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What is Wrongful Death?

Voice Digital Oct. 20, 2015

When a family member is killed, your life is thrown into chaos and disorder. One concern among many during such a trying time is your legal rights and what you are entitled to recover. The state of Texas clearly defines what constitutes a wrongful death, how to legally respond to it, and what you are entitled to receive from a legal judgement.

How Is a Wrongful Death Defined?

Texas legal Statutes section 71.001 defines a wrongful death as a death that occurs due to the "wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default" of another party. Named the Survival Statute, it is so called because it was written with the specific intent of allowing a personal injury lawsuit to go on even if the injured party passes away because of their injuries. This allows the case to go on as it would have, had they survived, and their family or executor to act on their behalf during legal proceedings and receive any legally awarded compensation.

What Does The Law Say?

When a member of your family has been wrongly killed the law states the following conditions as it relates to filing a lawsuit.

  • Firstly, you must be a parent, child, or the surviving spouse to be able to legally file a wrongful death claim in a Texas court. Siblings legally cannot file such a claim, nor can stepparents, foster parents, or grandparents.

  • The law considers legally adopted children has having the same filing rights as biological children and this also extends to the parents as well, i.e. the parent of a legally adopted child may file a wrongful death lawsuit.

  • Note that a wrongful death claim can be filed by any of the previously mentioned individuals or as a collective group, if so desired.

  • If none of the previously mentioned parties file a claim within three months of the death of the wronged party, then a claim may be filed by the executor of their estate or their representative unless the family has specifically requested this not be done.

  • Also a suit must be filed within two years of the date of death, unless there is a clearly defined reason that meets a listed exemption and allows a filing past the statute of limitations; an example of such a defined exemption is the death being caused by a defective product.

Filing Explained

A wrongful death suit differs from criminal proceedings in a few key areas. The suit itself must be filed with the Texas court system by the family or representative of the deceased. Also the suit itself is entirely monetary in nature of its liability and does not carry the legal rulings of fines, probation, or imprisonment. The lawsuit filing itself is also unrelated to any criminal proceeding and may be filed even if other legal proceedings are ongoing.  

What a Lawsuit Entitles You To

In filing a wrongful death claim, damages can be claimed in the following categories. The lost lifetime earnings of the deceased, lost advice and general assistance the deceased would have provided their family, pain and suffering, medical bills, loss of love, and lost future earnings in relation to inheritance.

Also, if the party responsible for the death acted in a particular egregious or neglectful manner, then punitive damages may be awarded as punishment for such behavior. Once you have earned a positive judgement, any damages awarded are split among your family with the amount of the split decided upon by court decision.


As is obvious, an unjust death is a very stressful time in your life. Aside from the emotional suffering, there may be suffering on a financial level as well. The loss of a primary income earner can devastate the finances of a family. Texas state law allows you to recover from this financial loss via lawsuit and cover not only medical and end of life expenses, but also lost earnings and emotional distress.

When you need a wrongful death attorney in Dallas and Fort Worth, please contact Chad West Law. We have years of experience working to get people just like you what you are legally owed. When you need a Dallas wrongful death lawyer, don’t wait. Contact us immediately for legal advice.  

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