Statute of Limitations in Wrongful Death Claims

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The loss of a loved one can take a significant toll under any circumstances. When another's wrongful conduct causes the death of a loved one, a lawsuit may be the furthest thing from your mind. However, it is important to understand that there is only a limited time to file a lawsuit. A wrongful death lawsuit in Oregon or Washington can provide compensation to put you and your family in a more steady financial position following your loved one's death.

The statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim limits the amount of time the family and beneficiaries, through the personal representative of the deceased's estate, have to file a lawsuit against those responsible. The Washington and Oregon attorneys at Schauermann Thayer can help preserve your claim for compensation.

What is a Statute of Limitations?

Simply put, a statute of limitations is a law which puts a time limit on one's ability to bring a lawsuit. Statutes of limitations are based on the idea that disputes should be settled within a certain amount of time to make sure the evidence is still available and everyone involved still remembers what happened. Taking this into account, courts can bar cases after a certain amount of time has passed. There are different statutes of limitations for different types of claims. The law varies between states.

What is the Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

In Oregon, an individual must generally file a wrongful death action within three years of the accident or injury causing death. The same time limit applies in Washington.

These types of wrongful death lawsuits can involve deaths caused by:

Failing to comply with the statute of limitations for a wrongful death case will cut off the ability to bring a lawsuit against the at-fault party who caused your loved one's death.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations

There are a few, extremely limited, exceptions to the three year limitation period in Oregon and Washington. One such exception is the "discovery rule."

Discovery Rule

In rare, limited situations, the "discovery rule" may permit an individual to bring such an action outside of this timeframe if a party could not be expected to learn the actual cause of the death until sometime after the individual's death occurred. This requires an exercise of diligence to find out. This narrow exception may allow the time limit for the statute of limitations to start at the time the cause of death was discovered, or through diligence, could reasonably have been discovered. This is an extremely difficult course to undertake.

Do not Wait Until it is Too Late to File a Claim

While three years may seem like quite a long period of time for which to bring an action against someone for wrongful death, the process leading up to the filing of such an action can be very time consuming. In order to build a solid framework for a successful wrongful death action, an attorney must compile a significant amount of evidence linking the at-fault individual to the death of your loved one. It is also a possibly dangerous course of action to wait in the hopes of a court finding that the statute of limitations was extended.

Gathering such evidence can require testimony from individuals who witnessed the death or the accident which led to the death, obtaining medical records to prove that the individual was the cause of your loved one's death, obtaining appointment of a personal representative to be able to pursue the claim in court, and various other preliminary actions vital to the pursuit of a wrongful death lawsuit.

Dealing with the Loss of a Loved One? We Can Help

If you are struggling with the unanticipated loss of someone you love due to the negligent or wrongful actions of another in Washington or Oregon, you may be entitled to receive financial compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Don't try and deal with the complexities of a wrongful death lawsuit alone; let the team of wrongful death attorneys at Schauermann Thayer guide you through a wrongful death action and provide you with the quality representation that you deserve. To learn more about wrongful death actions or to speak with an attorney about your case, fill out an online contact form or call (360) 695-4244 today.

Experienced Attorneys

The attorneys at Schauermann Thayer handle personal injury, wrongful death, and insurance actions for clients throughout the Southwest Washington and Portland, Oregon area.


Schauermann Thayer is committed to answering your questions and addressing your concerns about potential personal injury and wrongful death cases in Washington and Oregon.

We offer free consultations and we’ll gladly discuss your circumstances with you at your convenience.