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What is the Difference Between a Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Claim?

In Southern California, when a person sustains serious or fatal injuries in an accident caused by another party’s negligence or wrongdoing, the injured party or her surviving family members may be able to file a claim for financial compensation. However, the type of claim depends upon whether the person sustained nonfatal or fatal injuries. It is important to understand that personal injury claims and wrongful death lawsuits are closely related, yet they have important distinctions. We want to say more about the differences between a personal injury case and a wrongful death claim.

What is a Personal Injury Lawsuit, and What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

A personal injury lawsuit is a claim that arises out of a situation in which another party causes a person’s injuries. In most situations, the injuries result from the responsible party’s negligence or wrongdoing. For example, if a motorist is speeding and causes a crash, or if a motorist is texting while driving and causes a collision, that motorist can be held responsible for injuries she causes in a personal injury claim.

At the same time, negligence is not necessary in order for a plaintiff to have a successful personal injury claim in all circumstances. Most notably, in a product liability lawsuit where a plaintiff is injured by a defective product, the designer or manufacturer of the product can be strictly liable for injuries. For instance, even if the manufacturer of a product is not negligent, if the product has a defect and causes injuries, the manufacturer is liable under the theory of strict liability.

How does a wrongful death lawsuit in California differ from a personal injury lawsuit? Wrongful death claims are similar to personal injury lawsuits in that they allow a party to hold a responsible party accountable for causing personal injuries. However, in a personal injury lawsuit, the injured person must file the claim. With a wrongful death lawsuit, the law recognizes that the injured person is not alive to file a claim and instead allows a representative to step into the shoes, so to speak, of the injured party in order to seek compensation from the party that is liable.

Statutes of Limitations in Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Lawsuits

The statute of limitations in a civil lawsuit is extremely important to know about because it determines how much time a person has to file a claim. Under California law, the following are the different statutes of limitations for personal injury and wrongful death claims:

  • Personal injury: typically, a person has two years from the date of her injury to file a lawsuit, although the statute of limitations is only six months if the plaintiff is filing a claim against a government agency. The clock usually begins “ticking” on the date of the injury, although the statute of limitations may be longer in cases where the plaintiff did not discover the injury right away (in a medical malpractice claim, for example).
  • Wrongful death: a person typically has two years from the date of the person’s death to file a claim for compensation. This means that a person might have suffered an injury in 2017, and that person does not succumb to those injuries until 2018. The clock begins “ticking” on the date of death as opposed to on the date of injury.

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer in Riverside

Personal injury and wrongful death claims in California can be complicated, but a Riverside personal injury attorney can help with your case. Contact Wagner & Pelayes, LLP for more information about how we help injured plaintiffs with a wide variety of claims.

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