death, their personal representative has one year from the termination of that criminal action to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
  • If the defendant is a municipality or some other government entity, the accident victim’s estate representative must file a notice of claim within 90 days after their appointment to preserve the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Are the statutes of limitations the same for wrongful death and other personal injury causes of action?

The New York statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits is three years. If the injury occurred due to medical malpractice, the statute is two years and six months. However, the wrongful death statute of limitations is not affected by these other deadlines. If an attorney has already filed a personal injury lawsuit and the victim subsequently dies as a result of the injuries– that attorney will generally determine whether to amend the lawsuit to include wrongful death claims.

In every situation, the risk of missing an important statute of limitations deadline can be eliminated when the family promptly retains a lawyer.   

Contact us at Douglas and London for a free consultation

When you retain the New York City personal injury lawyers at Douglas and London, one of the first matters we will determine is when your lawsuit must be filed. In addition, notices must be given to preserve your right to recover the largest available damages award for any personal injuries or wrongful death.

Please see our website or call us to consult directly with one of our accident and injury attorneys about how New York’s statute of limitations will affect the filing dates in your wrongful death case.