The term "statute of limitation" is something that readers of this Pittsburgh personal injury legal blog may have heard about through either their own legal matters or through the media. A statute of limitation is a cut-off point past which a person may not bring a lawsuit based on losses they suffered at the hands of others. For example, the victim of a car accident may not wait 20 years to sue the driver who hit them for the damages they suffered as a result of the crash.
When a person dies, though, as a result of another person's negligence, a special rule called the discovery rule may extend the period during which survivors of the victim may seek compensation through a wrongful death claim. In its most basic form, the discovery rule allows the applicable wrongful death statute of limitation to begin when the survivors of the deceased party knew or should have known of the cause of the deceased party's death.
Consider a case of medical negligence in which a patient dies during an operation. Imagine that the patient died on April 1 and the survivors of the decedent requested an autopsy of the victim to better understand why they died. If the results of the review took until August 1 to be made known, the discovery rule may extend the applicable statute of limitation by four months for the survivors' wrongful death claim.
Losing loved ones to accidents and errors is tragic and hard to understand. However, personal injury claims such as wrongful death can help survivors move past their grief and recover their losses after experiencing the devastating loss of a loved one.