Wrongful death is discussed within Texas Statutes Section 71.001. That law instructs that people can be reimbursed for actual damages related to an injury that leads to a person’s death. The state may hold liable parties responsible for various reasons. A key one is that the injury was due to the “neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default” of the person or anyone acting on their behalf.
What can be recovered in a Texas wrongful death suit?
When people suffer losses because of an unexpected death, those surviving relatives have the right to compensation. Losses that you can seek to regain through a civil action include:
- Lost income
- Lost inheritance, partially made up of the money that the deceased individual would have accrued and passed on to relatives if their lifespan had been normal
- Emotional and mental suffering
- Lost guidance, care, and support that the deceased would have given to family members
- Lost comfort, companionship, and love.
When a lawsuit awards damages, the court determines proportionally how various surviving relatives have suffered and experienced damage. Compensation is then divided based on that degree of loss.
When do exemplary damages apply to Texas wrongful death?
The state sometimes uses exemplary damages, often called punitive damages in jurisdictions outside of Texas, to punish the person believed responsible. In other words, their purpose is not simply to compensate the family. These damages can sometimes be paid in Texas wrongful death lawsuits – whenever it is determined there is gross negligence, or a willful act or omission.
Who can file Texas wrongful death lawsuits?
The surviving children, spouse, or parents of a person in Texas believed to have been the victim of wrongful death can file a lawsuit. Various of these relatives may file a lawsuit either together or through individual claims.
The executor of the estate can file a claim if the surviving family members listed above do not do so within 90 days following death. However, it is possible for a surviving family member to veto the ability of the executor to make the claim.
The adult son or daughter of a person can file a wrongful death suit in Texas.
An adult who is completely and legally adopted by an individual can file a wrongful death claim related to that person. The same applies in the reverse: if an adoptive child dies prematurely, the adoptive parent may file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Notably, though, adoption cancels out any wrongful death claim a person might have on their biological parents. Again, the same is true vice-versa for biological parents related to children no longer under their guardianship.
Also, siblings do not (unfortunately for them) have any ability to file wrongful death lawsuits in Texas.
What are the time limits for wrongful death claims?
These lawsuits have a statute of limitations of two years. However, the executor may file a claim on behalf of the estate 90 days following the date of death if no objection is made.
Filing process for a wrongful death lawsuit
The only people who can file a lawsuit are the surviving relatives or a personal representative. Monetary loss is the sole way liability is determined. Both of those are different from a criminal case. In criminal cases, the prosecuting attorney files the charges; the result is jail times, fines, probation, or other punishments. The filing of criminal charges in Texas may be followed by a wrongful death claim.
What makes up a wrongful death lawsuit?
These elements have to exist in order to file a suit:
- A person has to have died.
- The death must be caused by the malicious intent or negligence of another individual.
- There must be a representative assigned to the estate of the deceased.
- There must be family members to whom the death causes financial harm.
When does a wrongful death lawsuit apply?
Wrongful death is essentially a personal injury case for an individual who was killed due to willful intent or neglect of another person. Example scenarios of wrongful death are:
- Negligence in the case of a car accident death – When a person dies from injuries suffered in a car accident, family members can file a claim.
- Medical malpractice death – If a death occurs because a doctor was careless or did not correctly diagnose a condition, surviving family members can sue.
- Intentional killing – Family members can file a suit against suspected murderers, whether they are convicted for the crime or not.
Your legal partner
If you believe that you have a wrongful death claim, it is critical to act quickly given the deadlines built into Texas law. At Farrah Martinez Law Firm, we guarantee effective and aggressive representation for you and your loved ones. No fee, unless we win.