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Tolling the Statute of Limitations in Wrongful Death Cases

October 06, 2020

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently ruled on the statute of limitations in wrongful death cases. A patient underwent a CT scan, which revealed an abdominal aortic aneurysm. A doctor noticed the aneurysm but could not identify whether it had ruptured. He did not include any indication of a rupture within his report. The patient tragically died five days later. One year later, a lawyer filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the doctor and later, against another doctor, as well.

Initially, the case was dismissed by the district court because the statute of limitations had expired. At the beginning of August, however, the Supreme Court overturned the ruling, stating that a recently discovered conversation between the two doctors tolled the statute of limitations. The story is interesting, as it shines a light on a law that is so crucial in wrongful death cases.

What is a Wrongful Death?

Simply put, a wrongful death is a death that should never have happened. When a person is killed due to the careless actions of another person, the loved ones of the deceased can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent party. Through a successful wrongful death suit, loved ones can recover damages for medical expenses, lost wages, and loss of companionship.

Wrongful death cases hold liable parties accountable for their actions and help ensure the same type of accident will not happen again. Filing a wrongful death lawsuit can help family members move on from the loss, but it is crucial that these claims are filed in a timely manner.

The Statute of Limitations in Wrongful Death Cases

Under Pennsylvania’s legal statute, wrongful death claims must be filed within two years of the date of death. Loved ones that do not file a claim within that time will typically forfeit their right to compensation. However, there are instances in which the statute of limitations may be tolled, or extended to a later date.

The most common exception to the statute of limitations occurs when the loved ones of the deceased discover the cause of death at a later date. In the recent story, the loved ones discovered through a conversation with the doctors that they tried to conceal the cause of death, but they did not discover that information until years later. As such, the Supreme Court decided to overturn the initial dismissal of the case and toll the statute of limitations. Any time loved ones filing a wrongful death lawsuit discover new information about the cause of death, it may toll the statute of limitations.

Did You Lose a Loved One? Call Our Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Lawyers

Losing a loved one is never easy, and filing a wrongful death lawsuit can become very complex. Pennsylvania law governs these legal actions, and one small mistake could cause you to lose the compensation you need. If you have lost someone, our Allentown personal injury lawyers at van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim can help. We aggressively pursue these claims and will ensure they are filed properly and on time so you receive the damages you deserve. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to arrange a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys.


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