In accordance with Texas Statutes section 71.001, a deceased person’s children, parents, or surviving spouse may file a wrongful death lawsuit, or one or more of those individuals may do so on behalf of them all.
If a wrongful death claim is not filed within the first three months of their death, then a personal representative, also known as the executor or administrator of the deceased person’s estate, may file instead. However, if all the surviving family members listed above request that a lawsuit not be filed, then the personal representative will be prevented from taking action.
If someone you love has been killed as a result of someone else’s negligence, then you may be entitled to compensation. While no amount of money will bring back your loved one, it may ensure that you are not left paying medical bills and funeral expenses as well as the loss of income to your family household. You may also be compensated for your emotional pain and suffering.
At Abraham Watkins, we understand the care and dedication these cases require. We will pursue justice on your behalf and will keep you as informed as you choose to be. We will take over the legal battle so that you can have the space to grieve.
We have been serving victims in Texas for more than seven decades and are recognized as one of the oldest personal injury and wrongful death law firms in the state. At Abraham Watkins, we maintain the skills, resources, and experience necessary to achieve the best possible outcome for your and your family.
We offer free consultations to evaluate your case and determine if it meets the criteria required by the law. We know when to fight for an expedient settlement and when to go the distance to ensure you receive what you and your family deserve. Call us today at 713-535-9319.
What is a Texas Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The Texas Wrongful Death Statute permits family members to sue for damages when their loved one is killed by the wrongful actions of another person. Pursuant to Texas state law, wrongful death is defined as the wrongful actions, neglect, carelessness, or unskillfulness that causes the death of a person. This includes an unborn child who has not been born alive due to the negligence of another party. If the person had lived, they would have been eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Wrongful death claims may be pursued for many reasons, including the following common causes:
- Medical errors;
- Vehicular accidents;
- Criminal acts;
- Equipment failure;
- Defective products; and
- Chemical plant explosions.
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim, which means that the party responsible faces financial penalties and not criminal ones such as jail time. Sometimes the at-fault party could face both criminal and civil charges. However, criminal prosecution is not necessary for a successful wrongful death lawsuit. The burden of proof in civil cases is lower, which means that even if a criminal charge is not successful, you may successfully obtain compensation.
Immediate Family May File a Texas Wrongful Death Claim
In Texas, wrongful death claims may be filed by certain members of the decedent’s family, including the decedent’s spouse, children, and parents. Unfortunately, Texas law does not allow siblings of a decedent to file a wrongful death claim.
- Surviving Spouse – A surviving spouse is a wrongful death beneficiary–and there is potential for a common law spouse to be deemed a “spouse” for purposes of the statute. Spouses may also have a basis to pursue a wrongful death claim if they were separated at the time of death.
- Surviving Children – Biological children or children who were legally adopted may pursue a wrongful death claim. However, adopted children are prevented from filing on behalf of their biological parents. The children of the deceased must be legal adults; if they are not, then an adult representative must do so on their behalf.
- Surviving Parents – Biological parents or adoptive parents may file a wrongful death claim on behalf of their child, even if the parents have divorced. However, they must have been legally recognized as their parent, if a child is adopted, and their biological parents subsequently may note pursue a claim.
Personal Representatives May File a Texas Wrongful Death Claim
If the immediate family members do not file a wrongful death suit within the first three months of their loved one’s death, then a personal representative of the estate may pursue the claim. The personal representative must file a wrongful death claim within two years from the individual’s death due to the statute of limitations.
However, if the immediate family members of the deceased do not wish the representative of their estate to make a claim, then they will be prevented from doing so.
The personal representative is the person who manages the affairs of the deceased. It could be an administrator or an executor, depending on the situation. If someone had a will, then they would have a named executor. If they died without a will, then the court may nominate an administrator who does not need to be a family member.
When the representative makes a claim, they are not entitled to any of the resulting benefits. The lawsuit is still on behalf of the estate and the benefit of their loved ones. The court will distribute the recovered damages from the lawsuit.
In a successful wrongful death claim, the estate will recover damages that would have otherwise been recoverable by the deceased (had they survived) such as medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages. On the other hand, the bereaved family members may be entitled to compensation for the loss of financial support and loss of companionship.
Who Cannot File Wrongful Death Claims in Texas?
In Texas, only the spouse, children, and parents of the decedent may file a claim. That means that grandparents, siblings, and other relatives are prevented from filing a claim. So too, is a long-term partner who was never in a formal or common law marriage with the decedent.
While adoptive parents and children may file a claim, foster parents, foster children, stepparents, and stepchildren are unable to file a wrongful death claim.
Other members of the estate or even people named in the will are also unable to file a wrongful death claim.
What Types of Damages Are Possible in a Texas Wrongful Death Suit?
An experienced, wrongful death attorney will understand how to evidence and prove up your damages so that they are difficult for the other parties to dispute. Some of the damages that family members may be able to claim in a wrongful death suit include:
- Lost earning capacity;
- Medical bills incurred before they died;
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- Mental pain and suffering are experienced by the surviving family members;
- Lost support, care, advice, and maintenance the deceased would have provided their family members;
- Loss of love, comfort, and companionship;
- Lost inheritance, including what they would have likely left had they lived; and
- Punitive damages might be available if the death was a result of a “willful act or omission or gross negligence.” The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the perpetrator and deter others from engaging in similar conduct rather than compensate the victims. Punitive damages can only be awarded by a judge.
Do I Need to Hire a Texas Wrongful Death Lawyer?
Texas wrongful death laws are highly complex, and while there is nothing that legally prevents you from seeking compensation without an attorney, it is not recommended.
Firstly, it is important that you can focus on your family during this difficult time, and a wrongful death attorney will take over the entire legal process and take away a lot of the stress.
Secondly, it can be difficult to prove that your loved one’s death was preventable/avoidable. Most wrongful death claims involve insurance companies that have large legal teams on their side. Their only job is to save the company money by limiting how much compensation they need to pay.
When you have a Texas wrongful death attorney to support you, they will investigate and gather evidence to ensure that your claim for compensation is as strong as it can be.
Who Can Sue For Wrongful Death in Texas FAQ
Who can file a wrongful death claim in Texas?
Pursuant to the Texas Wrongful Death Statute, wrongful death lawsuits can only be filed by the deceased person’s spouse, children, or parents, or one or more of those individuals on behalf of them all. Alternatively, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate may file a claim on behalf of the family members.
Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas?
Immediate family members recover the money in a wrongful death lawsuit. Even if a personal representative files the claim, they can only do so on behalf of the estate and the family members, and they do not recover anything.
How Long Do You Have to Sue for Wrongful Death in Texas?
In accordance with Texas’ laws and the statute of limitations, family members have two years from the date of their loved one’s death to file a claim. Similarly, the representative of the deceased person’s estate has two years to file a wrongful death claim on the decedent’s behalf.
We always recommend that family members get in touch with us as soon as possible, as the sooner we get to work to investigate your claim, the stronger the evidence is likely to be in your case. In addition, some cases can take a substantial amount of time to investigate fully.
How Much Will it Cost me to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
At Abraham Watkins, we believe that everyone should have access to high-quality legal representation, which is why we offer a free consultation and work on a contingency fee basis. That means we are only paid if your claim is successful, and if, for whatever reason, it does not succeed, we will not be paid anything. We do not ask you to pay anything upfront.
Call Abraham Watkins For a Free Consultation Today!
At Abraham Watkins, we have a long history of successful claims, and we will fight your case to the fullest extent.
When a loved one dies as a result of someone else’s negligence, it is incredibly emotional. No amount of compensation can make up for what has happened. However, you should not be left suffering financially as a result, and it is important that the at-fault party is held responsible.
We offer a free consultation so that you can gain clarity on your situation before you make any decisions. If you want to proceed, we will get to work quickly to build the most compelling case possible.Call us today for a free consultation with an experienced wrongful death lawyer at 713-535-9319.
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If you have additional questions about your accident or injuries – or if you wish to speak to one of our attorneys about your legal options – please complete our online contact form or call our Houston law office at 888-261-8831 or 713-244-5486.
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