Why Should I File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Filing a wrongful death claim will not bring your loved one back. It will not return your life back to where it was before their death. It will not take away your grief. What it can do is hold the responsible party accountable for their actions, which could keep them from ever taking another life again.
Following your loved one’s unexpected death, you will be faced with medical and funeral expenses. You may no longer have their income to support you and your family. A wrongful death settlement can help ease the financial burden you face.
What Is a Wrongful Death in Texas?
Wrongful death is when a party can be held liable for damages resulting from injury that causes another person’s death that occurs as the result of that party’s wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or evasion of the duty of care they owed to the decedent.
Someone owed your loved one a duty of care and through their actions or inactions, they failed to uphold that duty. If they had lived, they would have been able to file a personal injury claim against the liable parties. Since they are not here to do so, their survivors can file a wrongful death claim.
There is a two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death actions in Texas. An insurance claim must be settled or a wrongful death case filed in the appropriate Texas court within two years of the date of death. However, if the only person eligible to file the wrongful death action is a minor child, the two-year time limit does not begin until the child turns the age of 18.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Action in Texas?
Only certain people can file a wrongful death action in Texas, including the surviving spouse, the children of the decedent, and the parents of the decedent.
If there is no spouse, children, or parents, or if the spouse, children, or parents do not file a wrongful death claim within three months of the death, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate may file a wrongful death action to recover damages for the estate. Proceeds from the estate would then be distributed according to the decedent’s will. If there is no will, the court will appoint a personal representative, and proceeds of the estate will be distributed according to the law of intestate succession.
What Damages Can I Recover in a Wrongful Death Action?
Survivors may recover compensation for damages including:
- Mental pain and anguish;
- Loss of love, comfort, companionship, and society;
- Loss of the care, services, and guidance the decedent would have given the family;
- Loss of the income the decedent would have contributed to the family; and,
- Loss of the inheritance the decedent would have left for the family.
In instances where the negligent party’s action showed gross negligence or willful action, a jury might also award punitive damages. Also called “exemplary damages,” this award would be a large amount of money designed to punish the party and make them an example to others to discourage such behavior.