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Statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit

When a loved one loses their life due to the negligence of someone else, it is a hard tragedy for families. The weight of their grief, combined with the financial burden a loved one’s medical bills, is a lot to bear.

It is in this case that families may want to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit, in order to hold the negligent party accountable and pay for any expenses. Before doing this, it is important to know the time limits set by state law.

Statute of limitations varies by accident

In Colorado, any civil action in the case of a wrongful death – regardless of whom it is brought against or why – must be initiated within two years of the cause.

The exception to this rule is in a case when a defendant commits vehicular homicide in a hit-and-run accident. In this instance, the statute of limitations is extended to four years. So if your loved one was killed in a car accident and the other driver fled the scene, you have four years to find that person and file a wrongful death lawsuit.

The discovery rule

Another exception to the two-year time period is the discovery rule. This rule says that if the wrongful death was not discovered until years later, then the two- or four-year time limit – depending on the cause of death and the accident as described above – begins upon finding out about the wrongful death.

The way time is recorded in these cases is referred to as “tolling,” so the tolling begins when you discover a loved one’s death was due to someone’s negligence.

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