Being the companion or caregiver of a person who is in a coma or a persistent vegetative state due to another's direct actions can be a physically and emotionally taxing task. When this person passes away after spending years in this state as a result of these injuries, your grief and relief may quickly turn to anger as you wish to right the wrongs done to your relative. Can you file a wrongful death lawsuit against the person or persons responsible for your relative's terminal injuries? How does this situation impact the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims? Read on to learn more about how these cases are handled.
When can you file a wrongful death lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a type of tort claim that can be filed by the close relatives (generally parents, spouses, and children) of someone who died due to another's negligent or malicious action. These lawsuits are filed in cases ranging from auto accidents, to medical malpractice, to murder. Damages are usually intended to compensate the surviving relatives for the financial and emotional losses suffered due to the decedent's untimely death.
If you're confident that forensic and testimonial evidence can show that another person was responsible for your relative's death, and that the surviving relatives have lost tangible and intangible benefits provided by the deceased, there's a good chance you'll be successful in a wrongful death lawsuit. Once a judgment has been entered in your favor, you'll be able to garish wages and freeze bank accounts owned by the judgment debtors.
How is the statute of limitations affected by a lengthy coma before death?
Each state sets its own statute of limitations for civil cases. These operate to prevent someone from filing a lawsuit against another person when the subject event of the lawsuit happened years or decades ago. In most states, the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases range from one to two years. The statute of limitations may begin to run once the issue is discovered (for example, after your relative is injured and enters the vegetative state), although most states will permit you to file a lawsuit up until the point the statute of limitations has run from the date of death. This will allow you to gather evidence, interview witnesses, and take other steps to prepare your case for trial well before filing a wrongful death lawsuit against those responsible for the lengthy hospitalization and death of your relative.