Wrongful death written on a paper
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Losing a loved one is never easy. The loss leaves a hole in your life that can never really be filled. If the death is caused by the wrongful acts or negligence of another person, this can often complicate matters, making you feel like the loss was so unnecessary. Fortunately, Texas law provides a cause of action for certain individuals who have lost a relative due to the wrongful act of another. While a wrongful death action won’t replace the person who has been lost, it can compensate his or her family members for the actual damages incurred by the loss. So, if you have lost a close relative due to the actions or negligence of another person here in Houston, you may be entitled to recover for your loss from such an individual. 

Which Relatives Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The Texas wrongful death statute is covered by the Civil Practice and Remedies Code Title 4, Section 71.001, and provides for the right to sue someone for an injury that causes death from a “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.” It also sets forth three groups of people who have standing to bring a wrongful death suit on behalf of the deceased individual: the surviving spouse, the children and the parents of the deceased. Interestingly, anyone who falls into this category can file the lawsuit on behalf of the other relatives. 

If you are not in the immediate family, then you are specifically precluded from bringing a wrongful death lawsuit. This includes such relatives as siblings, cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. 

Surviving Spouse

If the pair was in a common law marriage, the surviving spouse will be able to sue provided that he or she can provide evidence of the marital relationship, such as a joint account, life insurance, or other indicia of living together as spouses. This is the case with people in a civil union, domestic partnership or other arrangement outside of a formal marriage. If the two were separated, but not officially divorced, then the surviving spouse will have a right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.


If the deceased had children, they will have the right to sue on his or her behalf as well. This includes adopted children, but not stepchildren and children in a foster home relationship. In other words, the adopted child will have to provide proof that the deceased actually went through the legal process of adoption.


Parents of the deceased also have the right to sue. This includes the right of parents to sue for the wrongful death of adopted children. Texas also allows parents of an unborn child to bring a wrongful death action provided they are able to prove the existence of the pregnancy. The parents will also have to show how the defendant’s conduct caused the woman to lose the unborn child.

The current wrongful death statute provides an exemption for a lawful abortion. However recent changes in the law since the Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs makes it unclear if this exemption is still in effect since Texas enacted a near-total ban on abortion procedures in the state.

What Happens if None of These Relatives File a Lawsuit?

There is a three-month period from the date of death during which any of the surviving spouse, children or parents of the deceased individual have the right to file a wrongful death action. If they fail to do so by the end of this time period, the executor or administrator of the deceased individual’s estate can bring a wrongful death lawsuit unless all of the surviving relatives (spouse, children and parents) formally object. In any event, Texas law sets forth a two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits, commencing on the date the family member died.

If you have lost a loved one due to the conduct of another, we can help you file a wrongful death lawsuit

Losing a family member can never be replaced, but you can be compensated for your loss. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Hernandez Sunosky LLP can help you collect for your losses in a wrongful death lawsuit. Call us today, so we can provide you and your family with the assistance you need to hold the party who caused your loved one’s death responsible.