The Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Texas (2023)

  • Jan 11, 2021|
  • Posted by: Michael Francis|
  • Read Time: 5 minutes
The Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Texas (1)

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.

Statute of Limitations in Texas Topics Covered Here hide

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

II) What Is a Statute of Limitations?

III) What is the Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Texas?

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

V) What Happens if the Statute of Limitations Expires?

VI) Contact Our Texas Wrongful Death Lawyers Today for Your Free Consultation

VII) Learn More About The Texas Wrongful Death Statute

VII.I) Wrongful Death Law is Related to Personal Injury Law

VII.II) Wrongful Death Includes Fatal Injuries Caused By Negligence and Wrongful Acts

VII.III) Family Members May Be Eligible to File a Claim

VII.IV) Plaintiffs Can Be Eligible to Receive Compensatory Damages

VII.V) Sometimes Punitive Damages Can Be Awarded

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

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

VII.VIII) Wrongful Death Claims Sometimes Can Be Brought for the Death of an Unborn Child

VII.IX) Wrongful Death Claims Can Concern Deceased Persons of All Ages

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 inTexas 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 isnot 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 Related to Personal Injury Law

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.

The Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Texas (2)

Michael Francis

Michael Francis is the founding partner of the Francis Firm and Flynn & Francis, LLP and has spent more than twenty-five years litigating personal injury and commercial litigation cases throughout the state of Texas and across the country. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

Michael focuses his legal practice on personal injury and business litigation cases, with a particular emphasis on trucking, motor vehicle and complex commercial litigation matters. Michael has more than twenty-five years of experience litigating cases throughout the State of Texas, against many of the largest corporations and insurance companies. He has secured verdicts and settlements for clients in excess of $20,000,000.

FAQs

The Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Texas? ›

The Texas wrongful death statute of limitations is two years from the date the cause of action arises. If you want to try and recover compensation for the loss of a loved one, you have two years to file a wrongful death claim, usually starting the day of your family member's death.

Is there a cap on wrongful death in Texas? ›

We've been asked in the past if there is a cap on wrongful death settlements in Texas. Here's the answer. If your case is not related to medical malpractice, there is no cap on any damages in a wrongful death settlement.

What is the wrongful death action in Texas? ›

Wrongful death claim.

The purpose of this type of suit is to recover damages the surviving relatives suffered as a result of the death. Damages can include medical bills up to the date of death, funeral and burial expenses, and loss of the individual's love, companionship, guidance, and financial support.

What is wrongful death compensation in Texas? ›

The damages available in a wrongful death action in Texas include the following: The lost earning capacity of the decedent. The loss of an inheritance, including what the decedent would have reasonably been expected to earn and gift had he or she lived. The loss of companionship, society, comfort, and love.

Who has standing to sue for wrongful death in Texas? ›

A wrongful death action can only be filed by a spouse, child, or parent of the deceased. Every person in this category does not have to bring his or her own lawsuit one person can bring a suit on behalf of everyone who qualifies.

Can you sue for wrongful death in Texas? ›

Under the Texas Wrongful Death Act, the spouse, children, or parents of the deceased are the only individuals that can bring a wrongful death claim. However, if they do not do so within three months of the person's death, the deceased person's estate may bring a claim on their behalf.

What is the burden of proof for wrongful death? ›

You do not have to prove wrongful death beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, you must prove it is at least 51 percent likely the death was wrongful; this burden of proof is called the “preponderance of the evidence.”

How do you prove wrongful death in Texas? ›

There are four elements that the plaintiff's wrongful death attorney must prove:
  1. A legal duty was owed. For instance, all drivers have a legal duty to operate their vehicles without being intoxicated.
  2. The legal duty was breached. ...
  3. The breach of duty caused an actual injury. ...
  4. There must be monetary damages that occur.

What are the damages recoverable for wrongful death in Texas? ›

The most commonly recovered wrongful death damages include:

Mental anguish. Lost earning capacity. Lost inheritance (what would have been financially gained had the decedent lived a full life)

What is the difference between wrongful death and survival action in Texas? ›

Wrongful Death Actions in Texas

While a survival action proceeds as if the victim were still alive, a wrongful death lawsuit is brought by the surviving family members on their own behalf to recover for the losses that they have personally sustained.

Are wrongful death settlements taxable in Texas? ›

Wrongful Death Lawsuits Are Overall Non-Taxable

According to the Federal Register, IRS Rule 1.104-1, settlements from wrongful death suits cannot be taxed. The government defines this type of settlement as a part of a claim for personal injury instead of income.

What is the difference between wrongful death and medical malpractice in Texas? ›

Essentially, not all wrongful death cases involve medical malpractice, but some malpractice claims can lead to wrongful death lawsuits. If a health care provider's negligence led to the death of your loved one, a wrongful death attorney could help you pursue legal action involving wrongful death.

Can a state be sued for wrongful death? ›

A person or entity generally may be held liable for damages when a person is killed due to negligence. However, this may not necessarily be the case when a state or federal government agency or its employees are involved in causing someone's death.

Can a sibling bring a wrongful death suit in Texas? ›

In Texas, only a spouse, child (biological or adopted), or parent is allowed to sue for wrongful death. Siblings cannot file a wrongful death claim.

Can you sue a dead person in Texas? ›

In actuality, you cannot sue a deceased person, but you can sue their estate. The process can be more complex than a traditional personal injury case. You do not have to navigate this complicated process on your own.

Can a sibling file a wrongful death suit in Texas? ›

Under Texas law, siblings are not allowed to file wrongful death claims directly. However, if a sibling acts as the personal representative of the estate, then they may end up being the one who filed the wrongful death claim.

What is the pain and suffering cap in Texas? ›

But there is a cap on the amount of non-economic damages you can be awarded, which are related to your pain and suffering. In Texas, a medical malpractice non-economic damage cap exists at $250,000 from each defendant, up to $750,000 maximum, regardless of the total number of defendants.

What is the cap on the Texas Tort Claims Act? ›

In addition, the damages that can be recovered in a claim against the state government are limited. The Texas Tort Claims Act limits damages in these claims to no more than $250,000 per person and $500,000 per occurrence for bodily injury, and $100,000 per occurrence for damaged property.

What is the maximum payout for medical negligence in Texas? ›

The basics of Texas law

It caps the amount of money that can be awarded for pain and suffering in any medical error claim to a maximum of $250,000. There is no limit on the amount that can be reimbursed for medical costs or lost wages.

Is there a cap on malpractice suits in Texas? ›

For example, if an individual pursues a medical malpractice claim against a physician or a single healthcare institution, they may only receive a maximum of $250,000 on non-economic damages. If a person wants to sue multiple healthcare institutions, they can only receive a maximum of $500,000 in non-economic damages.

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