If you've recently lost a parent, child, spouse, or other close relative through homicide, you may still be in a state of shock and disbelief. For many families who are touched by murder, the option to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the person deemed responsible may not come into consideration until much later. Unfortunately, Maine's strict statute of limitations on wrongful death lawsuits often prevented these families from receiving justice if the wrongful death case wasn't filed within two years of the date of murder. A recent legislative effort will amend this law, giving families more time to prepare and file a lawsuit to avenge their loved one's death. Read on to learn more about this recent change and how it may impact your own wrongful death case.
What changes are coming to Maine's wrongful death laws?
Unlike some states, which have general wrongful death statutes designed to cover everything from murder to motor vehicle negligence to product liability, Maine has a statute that specifically addresses the ability of surviving family members to file a wrongful death suit against an alleged murderer. Until recently, this statute required the court case to be filed (if not necessarily decided) within two years of the murder. Cases filed after this point -- even if there was a good reason for the delay -- would be dismissed.
The Maine legislature recently sought to change this law as it related to the statute of limitations on wrongful death lawsuits arising from a murder, extending the statute of limitations from two to six years. This bill was vetoed by the state's governor, but the veto was then overturned by the state Senate -- if this veto is subsequently overturned by the House of Representatives as well, the original bill will become law. If the House fails to override this veto, the current law will stand.
What could this change mean for your case?
If the two-year statute of limitations has already expired in your wrongful death lawsuit, you may not have any remedy -- this bill is unlikely to be enacted retroactively to reactivate expired claims. However, if the clock on your case is still running, it's likely to be extended an additional four years past the date of murder, giving you additional time to seek legal counsel, evaluate and document the actual financial (and emotional) losses you've suffered, and heal before undergoing a potentially brutal trial.
For more information, contact a wrongful death attorney.