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 wrongful death action.
If someone you love has been killed because of someone else’s negligence, then you may be able to claim compensation. While no amount of money can begin to heal your grief, it can ensure that you are not left paying medical bills and funeral expenses because of the reckless actions of another person. You may also be compensated for the loss of income to your family household as well as compensation for your emotional pain and suffering.
At Abraham Watkins, we understand the care and dedication these cases require. We will help you pursue justice 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, making us one of the longest-serving law firms in the state. Whatever the circumstances of your wrongful death claim, we have the skills, resources, and experience necessary to achieve the best possible outcome.
We offer a free consultation, where we will assess your case and determine whether it is worth pursuing. We know when to fight for a quick settlement and when to go the distance to ensure you receive what you deserve. Call us today at 713-535-9319.
What is a Texas Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
According to Texas state law, wrongful death is a death caused by the neglectful, careless, or unskillful actions of another party. 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.
When the wrongful act of another party causes an injury that leads to someone’s death, their family members may be owed compensation. With the help of a wrongful death attorney they can file a lawsuit and hold the at-fault party accountable and claim damages for their financial and emotional suffering.
Wrongful death claims can be filed for many reasons, but some common causes are:
- Medical errors
- Car accidents
- Criminal acts
- Equipment failure
- Defective products
- Dangerous chemicals
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 could still claim compensation.
Immediate Family May File a Texas Wrongful Death Claim
In Texas, the law only allows for the deceased person’s spouse, children, or parents to file a wrongful death lawsuit. They have just three months from the date of death to file, after which a personal representative must file on the family’s behalf.
- Surviving Spouse – A surviving spouse can claim if the marriage was formal or by common law. They may also have a basis to claim if they were separated at the time of death.
- Surviving Children – Biological children or children who were legally adopted can file 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 someone must do so on their behalf.
- Surviving Parents – Biological parents or adoptive parents can 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, then their biological parents cannot claim.
Personal Representatives May File a Texas Wrongful Death Claim
If the immediate family members do not file a wrongful death claim within the first three months of their loved one’s death, then a personal representative of the estate may claim. The personal representative has two years from the individual’s death to make a claim.
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 such as medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages. On the other hand, the bereaved are entitled to damages for 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 deceased can file a claim. That means that grandparents, siblings, and other relatives are prevented from making a claim. So too, is a long-term partner who was never in a formal or common law marriage with the deceased.
While adoptive parents and children can make a claim, foster parents, foster children, stepparents, and stepchildren are unable to make a claim.
Other members of the estate or even people named in the will are also unable to file.
What Types of Damages Are Possible in a Texas Wrongful Death Suit?
An experienced, wrongful death attorney will understand how to evidence your damages so that they are difficult to dispute. Some of the damages family members may be able to claim in a wrongful death claim 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
- 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. 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 level the playing field. They will investigate the case and gather evidence to ensure that your claim for compensation is as strong as it can be. Most people who have representation end up with a higher amount in compensation, even after legal fees are considered, thanks to the skills and resources that their legal representation provides.
Who Can Sue For Wrongful Death in Texas FAQ
Who can file a wrongful death claim in Texas?
In accordance with Texas law, 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. Or 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’s wrongful death laws, family members have three years from their loved one’s death to make a claim. Alternatively, the representative of the deceased person’s estate has up to two years to file a wrongful death claim on their behalf. This is known as the statute of limitations.
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.
Call Abraham Watkins For a Free Consultation Today!
At Abraham Watkins, we have a long history of successful claims under our belts, and we will fight your case to the fullest extent.
When a loved one dies because 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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