If you lost a loved one as a result of a negligence-related accident, you may have considered the possibility of legal action. At Aldous \ Walker, we have proudly represented many families when they’ve lost someone they love because of a corporation or individual’s negligence. When we take such cases, we do so to hold individuals and corporations accountable, to get answers, to right injustices, and to help send a message to try to make sure no other family has to suffer a similar loss in the future. Our Dallas wrongful death attorneys believe it is important for families to understand the legal issues surrounding wrongful death lawsuits.
Our firm frequently counsels families regarding this area of law to help educate them. Because of this, we provide six important facts that we believe everyone should know about the wrongful death statute in Texas. If you have lost a loved one and are concerned that a corporation or individual may be responsible or if you wish to pursue a potential wrongful death claim to get answers or hold a defendant responsible, you should know the following:
Texas’ Definition of Wrongful Death
Under Chapter 71 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, wrongful death claims can be filed by certain parties if the death is caused by the wrongful act, carelessness, unskillfulness, neglect, or default of another person or corporation. This means that a wrongful death claims exists if a loved one dies because of the negligence of others, such as a drunk driving wreck, distracted driving collision, 18-wheeler truck wreck, doctor or hospital malpractice, defective product, an explosion or any other kind of error on someone or some company’s part. If this is the case, Texas statutes allow only certain parties to bring a wrongful death claim forward.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim?
In Texas, wrongful death claims may be filed by certain members of the decedent’s family. This includes the surviving spouse, the children, and the parents of the decedent. In some cases, an adopted child may file a wrongful death claim if the adoption was legally and fully completed. Adoptive parents may also file a wrongful death claim for their adopted child. These claims may be filed as a single action or the members of the family can group together to file a claim.
No Claims for Siblings
Unfortunately, under Texas law, the surviving siblings of a decedent — whether adopted or biological — cannot file a wrongful death claim. The claim must be filed by one of the above and the siblings are not part of a claim if it is grouped together by the parents, children, or surviving spouse of the decedent.
Types of Damages
Damages awarded in wrongful death claims exist to compensate the family members for their losses experienced when losing a loved. The types of damages that are recoverable vary and often depend if the claimant is a surviving spouse, a parent, or a child.
The most common damages include:
- Mental anguish
- Lost earning capacity
- Lost inheritance (what would have been financially gained had the decedent lived a full life)
- Lost household services
- Lost care, support, guidance, or counsel
- Lost love or companionship
There are some cases, when the act is done willfully or by gross negligence, that the family may be able to recover exemplary — or punitive — damages to penalize or punish the defendant for their gross negligence and to send a message to help ensure such gross negligence does not happen again
In addition to compensating the family members for their losses, Chapter 71 also allows the recovery of damages for the estate of the decedent. These are damages that the decedent would have been able to recover if the decedent was alive to bring a lawsuit. Recoverable survival damages include the physical pain and suffering and the mental anguish that decedent experienced before dying. Examples of such damages include if as a result of a person or corporation’s negligence a loved one burns to death, slowly dies after a collision, or is taken to a hospital and survives for some time before passing away, the law allows a recovery for the mental anguish and pain and suffering the decedent experienced and would have been able to have recover if he or she lived. Also in this category of damages would be medical expenses incurred in trying to save the decedent or burial expenses, both of which are debts of the decedent’s estate and not the surviving family members.
Statute of Limitations
In the state of Texas, the surviving family members are required to file their lawsuit within two years of the decedent’s death. There are a few rare and limited exceptions that apply to this rule, but the best practice is to assume that a lawsuit needs to be brought before the two year deadline has passed. Because wrongful death lawsuits are complex matters, it is best to talk to an attorney as early as possible to allow time to investigate and properly bring the claim before the deadline.
If you need to file a wrongful death claim or would like more information, contact our firm today. Our Dallas wrongful death lawyers have a passion for representing individuals and protecting their rights.