What to Know About Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Texas
Accidents alone are difficult to deal with, but when those accidents lead to death, they become much more grave. While nothing may bring back the life of a loved one, the surviving members of the family may be able to receive some compensation for their loss. Here’s everything you need to know about wrongful death lawsuits in Texas.
In Texas, a person’s surviving spouse, parent, or child can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the victim. The family has 3 months from the date of death to file the suit, but if nothing is filed by then, a personal representative may file it. The statute of limitations for wrongful death suits is 2 years.
What is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is a civil action lawsuit that is filed when someone seeks damages for a death that resulted from another party’s actions, whether they were intentional or not. This is usually done if a criminal action lawsuit failed or was not attempted. Each state has wrongful death statutes and statutes of limitations.
Wrongful death claims can generally be thought of as personal injury claims that could have been issued if the injured person had not passed away. Now that the injured person can no longer file their own claim, a survivor of the injured party may step in their place and file it for them.
What Are Some Examples of Wrongful Deaths?
Wrongful death suits are usually based on negligence, medical malpractice, or intentional acts. Examples of wrongful deaths caused by negligence include car accidents, work accidents, and death by critically defective products. An example of wrongful death based on medical malpractice is if a lethal complication occurred during surgery due to the doctor’s negligence.
An intentional act that causes a wrongful death may be considered a criminal act, depending on the scenario and the discretion of the plaintiff.
What is the Difference Between Wrongful Death and Criminal Homicide?
In wrongful death cases, the defendant will solely be compensated through financial means. This differs from a criminal homicide case. In homicide cases, a conviction could lead to numerous different outcomes, such as jail time, fines to the state, probation, community service, or other penalties. Financial compensation directly to the defendant is not necessarily prioritized.
Another difference is that the defendant must be proven guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” in criminal lawsuits. This is not the case for civil lawsuits, in which the plaintiff must prove the defendant’s liability “by a preponderance of the evidence.” Essentially, the plaintiff must show that the defendant is at fault and responsible for the death.
How Does Texas Define Wrongful Death?
In Texas, several factors may indicate when wrongful death occurs. According to Texas Code §§ 71.001 to 71.003, these factors include when:
- An injury causes death or fetal miscarriage
- An injury caused by someone else’s wrongful neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default causes death or fetal miscarriage
- An injured person would have been entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit if they had lived
Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death in Texas
There is a specific time frame in which one must file a court case or else the ability to file will become invalidated, and they will no longer be able to receive compensation. This is known as the statute of limitations.
According to Texas Code §§ 16.003, the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases is 2 years. Once 2 years pass from the date of the accident, the victim’s survivors may no longer file a wrongful death case. So, if someone hopes to receive compensation for a wrongful death, it is better to act quickly rather than wait. Otherwise, they may lose their opportunity to receive repayment for damages.
Who Can File for Wrongful Death?
Since the person who was injured cannot file the lawsuit themselves, someone else must file the case on their behalf. The question then becomes who can file the wrongful death lawsuit. In Texas, the deceased person’s surviving spouse, children, or parents may file the claim.
If a spouse, child, or parent does not file a wrongful death claim within 3 months from the date of the death, then a personal representative may file the claim instead. However, if all surviving family members request that the lawsuit not be filed, then the case will not move forward.
If you are facing a wrongful death charge in Texas and need a lawyer, get your free consultation with a Her Lawyer attorney today.