Attorney and client discussing wrongful death lawsuit.

Three Most Common Defenses to Overcome in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

When a family member dies suddenly, loved ones usually want to know why. They want to know how a tragedy like that could occur and who was responsible for causing their loved one’s death. In many cases, family members turn to Los Angeles wrongful death attorneys to help them get answers to their questions. 

A wrongful death lawyer investigates the circumstances surrounding the death to determine if negligence, errors, or other wrongdoing were factors in the cause of the death. If so, the family can consider filing a wrongful death lawsuit to hold the responsible parties liable for the damages they have caused.

Three Common Defenses Used in California Wrongful Death Cases

A wrongful death lawsuit alleges various causes of action for which the parties responsible for your loved one’s death can be held liable. In most cases, the parties respond to the complaint alleging one or more defenses to the allegations that they caused your family member’s death and are liable for damages.

Common defenses used in wrongful death cases include, but are not limited to:

1. Expiration of the Statute of Limitations


A statute of limitations is a deadline for filing a lawsuit related to a specific cause of action. For wrongful death claims arising from most accidents, family members have two years from the date of death to file a lawsuit. However, if the death is related to medical malpractice, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of death. 

However, there are exceptions to the general statutes of limitations. For instance, the discovery rule could extend the statute of limitations in some cases. The deadline would be within a certain period after a reasonable person would have discovered that another party’s negligence or wrongdoing caused the death. 

On the other hand, the statute of limitations could be shorter, as in cases involving government entities. Most cases involving government entities require that notice of the claim is filed with the government within six months from the date of death. 

2. Self-Defense


Self-defense is another common defense used in some wrongful death cases. This defense is typically used when the parties were engaged in a physical altercation or when a party is alleging that their life or another person’s life was in danger, and they had no choice but to “stop” the person from causing further harm. Even if a party was in imminent danger, the party must prove that their actions were reasonable and justified.

3. Waivers and Releases or Assumption of Risk


This wrongful death defense is often used when the deceased person signed a release of liability or waiver stating that he or she knew there was a chance of injury or death associated with a specific activity. Examples may include skydiving, bungee jumping, snorkeling, and rock climbing. However, the waiver does not release the party from all causes of action, such as negligence and intentional wrongdoing. 

A party may claim that the deceased person knew or should have known about the risk, even if the person did not sign a waiver. Therefore, the party is not responsible for the person’s death.

Contact Our Los Angeles Wrongful Death Attorneys to Discuss Your Case

Parties being sued for wrongful death often use every defense they can think of to avoid liability, even a few that are “creative” but not legal. However, that does not mean that any of the defenses will work in court. An experienced wrongful death lawyer understands how to argue against various defenses to wrongful death claims. Schedule a consult with one of our California wrongful death lawyers today. Our experienced Los Angeles wrongful death attorneys aggressively pursue wrongful death claims on behalf of family members and estates. Let us help you fight for justice for your family.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.