What You Need to Know Before Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Texas
When you lose a loved one in an accident, your first thoughts turn toward your family. How will you organize a burial or memorial? How will you move forward without this person? Sometimes, your questions about family turn to finances – particularly if you lost a spouse. How will you pay all of the medical debt? Can you afford to keep the house? The death of someone in your family is not only tragic, it devastates your way of life and can leave your finances in shambles. But, if your loved one was killed because of someone else’s negligence, you may be able to recover damages. These will not fix the situation, but they are key to being able to pay your bills and move forward with your life. For more information on filing a wrongful death claim, contact the skilled New Braunfels wrongful death attorney of The Bettersworth Law Firm.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
Certain family members or a person’s estate can file a civil wrongful death claim if a person was killed due to someone’s negligence, carelessness, or wrongful act. Texas statute Sections 71.002 and 71.003 explain that an individual has a right to file this type of suit if the person who was killed would have been able to sue the other party for a personal injury had he or she lived. Additionally, the person who files the suit must be able to show that he or she suffered actual injuries from the decedent’s death.
This type of claim has no effect on whether or not a criminal proceeding moves forward against the other party, nor does it rely solely on the outcome of such proceedings.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Not just anyone can take an individual or business to court over another person’s death. Under Texas law, parents, children of any age, and spouses of the deceased person can file a wrongful death lawsuit. There is no preference for one relative to file compared to the other, and all pertinent relatives can file together.
If no family member files within three months, the executor of the estate can file a claim in court. However, the family can try and block this if they do not want a wrongful death suit filed. Siblings and grandparents cannot file a wrongful death suit.
When Can You File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Like almost all potential lawsuits, there is a time limit for the family or estate to make a claim in court. In Texas, a wrongful death claim has a two-year statute of limitations, starting from the date of the person’s death.
This enables a family to contact an attorney and investigate their relative’s death. It is common for a family to not be sure exactly how their loved one died and whether or not another person or business can be held responsible. Once there is evidence of wrongdoing, the family may be more confident in filing a wrongful death claim.
What Can the Family Recover?
The family member who brings the wrongful death suit can potentially recover:
- Monetary losses such as the loss of the loved one’s income, care, services, and advice;
- Loss of companionship;
- Loss of inheritance; and
- Mental anguish.
Remember that you will need to prove these losses to a jury or judge. They are not guaranteed. In rare cases, punitive damages can be recoverable. This is usually if the other party caused the loved one’s death through gross negligence.
You may have many more questions about the death of your loved one or wrongful death suits in Texas. Call The Bettersworth Law Firm to schedule a free consultation.