The loss of a loved one resulting from another person’s intentional harmful act, or an accident, takes a tremendous emotional toll on family members. Thinking about filing a Texas wrongful death lawsuit at such a time can be extremely painful and difficult.
Baumgartner Law Firm understands the importance of the grieving process. However, when a loved one dies, it can also cause significant financial hardship—and we want to do what we can to help you recover damages for your family member’s precipitate demise.
Every state has laws that hold persons or entities legally accountable for causing the death of another due to neglect, carelessness, or other reasons. These laws are designed to ease the financial burden on the victim’s families. This article examines how Texas defines a “wrongful death” as well as the Texas laws and process that could affect a wrongful death claim.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Texas
Texas Statute Section 71.002 states that if “neglect, a wrongful act, unskillfulness, carelessness, or default” by one party causes the death of another, a wrongful death claim if:
Further, Sec. 71.002 explains the Cause of Action as:
If liability exists under this section, a person is liable for damages arising from any injury that causes an individual’s death…[and] was caused by the person, his agent’s or servant’s wrongful act…[or] the injury was caused by an unsafe or harmful condition [of a utility or] machinery under the person’s control or operation.
The Process: Who May File a Texas Wrongful Death Claim?
Texas Wrongful Death Claim Law clearly defines who may file a claim as follows:
- Surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased–they may file the claim individually or as a group.
- If none of the above file a wrongful death claim within ninety days of the death, the deceased person’s representative or Executor of the Deceased’s Estate may file the claim
- A surviving family member may specifically request that the claim not be filed.
- Under particular circumstances, if the act or omission occurred in another state or a foreign country, it may still be possible to file a wrongful death claim in Texas.
- If a child was legally and fully adopted, they could file a wrongful death claim for the death of an adoptive parent.
- Adoptive parents are eligible to file a wrongful death claim on their adopted child
- An adopted child may not file a wrongful death claim of a biological parent
- Survivor siblings may not file a wrongful death claim for the loss of a biological or adopted sibling
Wrongful death is different from a criminal homicide case. In a criminal case, the charges are filed by the prosecuting attorney; the penalties for criminal homicide include probation, imprisonment, fines, or other sanctions. However, even if criminal charges are filed, a wrongful death claim may also be submitted.
Texas Wrongful Death Compensation and Damages
Damages awarded in a Texas wrongful death claim are paid to surviving family members or to the deceased’s estate; they are intended to compensate not only for financial losses but also:
- Emotional and mental suffering
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of inheritance they could have assembled had they lived an expected lifetime
- Loss of love, companionship, and comfort
- Medical bills related to the injury that resulted in the death
In Texas, Exemplary Damages (known as punitive damages in other states) may be awarded if a fatality is caused by gross negligence or a willful act or omission. The intended purpose of awarding punitive damages is not to cover financial losses, but rather, to punish an individual or entity and to deter similarly egregious behavior in the future.
Common wrongful death incidents include:
In a wrongful death claim, damages awarded are divided proportionately amongst the surviving family members–the court determines these proportions.
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Texas Wrongful Death Claim
Texas has a specific statute of limitations for filing a claim–two years unless one of the clearly defined exceptions apply. For more information and details, talk to an experienced Texas wrongful death lawyer at Baumgartner Law Firm
Settling A Claim
Wrongful death claims typically take years to settle—the average claim takes between 1-4 years, if not more. However, if the insurance company offers a low settlement and you accept when the case involves minors, the petition may take from a few weeks up to a couple of months. We highly recommend contacting our firm for a free consultation before agreeing to any amount the insurance company may offer.
If you believe you may have a legitimate wrongful death claim and would like more information about the Texas Statue on Wrongful Death or have questions about filing a wrongful death claim, the attorneys at Baumgartner Law Firm can assist with your case.
Baumgartner Law Firm has been winning record multi-million-dollar settlements for decades. We are deeply knowledgeable about the process of a wrongful death lawsuit, identifying potential defendants, and negotiating with the defendant’s insurance companies. We have been protecting the survivors of wrongful death victims in and Texas for over 35 years, fighting for and getting maximum compensation in every case.
We selectively represent accept cases to best represent our clients…and unless we win, we don’t get paid. Contact us for your free consultation today.