When you lose a loved one in an accident or as a result of another person’s intentionally harmful act, it can be difficult to think about filing a lawsuit.
At the Francis Firm, we know how important the grieving process is, and we want to do everything we can to help you recover from your family member’s untimely death.
In many cases, filing a wrongful death lawsuit can allow you to obtain financial compensation for your losses and to hold the responsible party accountable. While a legal claim cannot bring back your loved one, it can help you to obtain the compensation you need to provide for your family even though your deceased spouse, parent, or another family member can no longer do so.
If you are considering a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas, here are ten things you should know about the Texas wrongful death statute.
1. Wrongful Death Law is Related to Personal Injury Law
Wrongful death law is closely related to personal injury law. While personal injury law allows an injured person to file a claim against the negligent party, a wrongful death claim allows a family member to step into the shoes of the deceased to file a lawsuit, in effect, on his or her behalf.
2. Wrongful Death Includes Fatal Injuries Caused By Negligence and Wrongful Acts
The Texas wrongful death statute (Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §§ 71.001-71.051) allows a plaintiff to file a wrongful death lawsuit when the deceased’s death was caused by a “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.”
In other words, whether a person’s death occurred as a result of an intentionally harmful act or a careless omission, it may be possible to seek compensation by filing a wrongful death claim.
3. Family Members May Be Eligible to File a Claim
Close family members typically are the parties who are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The statute expressly states that “the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased may bring the action or one or more of those individuals may bring the action for the benefit of all.”
4. Plaintiffs Can Be Eligible to Receive Compensatory Damages
In a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff (or plaintiffs) can be eligible to receive two types of compensatory damages: economic damages for pecuniary losses like burial expenses and lost wages of the deceased, as well as noneconomic damages for non-pecuniary losses such as loss of consortium.
5. The Texas Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations is Two Years
A plaintiff has two years from the date of the deceased’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The “clock” on the statute of limitations may be extended when the deceased is a minor child, as well as in other specific situations.
6. Sometimes Punitive Damages Can Be Awarded
In Texas, punitive damages are known as exemplary damages.
Unlike compensatory damages—including both economic and noneconomic damages—which are intended to compensate a victim for losses, exemplary damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer and to deter similarly egregious behavior in the future.
Although exemplary damages are not common in wrongful death claims and other personal injury lawsuits, the statute emphasizes that they may be awarded in addition to compensatory damages “when the death is caused by the willful act or omission or gross negligence of the defendant.”
7. The executor of the Deceased’s Estate May Bring a Wrongful Death Claim Under Certain Circumstances
According to the statute, “if none of the individuals entitled to bring an action have begun the action within three calendar months after the death of the injured individual, his executor or administrator shall bring and prosecute the action unless requested not to by all those individuals.”
As a reminder, the deceased’s surviving spouse, surviving children, and surviving parents may be eligible to bring the wrongful death lawsuit initially.
8. Claims for Wrongful Deaths That Occur Outside of Texas May Sometimes Be Brought in a Texas Court
Depending upon the specific facts of your case, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas even if the act or omission that caused your loved one’s death occurred in another state (outside of Texas) or even in a foreign country.
Often, provided that the deceased was a Texas resident, lawsuits can be filed in Texas even if the fatal accident occurred elsewhere,
9. Wrongful Death Claims Can Concern Deceased Persons of All Ages
The Texas wrongful death statute allows claims to be brought for the death of a person of any age, from a newborn to an elderly adult.
10. Wrongful Death Claims Sometimes Can Be Brought for the Death of an Unborn Child
The statute clarifies that a death in the context of wrongful death includes “the failure to be born alive . . . for an individual who is an unborn child.”
Contact a Texas Wrongful Death Attorney for Assistance
If you recently lost a loved one, or if you have questions about filing a wrongful death lawsuit, an experienced Texas wrongful death lawyer can assist with your case.
Contact the Francis Firm to schedule your free case consultation. Together, we can discuss your options for seeking financial compensation.