You may think that any unexpected death can qualify as wrongful death in the eyes of the law. Unfortunately, that’s not actually the case.
According to Texas Statutes §71.001, you may file suit for wrongful death if the “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default” of one person or entity causes someone’s death.
Filing a Claim for Wrongful Death in Texas
Who Can File
The only ones who may file a claim for wrongful death in Texas are the following people related to the decedent:
It is possible for one of the aforementioned parties to file a claim singly, or a group of them can file it together.
If none of the aforementioned people file a wrongful death claim after the first three months of the death, the decedent’s personal representative or executor of the estate may file instead. However, that is not possible if a surviving family member specifically asks that a wrongful death claim is not filed.
It is also possible for an adopted child to file a wrongful death claim for the loss of an adoptive parent, so long as the child was completely and legally adopted by that parent. However, an adopted child does not have the right to file a claim for the wrongful death of a biological parent.
Along the same vein, adoptive parents can file a wrongful death claim for the death of their adopted child.
Unfortunately, it is not possible for a sibling to file a wrongful death claim for the death of their brother or sister, regardless if he or she is biologically related or adopted.
It is important to note that you may file a wrongful death claim even if criminal charges are also filed in relation to the death.
Damages Available in a Texas Wrongful Death Claim
The purpose of a wrongful death claim is to provide compensation to the surviving family members and the estate for the losses incurred due to the unexpected death. You may claim the following damages in a Texas wrongful death case:
- Lost earning capacity,
- Loss of care, maintenance, services, support, advice, and counsel the decedent would have otherwise provided for his or her surviving family members,
- Mental and emotional pain, anguish, and suffering,
- Loss of love, companionship, comfort, and society, and
- Loss of inheritance, including what the decedent would have probably saved and provided to surviving family members if he or she had lived a typical expected lifetime.
It may also be possible to recover exemplary (punitive) damages in a wrongful death case. These damages are typically available when the death is the result of a willful act or omission, or by gross negligence. The purpose of these damages is not necessarily intended to compensate the family, but instead, to punish the offender and make it known that this type of negligent behavior will not be tolerated.
The damages awarded in a wrongful death claim are split amongst the surviving family members proportionate to the injury they suffered due to the untimely loss. The court usually determines the division.
Statute of Limitations for a Texas Wrongful Death Lawsuit
You must file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years of the date of the decedent’s loss of life. However, there are specific exceptions in which the two-year time limit may be surpassed.
If your loved one lost their life due to another’s wrongdoing, you deserve justice. While no amount of money can make up for the loss of your family member, the compensation from a wrongful death claim can help take away some of the financial burdens of the death. Don’t delay—reach out right away to see how we can help.
Contact our office by calling (361) 541-6333 or by filling out the online contact form.