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Wrongful Death Laws in Texas

When a person passes away due to someone's negligence or misconduct, the surviving family members may sue for "wrongful death." In this type of lawsuit, the survivors attempt to hold accountable whoever was responsible for their loved one's untimely death.

Wrongful death suits run the gamut from fatalities caused by medication errors or defectively manufactured products to drunk drivers and stray gunshots. In one Texas case, a husband accused a nursing home of causing his wife's death by failing to provide proper treatment for wounds and pressure ulcers which led to her death. Regardless of the underlying circumstances, a plaintiff must prove that the tragic loss of life was attributable to someone's wrongful or negligent conduct.

Read on for a synopsis of wrongful death laws in Texas, who they apply to, when they apply, and what damages may be available for someone suing for wrongful death in the Lone Star State.

Wrongful Death Laws in Texas: Overview

Although attorneys are trained in understanding legal complexities and how a law applies in specific cases, it's important for everyone to have a general understanding of what the law says. Below is a plain language summary of key aspects of Texas's wrongful death laws to help guide your research.

Statute Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code section 71.001
Time Limit The lawsuit must be filed within 2 years of the date of the person's death, although the time limit can be extended in narrow circumstances (section 16.003).
Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim Generally, Texas allows only certain individuals to file a wrongful death lawsuit:
  • The deceased person's spouse;
  • The deceased person's children;
  • The deceased person's parents; and
  • The representative of the deceased person's estate.
Monetary Damages Available A plaintiff can recover monetary compensation for losses including:
  • Loss of financial support;
  • Loss of companionship;
  • The survivors' mental anguish;
  • The deceased person's pain and suffering;
  • Medical bills; and
  • Funeral and burial costs.
A court can also award a plaintiff exemplary or punitive damages (that is, extra monetary damages designed to punish the defendant) if the death is caused by a willful act or omission or an extreme level of negligence, referred to as gross negligence.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Wrongful Death Claims Versus Survival Claims

Texas law distinguishes between two closely related types of claims, both covered in the above chart.

  • Wrongful death claims: Family members seek compensation for lost financial support, loss of companionship, and so forth.
  • Survival claims: The deceased person's estate asks to be compensated for the deceased person's losses, such as pain and suffering. This is similar to a personal injury lawsuit that a victim who survived the injury might have brought.

Both claims are civil in nature, meaning that the standard of proof is lower than in a criminal prosecution.

Texas Wrongful Death Laws: Related Resources

Get a Legal Evaluation of Your Wrongful Death Claim in Texas

Losing a family member, particularly if it's caused by the negligence or misconduct of another, can be an enormously traumatic ordeal. After beginning the process of grieving your loss, you may wish to explore whether to bring a wrongful death or survival claim against the responsible party. To learn more, speak with a Texas personal injury attorney near you.

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