What are the Time Limitations for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

All US states have a set time limitation for bringing a wrongful death action in court to the responsible party. The length of time, however, varies among states and may be anywhere from one year to three years. In legal terms, this time limit is known as the statute of limitations. If you do not file a wrongful death lawsuit within this time frame, you may lose the chance of getting fair compensation for your loss and justice for your loved one forever.

Under Iowa law, several people can file a lawsuit for the wrongful death of their loved one, including:

  • Surviving spouse of the deceased
  • Children of the deceased
  • Stepchildren of the deceased
  • Parents of the deceased
  • Grandparents of the deceased
  • Siblings of the deceased
  • Any person who was named in the will of the deceased

It is recommended to have a wrongful death attorney by your side who can help you understand the state laws and regulations pertaining to a wrongful death case in Iowa and assist you in winning the case.

The Statute of Limitations and Exceptions in Iowa

In Iowa, the statute of limitations for bringing a wrongful death action is two years. The time starts from the day of the death of the decedent. However, there are several exceptions to this rule that may give the loved ones more time to file a lawsuit against the responsible party.


Children cannot file a case in a court because they are not of the legal age. In such situations, there are special rules which allow the court to extend the statute of limitations. Depending on the age of the child when their loved one died, the time limit will start from the day they turn 18 years so that they can bring a wrongful death action to the responsible party.

The Discovery Rule

In a personal injury case, the time starts from the day when the injury is diagnosed. In the same way, the time limit for a wrongful death case begins when it is discovered that the person has died. For example, a person has been murdered and their body is found after six months or one year of their death. In this case, the clock will start ticking from the day the body was discovered and it was established that the person is dead.

Tolling a Statute of Limitation Period

Typically, courts adhere to the state laws and regulations very strictly, and appeals regarding the extension or waiving off the statute of limitations are not entertained. But if the plaintiff files for a motion to toll the statute of limitation period, they have a higher chance to get the court’s approval. Tolling is granted in specific situations where it can be established that a certain entity caused delays in the case proceedings. For example, the medical records department of a hospital failing to provide the required files within an adequate amount of time.

If you have lost a loved one because of the negligence of another person, you should file a wrong death lawsuit to get the compensation that you deserve for your loss. Contact Tom Riley Law Firm today to schedule an appointment and discuss your legal options.