Statute of Limitations in Minnesota Wrongful Death Cases

You’ve lost a loved one. As if this loss wasn’t devastating enough, you learn the incident causing their death could have been avoided. If you have lost a loved one and someone else was responsible for the underlying cause of their death, you should be aware of the statutes of limitations in Minnesota wrongful death cases.

What is a Statute of Limitation?

Since legislatures believe there should be time limits on when someone may be sued, statutes of limitations are the maximum time after an event when someone may bring a suit. A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil suit that an injured party, specifically a survivor, can file against the person who caused the death of a loved one. With very few exceptions, Minnesota has established a three-year statute of limitations on wrongful death claims.

What Types of Wrongful Death Claims May Be Filed?

Minnesota statutes Section 573.02 states that wrongful death occurs when “death is caused by the wrongful act or omission of any person or corporation”. Therefore, a drunk driver could be sued for causing an accident when you lose a loved one. A corporation may be sued if you purchased an appliance was defective and caused the death of a loved one.  A physician or hospital may be sued when a loved one has died because of a negligent act.

What is a Wrongful Act?

Wrongful acts are not limited to violations of the law. In general, a wrongful act includes anything that is immoral, illegal or infringes on the rights of another. Drunk driving for example is against the law and is considered a wrongful act. However, not only could the drunk driver in wrongful death suit be considered liable, there are others who may be responsible.

For example: If a drunk driver was driving along and their brakes failed, the car manufacturer or the driver’s mechanic may be a party to the wrongful death suit.  The reason for this is that they may be responsible for the faulty brakes. If the drunk driver was at a restaurant or bar prior to the accident, they may be a party to the lawsuit because they continued to serve alcohol to an intoxicated person.

What Does Omission Mean in Wrongful Death?

There are certain conditions which must be met to prove a wrongful death case. One of those conditions is that the person owed the victim a reasonable duty of care. In this case, an “omission” would mean the person neglected that duty. An example of this that would apply in wrongful death cases would be a physician who diagnosed a disease and inadvertently prescribed the wrong medication resulting in death.

Why Statues of Limitations Matter

Family members including spouses, surviving children, surviving parents or grandparents in Minnesota may file a lawsuit against the person responsible for someone’s death. However, the law states this suit must be filed within three years (as stated earlier with certain exceptions).  Failure to file a lawsuit before the statutes of limitations expires could mean you forfeit your right to file a suit. Primarily, this is designed to prevent someone from filing a wrongful death case long after the death occurred.

Date of Death Exceptions

It’s important for survivors to understand when the clock starts ticking on the statutes of limitations. Let’s for example assume your loved one was in an accident with a drunk driver and suffered severe burns but, initially survived the accident. After three years of treatment, they succumb to complications as a result of the burns caused in the accident. Survivors would be unable to file a wrongful death case because the statutes of limitations would have started the date of the accident and not the date of the death of your loved one.

Anytime your loved one is injured because someone was negligent such as drunk driver you should contact a personal injury attorney immediately. Willful acts such someone shooting or stabbing a loved one should also prompt you to reach out to a lawyer. Anytime you are in doubt whether or not you may have a personal injury lawsuit in Minnesota, you should contact Patterson Dahlberg Injury Lawyers immediately. We can only help if the statute of limitations has not expired.