You may have lost a family member due to an accident. If so, you may be considering filing a wrongful death claim or lawsuit. However, before you proceed, there are some things you should know about Texas’s wrongful death statute, including who can file a lawsuit and what damages one can recover.
Things You Should Know About Texas’s Wrongful Death Laws
If you’re considering legal action after losing a loved one, you should know that:
“Wrongful Death” Only Applies to Certain Situations
According to Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 71, the term “wrongful death” applies to legal cases in which a person passed away due to another party’s wrongful act, neglectfulness, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default. For instance, if a pedestrian passes away due to a driver’s negligence, “wrongful death” applies.
Wrongful death cases can arise from:
- Car accidents
- Slips and falls
- Medical malpractice
- Construction accidents
- Nursing home abuse or neglect
Many cases rest on the principle of negligence. Negligence has nothing to do with intentionality. For instance, most drivers don’t intend to hurt others while on the road. Yet, they can still bear liability for any resulting damages.
Negligence simply means that someone did not act with reasonable care expected of someone else in the same situation. Negligence can rest with a road user, property owner, or medical professional.
You Can Claim a Number of Damages After Losing a Loved One
In a wrongful death claim or lawsuit, you can claim damages that will help you and your family move forward from your loss. Some losses come with inherent economic values, and others do not.
A settlement or court award could account for:
- The decedent’s income
- Your and your family’s mental anguish
- Lost guidance and support for your children
- Loss of consortium and companionship
- Your loved one’s final healthcare expenses
- Funeral costs, including the burial, embalming, and cremation
A lawyer from our firm can help you determine which damages you can claim, and afterward, we will argue for these damages on your behalf.
Only Certain Family Members Can File a Wrongful Death Action
Texas law also states that only certain family members of a deceased person can file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit. These family members include:
- A surviving spouse
- Surviving parents
- Surviving children
If none of these parties take action within three months of the decedent’s passing, the executor of the decedent’s estate can initiate legal proceedings.
Eligible wrongful death claimants do not have to pursue legal action on their own. They can partner with attorneys who can manage the claims process for them. A lawyer can determine who can pursue damages, calculate those losses, and take action accordingly.
You Generally Have Two Years to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
While not directly listed under Texas’s wrongful death statute, there is another law that applies to your case: the statute of limitations. Per Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 16.003, you generally have two years to file your wrongful death lawsuit.
You should know:
- Your filing deadline begins from the date of your loved one’s passing––not the date they got hurt.
- You must file your lawsuit within this two-year period, or you risk losing the right to seek damages.
- Some exceptions could give you more time to file your case. However, these exceptions do not apply to everyone.
You can learn more about your case’s possible filing deadline by connecting with a Texas wrongful death attorney.
Civil Wrongful Death Cases Are Different Than Criminal Wrongful Death Cases
Your loved one’s passing may have resulted from a negligent act. For instance, they may have suffered fatal injuries after being struck by a drunk driver. Drunk driving is illegal under the Texas Penal Code. However, if the drunk driver is convicted and faces jail time, this will not yield compensation for your loved one’s passing.
To recover damages, you must file separate legal proceedings. A lawyer can explain more about this process when you get legal help.
For a free legal consultation, call (972) 535-6377
Do You Have to Partner with a Wrongful Death Lawyer in Texas?
You can represent yourself during all legal proceedings. However, after losing a loved one, this may not appeal to you. You have the right to partner with a lawyer who can manage everything your wrongful death claim or lawsuit entails.
Also, many wrongful death lawyers (including the ones on our team) work on contingency. This means you don’t pay anything until your case reaches a fair resolution.
Begin Your Free Case Review with Underwood Law Office
These are just five facts to know about Texas’s wrongful death statutes. Yet, there are other things you should know about proceeding with an injury or wrongful death case. To learn more about your options, connect with Underwood Law Office today. There is no obligation to partner with us when you call.