A wrongful death claim is a legal claim is brought by surviving family members or the estate of a person who died as a result of someone else’s wrongful, negligent, or careless act – or failure to act. Because the victim of a wrongful death claim obviously cannot bring the claim himself or herself, that right is transferred to another party – usually a family member of the deceased.
Wrongful death claims are unique in that they are civil cases, but they can be brought alongside any criminal charges that might apply. To lose a loved one to someone else’s wrongful act or omission is extremely painful, and no amount of compensation can ever make up for that loss. A wrongful death case, however, can help those left behind find closure and obtain the compensation necessary to move forward into their forever-altered futures.
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
In Texas, a wrongful death claim can be filed by specific family members, including:
- The surviving spouse
- The surviving children
- The surviving parents
Any of these relatives can file the wrongful death claim individually, or they can join together to file as a group. It is worth mentioning that, in the State of Texas, surviving siblings cannot file wrongful death claims on behalf of a lost brother or sister. If a relative of the deceased fails to file a claim within three months of the victim’s death, a personal representative or executor of the deceased’s estate can do so.
The damages sought in a wrongful death claim refer to the losses the family members and the estate experienced as a result of the victim’s untimely death. Such damages can include:
- The loss of the deceased’s earnings into the future
- The family members’ loss of the deceased’s care, services, support, maintenance, advice, and counsel
- The mental and emotional pain suffered
- The family members’ loss of love, companionship, society, and comfort
- The family members’ loss of potential inheritance – had the deceased lived to his or her life expectancy
While these damages are all intended to financially compensate the bereaved family for their losses, sometimes Texas courts will also invoke punitive damages, which are intended to punish the negligent party and to send a strong message that gross negligence will not be tolerated by the State of Texas.
Statute of Limitations
In Texas–unless one of the very few, very narrow exceptions apply–a wrongful death claim must be brought within two years of the victim's death.