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The Origins of Wrongful Death Law

Origins of wrongful death law in McKinney and USA
Image Credit – Vitalii Vodolazskyi/

When a person loses their life due to the negligence of another party, surviving family members can file a wrongful death claim. But while most people are familiar with personal injury claims, filing a lawsuit after the loss of a loved one is less well understood. Perhaps surprisingly, wrongful death law has a long history in the United States and around the world, with the concept dating back hundreds of years. Here’s a quick look at the history of wrongful death, from its origins to present-day Texas.

The Beginnings of Wrongful Death

The practice of paying a financial penalty for causing death actually predates our modern legal system. Look at the famous 8th-century poem “Beowulf” for an early example, where Grendel (the monster) refuses to pay a debt to settle his killings. And in an Icelandic poem of the 13th century, Loki, Odin and Hoenir were asked to pay for killing Ótr, a king’s son.

Early Examples of Wrongful Death Law

While financial recompense for causing the death of another is an age-old concept, the notion of wrongful death in law is first found in Frankish law. The concept of  “wergild” is an important term to know about wrongful death issues in those days. Also called “a man price,” the wergild was a price one paid to keep the peace between families and tribes. If someone had been wrongfully killed, the guilty party would be required to pay restitution to the victim’s family.

At the time the Frankish law was created, revenge killing was common. Payment could prevent further killing and help the family recover from the death of a wage-earning family member.

Wrongful Death Law in the United States

It wasn’t until the 19th century that a wrongful death statute was codified into English common law. This statute formally recognized that the death of a person could cause harm not only to the deceased, but to their family members as well. Throughout the 19th century, many U.S. states introduced statutes based on common law that allowed surviving family members to bring a civil lawsuit against the person or entity responsible for the death of their loved one.

As years passed, wrongful death laws have been expanded and clarified, with each state having distinct regulations. For example, Texas law allows a surviving spouse, children and parents to file a lawsuit within a two-year statute of limitations. Today, with the help of a personal injury attorney, it is possible to secure damages for medical expenses, funeral costs, lost earning capacity and pain and suffering.

Hire a Wrongful Death Attorney in McKinney

Lucé Law, PC represents clients with personal injury, wrongful death, workplace injury and auto accident claims. For advice on wrongful death claims in McKinney and the surrounding areas, contact Joe Lucé today. Call (972) 632-1300 or request a free legal consultation.

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