The death of a close family member is a tragedy. The pain can feel even worse if their death was avoidable. Surviving family members could bring legal action against the responsible defendants when a loved one dies because of another party. Pursuing a wrongful death claim can be complicated. Fortunately, you can seek legal assistance from an accomplished Texas wrongful death lawyer at Fadduol, Cluff, Hardy & Conaway, P.C.
Our attorneys have decades of experience assisting grieving families as they seek to hold the responsible parties accountable. We recognize the serious nature of wrongful death lawsuits, and we know what’s at stake for your family. Our Texas wrongful death attorneys will be there when you need someone to fight tirelessly for you.
What Does Texas Law Consider Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is when someone dies because of another party’s action or inaction. Negligence, recklessness, and intentional misconduct can lead to wrongful death. A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil remedy for certain surviving family members to recover compensation from liable parties.
Common Types of Accidents That Lead to a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Numerous types of accidents and events can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit.
Some of the most common causes include:
- Auto accidents,
- Truck accidents,
- Work-related accidents,
- Defective products,
- Maritime accidents,
- Oil field accidents,
- Nursing home abuse,
- Construction site accidents, and
- Criminal acts.
Unfortunately, our wrongful death lawyers often see these lawsuits arising from auto accidents. According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), 2021 was the second deadliest year on Texas roads since the TxDOT started tracking fatalities in 1940. In 2021, 4,480 people died on Texas roads. 1981 saw the highest fatalities at 4,701.
To receive compensation when a loved one dies, surviving family members must establish fault against the responsible parties. Contact our Texas wrongful death law firm to discuss your legal options if you believe someone else is responsible for your family member’s death.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas?
Every state has laws allowing surviving family members to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Under Texas wrongful death laws, only the surviving spouse, surviving children, and parents of a victim have the right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.
The rule is that only surviving children, the surviving spouse, or the parents can file an action in the first three months following the victim’s death. Once the three months pass, the estate executor can file a wrongful death lawsuit if no other family members have filed. Although the executor files, beneficiaries are still the spouse, children, and parents.
Texas law does not allow other family members to file a wrongful death lawsuit. That means no siblings, aunts, uncles, or cousins can file. Former spouses have no legal standing to file either.
Types of Potential Compensation in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Damages in a wrongful death lawsuit vary from other types of personal injury actions. Wrongful death lawsuits compensate surviving family members for their damages—not the losses experienced by the decedent before death.
Every case differs, but recoverable damages might include:
- Loss of the decedent’s earning capacity: This is money that the victim would have contributed toward the support of surviving family members;
- Loss of society and companionship: This includes the emotional support and love the victim provided to family members;
- Loss of household services: This includes assistance and chores the victim would have provided if they’d lived;
- Loss of inheritance and assets: This includes items that surviving family members reasonably anticipated receiving if the victim had lived and ultimately passed these items on; and
- The mental anguish of grieving family members.
In cases where the defendant’s actions involved intentional bad acts or gross negligence, surviving family members might be entitled to punitive damages—also called exemplary damages. Courts reserve punitive damages for specific and rare cases where the bad acts were particularly egregious. The goal of such damages is to punish the wrongdoer. Your Texas wrongful death lawyer will advise you on whether the court might award punitive damages in your case.
Statute of Limitations
Eligible family members only have a certain amount of time to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas. In most cases, you have two years from the date of death to file. But the law allows for several exceptions to the two-year filing deadline.
Examples that could toll or suspend the filing deadline include when:
- The plaintiff is not of sound mind;
- The person responsible has temporarily left Texas;
- The plaintiff is a minor whose parents were killed;
- The defendant dies before you file a wrongful death claim; or
- When the cause of death is not known to involve negligence until a later date.
Determining the proper filing deadline can be complicated. Do not assume the appropriate statute of limitations in your case is two years from the date of death without speaking to a lawyer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Understandably, prospective clients have many questions about how wrongful death lawsuits work. Here are answers to a few of the most common questions we receive.
What Is a Survival Action?
Survival claims work differently than wrongful death lawsuits, but they are often filed together. While wrongful death cases seek to compensate family members for their losses, survival actions seek to compensate for the hardships suffered by the decedent before they died. The estate representative must file a survival claim, and the deceased must have had a personal injury cause of action. That means they would’ve been entitled to bring a claim for injuries had they survived.
Can I Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit if There Is a Criminal Case?
Wrongful death lawsuits are civil actions involving financial compensation. A criminal case is an entirely different cause of action that is brought in the criminal court system—not the civil system. So the existence of a criminal case does not preclude you from filing a civil lawsuit.
How Do You Prove Fault in a Wrongful Death Case?
To receive compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit, you must prove:
- The defendant owed the deceased a legal duty,
- The defendant breached their duty,
- The breach of duty is what led to your family member’s death, and
- Surviving family members suffered damages.
Proving liability in a wrongful death lawsuit can be tricky. Don’t go at it alone; let our wrongful death lawyers help.
Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney in Texas
Choosing the right Texas wrongful death lawyer is crucial. Don’t hire a personal injury lawyer who has no experience with wrongful death cases and trials. When death is involved, the defendants will fight liability even harder to reduce or eliminate their exposure. Don’t let the defendants’ insurance companies or lawyers take advantage of you. Let Fadduol, Cluff, Hardy & Conaway, P.C., assist you. With our decades of experience, we know how to fight for you. Contact our office online or call (800) 433-2408 today to schedule a free consultation.