The Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Texas

January 11, 2021 | By Francis Firm Injury Attorneys
The Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Texas

Losing a loved one in an accident is one of the most horrific and shocking things that can happen.

At The Francis Firm, we believe that when a family member dies in a preventable accident, whoever caused that accident should be held liable for the damages that result to surviving family members, such as the loss of income of the decedent, funeral and burial expenses, and the loss of companionship, guidance, and love.

Many times, the filing of a wrongful death case is necessary in order to recover these damages. 

However, family members are often reluctant to bring forth a wrongful death claim. These claims can be emotionally trying and painful to navigate or even consider for this very reason.

Family members who are dealing with grief may also feel unable to take on the burden of a lawsuit. 

We know how important the grieving process is, and we want to do everything we can to help you recover from your family member’s untimely death.

Our TX wrongful death lawyers will explain what you should know about the Texas wrongful death statute of limitations.

For immediate assistance, please don't hesitate to call our firm at (817) 329-9001 or send us an online message.

How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Texas?

While filing a wrongful death claim may be the farthest thing from your mind, if you don’t act now, you may lose your right to pursue damages.

Our wrongful death attorneys at The Francis Firm can help you understand the wrongful death statute of limitations in Texas and your legal rights. 

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What Is a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations is a limit on the amount of time that a person has to pursue an action, either civil or criminal.

In regards to a wrongful death lawsuit, a statute of limitations is a cap on the amount of time that the plaintiff in a wrongful death claim has to file a lawsuit against the defendant (negligent party) in a wrongful death action. 

What is the Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Texas? 

The wrongful death statute of limitations in Texas is found in Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 16.003(b). According to the statute, a suit for Texas wrongful death damages must be brought within two years of the date that the cause of action accrues. 

If you do not hire an attorney to file your claim in time, you lose your legal right to ever bring that claim.

Does the Texas Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations Start from the Date of Injury or Death? 

For those who are attempting to navigate the Texas wrongful death statute and make sense of statutory language, “the day the cause of action accrues” may be confusing.

It is important to note that this is not the date that the accident occurred; it’s the date that the affected person died from their injuries.

That being said, this means that if a car accident occurred in January but the victim did not die from their injuries until March, the clock on the statute of limitations would not start ticking until the date of death in March. 

Note: The “clock” on the wrongful death statute of limitations may be extended when the deceased is a minor child, as well as in other specific situations.

What Happens if the Statute of Limitations Expires?

If the Texas wrongful death statute of limitations expires, then the plaintiff’s right to recovery is barred.

This means that if more than two years pass from the date of death and you have not filed a lawsuit, you will be barred from recovery, with very few exceptions. 

For the details on those exceptions, or if the two-year deadline is approaching, it is critical that you consult with an experienced Texas wrongful death lawyer. 

Contact Our Texas Wrongful Death Lawyers Today for Your Free Consultation

Waiting to pursue a wrongful death action is a mistake - your chances of recovering your maximum recovery are greater if you start the process earlier. 

Often, if you wait too long to consult an attorney, evidence and witnesses are lost and your attorney’s ability to obtain full compensation or even succeed with your claim is impaired. 

To learn more about filing a wrongful death claim in Texas, call the lawyers at The Francis Firm today at (817) 329-9001 for a free consultation.

We take cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning you don't owe us anything unless we recover compensation for you.

Learn More About The Texas Wrongful Death Statute

Wrongful death law is closely related to personal injury law.

While personal injury law allows an injured person to file a claim against the negligent party, a wrongful death claim allows a family member to step into the shoes of the deceased to file a lawsuit, in effect, on his or her behalf.

Wrongful Death Includes Fatal Injuries Caused By Negligence and Wrongful Acts

The Texas wrongful death statute (Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §§ 71.001-71.051) allows a plaintiff to file a wrongful death lawsuit when the deceased’s death was caused by a “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.” 

In other words, whether a person’s death occurred as a result of an intentionally harmful act or a careless omission, it may be possible to seek compensation by filing a wrongful death claim.

Family Members May Be Eligible to File a Claim

Close family members typically are the parties who are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

The Texas wrongful death statute expressly states that “the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased may bring the action or one or more of those individuals may bring the action for the benefit of all.”

Plaintiffs Can Be Eligible to Receive Compensatory Damages

In a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff (or plaintiffs) can be eligible to receive two types of compensatory damages:

  • economic damages for pecuniary losses like burial expenses and lost wages of the deceased,
  • as well as noneconomic damages for non-pecuniary losses such as loss of consortium.

Sometimes Punitive Damages Can Be Awarded

In Texas, punitive damages are known as exemplary damages

Unlike compensatory damages—including both economic and non-economic damages—which are intended to compensate a victim for losses, exemplary damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer and to deter similarly egregious behavior in the future. 

Although exemplary damages are not common in wrongful death claims and other personal injury lawsuits, the statute emphasizes that they may be awarded in addition to compensatory damages “when the death is caused by the willful act or omission or gross negligence of the defendant.”

The Executor of the Deceased’s Estate May Bring a Wrongful Death Claim Under Certain Circumstances

According to the statute, “if none of the individuals entitled to bring an action have begun the action within three calendar months after the death of the injured individual, his executor or administrator shall bring and prosecute the action unless requested not to by all those individuals.” 

As a reminder, the deceased’s surviving spouse, surviving children, and surviving parents may be eligible to bring the wrongful death lawsuit initially.

Claims for Wrongful Deaths That Occur Outside of Texas May Sometimes Be Brought in a Texas Court

Depending upon the specific facts of your case, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas even if the act or omission that caused your loved one’s death occurred in another state (outside of Texas) or even in a foreign country. 

Often, provided that the deceased was a Texas resident, lawsuits can be filed in Texas even if the fatal accident occurred elsewhere.

Wrongful Death Claims Sometimes Can Be Brought for the Death of an Unborn Child

The statute clarifies that a death in the context of wrongful death includes “the failure to be born alive . . . for an individual who is an unborn child.”

Wrongful Death Claims Can Concern Deceased Persons of All Ages

The Texas wrongful death statute allows claims to be brought for the death of a person of any age, from a newborn to an elderly adult.