When someone dies as a result of an accident of some kind, the family of the deceased person may have a right to file a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death claims are heard in civil court. The claim is filed by the surviving family member(s) in order to seek compensation for the death.
In Texas, wrongful death lawsuits must usually be filed within two years of the death. A wrongful death suit can be hard to prove, so it’s important that you rely on an experienced wrongful death attorney.
- 1 Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Texas?
- 2 Proving a Wrongful Death Claim
- 3 Damages You Can Seek in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
- 4 How Are Damages Distributed in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
- 5 Common Accidents That Lead to Wrongful Death Suits
- 6 Call Thompson Law Today for a Free Case Evaluation
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Texas?
One of the most common questions Thompson Law is asked is who has the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Under Texas law a wrongful death lawsuit can only be filed by the spouse, parent, or child of the victim, or by the executor of the decedent’s estate on behalf of those parties, as stated in Chapter 71 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code.
Family Members Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim
- Spouses. In Texas, a spouse is defined by state and common law. Even if you were separated at the time the wrongful death occurred or remarried after the death, you may still be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Children. Any biological child of the deceased may be eligible to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Additionally, any child who was formally adopted by the deceased is also eligible under Texas law to bring a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of their adoptive parent.
- Parents. Biological parents may file a wrongful death claim on behalf of their deceased child. An adoptive parent may file a wrongful death claim on behalf of their adopted child. Even if parents are divorced, they may still bring a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased child.
Family Members Ineligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim
- Biological parents of and adopted child.
- Adopted children on behalf of a biological parent.
- Boyfriends or girlfriends not in a formal or common-law marriage.
- Foster parents.
- Stepchildren who are not legally adopted.
- Other relatives.
Proving a Wrongful Death Claim
In Texas, there are two elements you must prove to have a successful wrongful death claim.
- Statutory Beneficiary. You must prove that you are the statutory beneficiary of the deceased. This means that you have the legal right under Texas law to bring a wrongful death claim. You are the spouse, child, or parent of the deceased.
- Negligence. You must prove that the defendant or defendants acted in a negligent way that caused the death of your loved one.
Damages You Can Seek in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
There are a variety of forms of compensation you can seek in a wrongful death lawsuit. Those damages may include:
- Economic damages. These include the financial contributions lost when the victim died and the cost incurred, such as:
- Lost wages and benefits. If the deceased earned an income and/or had benefits such as a pension plan, you can sue to have the value of those financial benefits replaced. These losses can also include a lost future inheritance, such as a wife losing an inheritance from her husbands parents who are still living.
- Medical and funeral expenses.
- Non-economic damages. These are less tangible but often more valuable in economic terms, and include losses such as:
- Loss of companionship. The loss of a loved one in your life obviously has value beyond the financial loss. Perhaps the deceased person was your “go-to” for emotional support, or a wife who managed the home and raised your children. You can seek non-economic damages for the loss you have suffered.
- Pain and suffering. The grief and mental anguish associated with the loss of a loved one may also be considered, particularly if it caused you to miss work or lose a job.
- Loss of consortium is the loss of benefits of a family relationship, such as the loss of affection and sexual relations for a spouse, or the loss of a parent in the case of children.
- Punitive or exemplary damages. These damages are designed to punish a defendant, particularly when their behavior is egregious or associated with some aggravating factor, such as a drunk driver killing one of your loved ones.
How Are Damages Distributed in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Calculating damages in wrongful death claims is highly complex, and usually involves experts such as economists and actuaries. These expert witnesses provide calculations and provide their opinions on the proper amount of damages based off the claims made above.
Damages in a wrongful death case are typically distributed among the family members based on their specific degree of injury. For example, parents of the deceased person may be given a smaller portion for their pain and suffering than a spouse. Similarly, a spouse might receive the majority of the lost income, particularly if the parents are not dependent upon their lost child.
If a wrongful death case goes to trial, the court has full discretion over how to divide proceeds. Typically, jurors proffer the largest percentage of the proceeds to surviving spouses, followed by minor children, followed by parents of the deceased. In effect, the court tries to match the award to the degree of loss by each of the loved ones.
Common Accidents That Lead to Wrongful Death Suits
Serious accidents in Texas that most often cause wrongful death include, but are not limited to:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Industrial accidents
- Construction site accidents
- Boating accidents
- Chemical leaks or explosions
- Oil field accidents
- ATV accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Pedestrian accidents
Call Thompson Law Today for a Free Case Evaluation
If you are asking yourself when is the right time to contact a wrongful death attorney, the answer is NOW! Our law firm offers free consultations. Further, we charge no fee unless we win. You will not incur any attorney fees, court costs, legal expenses, or any other costs unless we recover money on your behalf.
If we do obtain a settlement for you, our fee will only come out of a portion of the settlement. When you have experienced the loss of a loved one, you need a law firm that is recognized as champions for their clients.
Call Thompson Law toll-free at 866-293-4768. We can help you determine whether you have a civil wrongful death claim. If so, we can help you protect your legal rights.