Losing a loved one is devastating, especially when it is the result of someone else’s careless actions.
If you have lost someone you love due to the negligence or wrongful act of another, you may be entitled to relief. A wrongful death lawsuit in Texas can provide you with the compensation you need to begin the process toward recovery.
Texas Wrongful Death Statute: An Overview
Texas law defines wrongful death as the “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default” that causes the death of another person. While the definition appears relatively simple, proving a wrongful death claim can be more complicated than it might seem.
The most common type of wrongful death action is based in negligence. To prevail on a negligence claim, you must prove the existence of these four elements:
The first element of a negligence claim is proving the existence of a legal “duty.” This means you must show that the opposing party owed your loved one a duty to use reasonable care to reasonably prevent harm under the circumstances.
Next, a plaintiff in a wrongful death action must show that the opposing party breached their duty. This means that you must prove that the opposing party did not act as a reasonably prudent person would have under the same circumstances.
Examples of a breach of a legal duty in a wrongful death lawsuit might include:
- A driver speeding or failing to adhere to posted traffic regulations;
- A doctor not providing the level of care expected of someone of their skill and experience; or
- A business owner failing to ensure that no hazardous conditions exist on their premises.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Contact an attorney today to discuss whether a party breached their duty to your loved one.
Third, you must show that the opposing party’s breach was the cause of your loved one’s death. This causal link can be one of the most difficult elements to prove. You have to prove that your loved one’s death occurred because the opposing party breached his or her duty.
Lastly, you must prove that damages exist. Damages in a wrongful death action are those suffered by the victim’s loved ones. Examples might include:
- Lost earning capacity of the deceased;
- Loss of or diminished inheritance;
- Lost care, support, companionship, and love of the deceased; and
- Pain, suffering, and mental and emotional anguish caused by the deceased’s death.
Some of these damages may be hard to quantify. However, an experienced attorney can help you calculate your potential Texas wrongful death damages in an effort to maximize your recovery.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas?
One important thing to note about wrongful death claims is that not all loved ones may bring one. Only certain people may file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas.
Specifically, Texas law states that the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased are entitled to bring a suit for wrongful death. These are the only parties that may bring such an action. Thus, even close friends, siblings, or grandparents of the deceased are not permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas.
However, if none of the statutorily permitted family members bring a wrongful death suit within three months of the death, the administrator of the deceased’s estate may then bring the suit.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death in Texas?
In Texas, a loved one must file a wrongful death claim within two years from the date of their family member’s death.
There are specific exceptions to the two-year statute of limitations, including when the individual bringing the claim is a minor child, when defendants were initially unknown, or in the case of a plaintiff’s mental or physical incapacity.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is a statutory time period in which you must file a legal action.
The Texas wrongful death statute of limitations is two years from the date of the victim’s death. This means that you must file your wrongful death lawsuit in Texas within two years after the death of your loved one.
Failure to do so within the Texas wrongful death statute of limitations deadline can result in losing your right to bring your claim at all.
Are There Any Exceptions to the Texas Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations?
In most cases, a wrongful death suit must be brought within two years of the date of the victim’s death. However, there are a few limited exceptions to this two-year timeframe.
These exceptions include situations in which:
- The plaintiff of the wrongful death suit is under the age of 18 at the time of the death;
- The defendant’s negligence was not known and could not have been discovered during the two-year time period;
- The plaintiff of the wrongful death suit has a mental or physical impairment that prevented the filing of the suit within the two-year period; or
- The defendant committed fraud.
An experienced Texas wrongful death attorney can help you determine whether an exception exists and how this might impact your ability to bring a lawsuit.
Contact a Texas Wrongful Death Attorney Today
An attorney can help you evaluate your case, assess your claims, determine what damages you might be entitled to, and fight for your rights at every step along the way.
At The Zimmerman Law Firm, we know just how difficult it is to deal with the loss of someone you love. That’s why we work tirelessly to provide you with the support and representation you need and deserve.
We pride ourselves on the personal attention we are able to provide to each and every one of our clients. Your case is important to us, and we want you to know that you will be a priority with our team.