Texas Lawyers Devoted to Pursuing Justice for Wrongful Deaths
Nothing can ever bring back a loved one who passes away. When negligence has caused the loss, however, Texas law provides options for suing and seeking justice. In fact, by filing a Texas wrongful death claim, families can hold negligent parties responsible for the harm and permanent losses they’ve caused.
These claims can also be one of the few options for making at-fault parties pay while providing damages to help grieving families lay loved ones to rest, start to find closure, and move forward.
To help families who have lost a loved one in some type of accident, here are vital answers to common questions about Texas wrongful death cases and recoveries. Whenever you need additional answers or legal advice pertaining to your situation, simply reach out to a Texas wrongful death attorney.
What Is Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death is any loss of life that has been directly caused by the negligent, careless, or reckless actions of some other party. Specifically, Texas law states that a wrongful death can occur when:
- Someone’s careless actions or their failures to take reasonable action directly causes fatal injuries.
- Some party’s unsafe property is the site and cause of a preventable deadly accident.
- Faulty or dangerous products cause fatal accidents and injuries.
- Negligence fatally injures an individual or a fetus.
The idea behind the wrongful death statute is to provide an option for seeking justice when deceased parties cannot do so for themselves. Consequently, it’s often possible to file a Texas wrongful death claim after deaths arising from accidents like (but not limited to):
- Motor vehicle accidents, including car crashes, 18-wheeler wrecks, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, bus accidents, and other traffic collisions
- Other vehicle-related wrecks, like plane crashes, boat accidents, and train accidents
- Accidents caused by unsafe properties, like premises that are poorly maintained or that lack sufficient security
- Accidents resulting from risky or dangerous products, like faulty industrial equipment, defective vehicle components, dangerous consumer goods, or harmful pharmaceuticals
- Job-related accidents, including offshore accidents, industrial accidents and explosions, truck wrecks, and more
Remember, it’s not always clear when a deadly accident may have involved negligence. That’s why it’s so critical to speak with a Texas wrongful death attorney and get answers. A lawyer can shine an important light on the situation, explaining your options for recovering and getting justice for the loss of a loved one.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Texas?
Those who can pursue a Texas wrongful death case include individuals who share the following relationship with the decedent:
- Spouse: This includes spouses who are separated at the time of a deadly accident, as well as spouses who remarry after the death of their husband or wife. If a divorce was finalized before the death, however, Texas law does not permit a surviving ex-spouse to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of their divorced spouse who died.
- Children: Biological and adoptive children are permitted to file wrongful death claims related to the loss of a parent under Texas law. Notably, however, an adoptive child cannot pursue a wrongful death case for a biological parent IF they also have a claim pertaining to their adoptive parents.
- Parents: Biological and adoptive parents can file wrongful death claims when they lose a child to negligence. With these claims, only one parent will typically have the right to file a wrongful death case in Texas when parents are unmarried or divorced. Generally, the filing parent would be the one with primary or sole custody of the child.
If a spouse, child, or parent of a decedent does not file a wrongful death case within three (3) months of the date of death, a survival action can be pursued.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim vs. a Survival Action in Texas?
A survival action is a claim brought on behalf of the decedent, as if that individual were still alive. In other words, with a survival action, the tort (personal injury claim) “survives” even when the victim dies.
In contrast, a wrongful death case is filed to seek damages for the losses personally suffered by spouses, children, and/or parents of the decedent. These damages could include anything from the pain and suffering caused by losing a loved one to loss of consortium or the loss of benefits.
This key distinction creates a few important differences between Texas wrongful death cases and survival actions, particularly when it comes to:
- Who files the action: While a spouse, child, or parent can file a wrongful death claim in Texas, survival actions can only be brought by the decedent’s estate or the legal representative of the estate (as long as a spouse, child, or parent does not object to the survival action).
- The available damages: Compensation for a survival action can cover various economic losses, like lost earnings, outstanding medical expenses, and property damage. It does not typically include pain, suffering, or impacts to quality of life, nor does it cover treatments (like therapy) for those who have lost a loved one. In contrast, wrongful death compensation can include noneconomic losses, like pain and suffering. Additionally, while wrongful death damages are paid to the individual who has filed the claim, recoveries from survival actions go to the decedent’s estate.
- Who can receive damages: Since the compensation from a survival action goes to the estate of a decedent, various beneficiaries may be able to receive a portion of the recoveries from these cases. With a wrongful death case, any compensation recovered would go to the individual bringing the claim (i.e., a spouse, child, and/or parent).
Keep in mind that it may be possible to file both a wrongful death case and a survival action in Texas, depending on the circumstances involved.
That’s another reason why it’s essential to consult a Texas wrongful death lawyer when you’re considering taking legal action after the loss of a loved one. An attorney can help you determine if you have more than one option for pursuing justice while advising you on the best ways to protect your rights and claim(s) going forward.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Texas?
You have two (2) years in Texas to file a wrongful death case. Put another way, there is a two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death claims in Texas.
That’s two years from the date of either the:
- Accident: If the fatality happened during or right after some accident, the date of that accident would typically be the starting date for the purposes of determining the statute of limitations for a particular claim.
- Death: If someone survives an accident but ends up succumbing to catastrophic injuries weeks or months later, then the date of death (not the accident date) would usually be the starting point for a claim’s statute of limitations. In these situations, a personal injury case initiated on behalf of the victim could be converted into a wrongful death case.
While this 2-year statute of limitations applies to many Texas wrongful death claims, there can be exceptions to the rule.
A lawyer can explain the filing deadlines that you need to be aware of, as well as what you may need to do to get a wrongful death case started and set up for success.
What Type of Compensation Is Available for Texas Wrongful Death Claims?
Financial recoveries for successful wrongful death cases in Texas can include damages for an array of losses. In general, compensation will be focused on compensatory damages, meaning recoveries intended to compensate victims (surviving loved ones) for their losses.
The table below shares an overview of the types of damages that are typically available for Texas wrongful death claims.
|Economic (Financial)Damages||Non-Economic (Non-Financial) Damages|
|Funeral & burial expenses||Pain & suffering|
|Medical expenses||Loss of comfort & companionship|
|Loss of income & benefits||Loss of affection & intimacy|
|Property damage||Irreversible impacts to quality of life|
With wrongful death compensation, it’s also crucial be aware that:
- Recoveries can provide key support during incredibly difficult times: Money doesn’t erase the pain of losing a loved one. Still, the compensation from a wrongful death case can offer the financial resources necessary to properly grieve, lay a loved one to rest, and start to heal. Winning these cases can also deliver some justice to those who have been wronged.
- Punitive damages may be available: These damages are not commonly awarded, but they can come into play IF the act of negligence is really egregious or IF the at-fault party has a history of similar accidents. In these situations, punitive damages can be available as a way to penalize the liable party, instead of directly compensating for the losses suffered.
The simplest and most effective way to find out what compensation may be available for a wrongful death case is by talking to an attorney.