A wrongful death claim is an opportunity for grieving family members to seek justice, accountability and financial compensation for the preventable death of a loved one. In Texas, a law known as the statute of limitations places a strict time limit on the right to file a claim with a wrongful death lawyer in San Antonio. However, an exception known as the discovery rule can extend the standard time limit.

What Is the Statute of Limitations on a Wrongful Death Claim in Texas?

 In Texas, a surviving family member of a deceased person has a maximum of two years to file a wrongful death claim. In the first three months, only close family members of the decedent have the right to file this type of lawsuit. If no family steps forward to file a claim within three months after the death of the victim, however, an executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate may initiate a claim.

 The state’s wrongful death statute of limitations is established in Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 16.003:

 TWO-YEAR LIMITATIONS PERIOD. (a) Except as provided by Sections 16.010, 16.0031, and 16.0045, a person must bring suit for trespass for injury to the estate or to the property of another, conversion of personal property, taking or detaining the personal property of another, personal injury, forcible entry and detainer, and forcible detainer not later than two years after the day the cause of action accrues.

  • (b) A person must bring suit not later than two years after the day the cause of action accrues in an action for injury resulting in death. The cause of action accrues on the death of the injured person.

 Under this law, if an individual fails to file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years after the date of the decedent’s death, he or she will most likely forfeit the right to file a claim at all. The courts only grant limited exceptions to this rule. However, one exception that may apply is the discovery rule.

What Is the Discovery Rule?

The discovery rule is a statute of limitations exception that states that the two-year timeclock may not start counting down until the date that a claimant knew or reasonably should have known about the cause of action. This rule is in place to protect claimants who may discover the truth behind their injuries or the death of a loved one after the expiration of the original statute of limitations.

Under the discovery rule, if surviving family members do not immediately realize that the death of a family member was caused by someone else’s negligence, recklessness or intent to harm, they will have two years from the date that they discover this fact (or reasonably should have discovered it through due diligence) to bring a wrongful death claim in Texas – even if this is longer than two years from the date of death.

How Does the Discovery Rule Work in a Wrongful Death Claim?

An example of the discovery rule in action is a product liability case involving a defective or dangerous item that kills a consumer. If a woman dies a week after receiving a defective hip implant, for instance, but the manufacturing company does not announce a recall of the product until a year later, the family may have two years from the date of learning about the recall to file a wrongful death claim in Texas rather than two years from the date of death.

The discovery rule could give your family a longer amount of time to file a wrongful death claim in the State of Texas, depending on the circumstances. Do not wait to consult with an attorney about a potential case, however. Missing your statute of limitations could bar you from ever seeking justice for your loved one’s death.