Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Texas
Texas law defines wrongful death as one that occurs as a result of neglect, carelessness, a wrongful act, unskillfulness, or default of an obligation. If another party’s negligent actions led to the death of a family member, Texas law allows surviving family members to file a wrongful death claim to seek compensation for damages related to their loss.
Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Texas
A wrongful death lawsuit in Texas can fall under two distinct statute of limitations, which is the amount of time a plaintiff has to bring a claim against the alleged at-fault party. The first statute of limitations begins from the date of the fatal injury and specifically includes a wrongful death survival action, which refers to the claim the deceased person could have filed had he or she lived through their injury. Damages for survival actions include restitution for pain and suffering and medical costs. The second statute of limitations begins at the time of death and refers to the claim that a family member files for Texas wrongful death damages, which can include loss of companionship and funeral expenses.
General Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Texas
Whether filing a wrongful death survival action or a wrongful death claim, plaintiffs generally have two years to bring a lawsuit from the date of death. In many situations, these suits are filed together.
Exceptions to the Texas Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
Under Texas law, some wrongful death cases warrant flexibility in their time limits for bringing a lawsuit. The four exceptions, presented in further detail below, that can lead to an extension of the two-year Texas wrongful death statute of limitations are:
- The plaintiff was a minor at the time of death
- The defendants or their role in the death was unknown
- The defendant committed fraud
- The plaintiff was injured or ill and consequently unable to bring a claim on time
The Person Bringing the Wrongful Death Claim — the Plaintiff — Is a Minor
Those under the age of 18 cannot legally file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas. If a parent passes before (s)he turns 18, the two-year statute of limitations time clock does not begin until the child reaches the age of 18.
The Defendants or Their Negligence Was Not Known
The discovery rule, a law that allows the start of the statute of limitations’ clock to begin only once the injury is discovered, applies to Texas wrongful death lawsuits. It can take weeks or months before the cause of death is revealed after someone passes. This means that eligible surviving family members do not necessarily know that their loved one’s death was due to the negligence of another.
In other cases, survivors might know their loved one died from a wrongful death but are unsure which party(s) to sue until an investigation has been completed, criminal or otherwise. In either scenario, the two-year time period does not begin until the plaintiff knows a cause of action exists.
The Defendant Committed Fraud
A Texas court may extend the wrongful death statute of limitations to allow surviving family members to take action when the defendant deliberately hid their involvement in the death.
The Plaintiff Was Unable to Bring a Suit Due to Mental or Physical Impairment
Any plaintiff who is suffering with mental or physical disabilities that prevent them from filing a wrongful death claim within the two-year time period can be eligible to receive an extension. This can occur when the plaintiff suffered severe injuries in the accident that killed the deceased person and was therefore unable to file a claim.
Leading Texas Wrongful Death Lawyer
Texas wrongful death lawsuits are complex and, as demonstrated above, their statute of limitations has many potential exceptions and extensions. This makes an experienced and specialized Texas wrongful death attorney integral to understanding the time limits of your specific case.
The Cain Firm
The skilled, compassionate, and accomplished legal team at The Cain Firm understand the challenges you face in the wake of losing a loved one. They are committed to walking all of their clients through the complex legal processes that they must face in their individual cases, with personalized care and attention. The lauded Texas lawyers at The Cain Firm have dedicated their lives to protecting and defending the rights of their clients, helping them seek justice and financial restitution for injuries, and the preventable death of loved ones. The Cain Firm conveniently has offices located throughout Texas in Dallas, Houston, and Granbury.
The Law Center
The Law Center specializes in connecting people with the information and skilled legal professionals they need to seek justice and collect damages after a negligent action causes injury or the loss of a loved one. To determine if you have a viable case, and to be connected with a leading Texas wrongful death legal team from our national network of premier law firms, like The Cain Firm, call 817-587-8225 or fill out the form below.