Time Limit to File Wrongful Death Claim Extended When Defendant Tried to Cover Up Death

After a 38-year-old man was shot and killed, his mother and his five-year-old son filed survival and wrongful death claims against the shooter. The man was killed in August 2009, and on June 9, 2015, the man’s mother and the man’s then five-year-old son filed a complaint against the shooter. They alleged wrongful death based on negligence, a survival action based on negligence, wrongful death based on gross negligence, a survival action based on gross negligence, wrongful death based on battery, a survival action based on battery, and fraudulent conveyance.

HourglassThe defendant moved to dismiss the case, and the court granted the motion to dismiss as to the wrongful death claims because the court said they were filed too late. The plaintiff appealed the decision, and in a recent decision, a state court of appeals reinstated the claims.

Under that state’s laws, a wrongful death claim had to be filed within three years of the date of death. However, the state provided exceptions under certain circumstances. One statute provided that a wrongful death claim filed by a minor plaintiff was tolled during the period of minority. Another statute stated that if a plaintiff did not know about a claim due to an adverse party’s fraud, the time period for the claim began to run when the party discovered or should have discovered the fraud through ordinary diligence.

In a recent opinion, an appellate court considered the state’s statutes of limitations and determined that they allowed for tolling during the period of minority. Thus, the son’s wrongful death claims were tolled while he was a minor and should not have been dismissed. In addition, the court noted that a wrongful death action is tolled when the defendant engages in fraudulent conduct that prevents a plaintiff from bringing a wrongful death claim. In the plaintiffs’ complaint, they alleged that the defendant was responsible for the man’s death and subsequently buried his remains to cover up any evidence that he may have been tied to the death. The court found these allegations were sufficient to demonstrate fraudulent conduct, and accordingly, the wrongful death claims should not have been dismissed for either plaintiff.

Time Limitations for Personal Injury Claims

Every state has time limitations for filing different claims, known as the claim’s statute of limitations. The statute of limitations varies depending on the type of claim and the surrounding circumstances. For example, wrongful death claims in Florida generally must be filed within two years of the date of death. However, under certain circumstances, that time may be extended.

Tolling of Statutes of Limitations

Tolling allows a plaintiff to “stop” the statute of limitations from running for a certain amount of time, depending on the circumstances. For instance, if a defendant fraudulently conceals the cause of action from the plaintiff, the statute of limitations may be extended.

Contact a South Florida Personal Injury Attorney

Understanding the statute of limitations that might apply in your case is crucial. If a plaintiff fails to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations and fails to meet one of the exceptions, the lawsuit will be dismissed. If you believe you may have a personal injury claim, contact an attorney as soon as possible. The Florida lawyers at Friedman, Rodman & Frank are skilled in many wrongful death claims, from premises liability to car accidents and medical malpractice. Call us at 877-448-8585 or use our online form to set up a free consultation to find out if you may be entitled to compensation.

More Blog Posts:

Errant Golf Ball Strikes Baby in Stroller on Nearby City-Owned Walking Path, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 5, 2017.

The Importance of Following All Procedural Requirements in Florida Personal Injury Cases, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published May 17, 2017.

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