A Comprehensive Guide to Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas
Death is a natural part of life. However, when the premature death of a loved one is caused by someone else’s negligent or intentional conduct, the surviving family members may want justice. Losing a loved one is a painful and life-altering experience for the entire family.
Like other states, Texas adopted statutes to allow surviving family members to file a wrongful death lawsuit and seek financial compensation for the losses and damages caused by another party. While nothing can replace your loved one, obtaining compensation can provide a much-needed sense of justice and lessen the financial burden associated with the death of a family member.
If your loved one died because of another party’s accidental or intentional act, consider speaking with a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney in Texas to discuss your legal options. At the Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard, our wrongful death attorney has vigorously advocated for the rights and interests of countless families throughout Texas.
Contact our law firm online or call (254) 220-4225 to receive a free consultation with a wrongful death attorney at the Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard.
What Is Considered ‘Wrongful Death’ in Texas?
Under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 71.002, surviving family members may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit when a person dies due to another party’s negligence, wrongful act, recklessness, carelessness, default, or intentional conduct.
In other words, a wrongful death lawsuit is a type of personal injury claim that the deceased would have filed against the defendant (the negligent party) had they lived. In terms of the cause of action, wrongful death cases can be broken down into three types:
If you lost a loved one and believe that you might be entitled to compensation by pursuing a wrongful death claim, consider speaking with a lawyer to understand your legal options.
What Situations Give Rise to Wrongful Death Lawsuits?
The following situations may give rise to a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas:
Motor vehicle accidents, including car accidents. Unfortunately, some motor vehicle accidents are fatal. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, nearly 3,900 people died in traffic accidents in 2020 alone. Surviving family members may be entitled to compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit if they can prove that the other party involved in the accident was negligent.
Workplace accidents. While Texas law requires all employers to provide a safe working environment free of hazards, thousands of Texans die in workplace accidents and as a result of occupational disease. According to the Texas Department of Insurance, more than 600 people experienced fatal occupational injuries in the state.
Medical malpractice. According to a report by Public Citizen, the number of preventable deaths caused by medical errors in Texas ranges from 3,260 to 7,261 each year. In order to sue a doctor or another healthcare provider for medical malpractice, surviving family members must prove that the provider deviated from the accepted standards of care.
Product liability. Unfortunately, there are thousands of defective products available to consumers, and some of them may cause death. A wrongful death lawsuit is likely to arise when someone dies as a result of using a defective motor vehicle, toy, or pharmaceutical drug.
If you believe that you and other surviving family members are entitled to compensation following the death of your loved one, speak with our wrongful death attorney at the Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard to discuss your legal options.
Who Is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas?
Not everyone is entitled to compensation under Texas’s wrongful death statutes. Only specific family members of a deceased individual can recover damages through a wrongful death lawsuit. Under Texas law, the following individuals are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit after the death of a loved one:
The deceased person’s surviving wife or husband;
The deceased’s children
The deceased’s parents
In Texas, if the eligible family members do not bring a wrongful death lawsuit within 90 days of the date of the deceased’s death, the personal representative or executor of the decedent’s estate will have a right to file the claim. Unlike other states, Texas does not allow surviving siblings to obtain compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Proving Negligence in a Wrongful Death Case
When filing a wrongful death claim in Texas, plaintiffs (the surviving family members seeking compensation) must prove negligence on the part of the defendant. Negligence means that someone else failed to use reasonable care. In order to prevail in a wrongful death case in Texas, the plaintiffs’ lawyer will have to establish the following four elements:
Duty of care. The defendant owed the deceased person a duty of care.
Breach. The defendant breached the duty of care because of a negligent act or omission.
Causation. The breach of the duty of care resulted in the accident that led to the decedent’s death.
Damages. The plaintiffs suffered economic and/or non-economic damages because of the death of their loved one.
Consider hiring a skilled wrongful death lawyer in Texas to help you investigate the death of your loved one and help you get the compensation and justice you deserve. Our knowledgeable wrongful death attorney at the Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard can guide you through the legal process and hold negligent parties accountable for their actions while you focus on recovering from your loss.
Recoverable Damages in Texas Wrongful Death Lawsuits
In wrongful death cases, the term “damages” refers to any losses and damages – both economic and non-economic – that surviving family members have incurred due to the death of their loved one.
Funeral and burial expenses
Loss of support
Loss of services
Loss of household income
Mental anguish and distress
Loss of companionship
Loss of inheritance
Loss of love and companionship
Loss of care and guidance
These and many other losses are known as compensatory damages and are intended to compensate the surviving family members for their monetary and non-monetary losses. However, recoverable damages in wrongful death cases are not limited to compensatory damages.
Texas civil courts also award exemplary damages, also known as punitive damages, as a way of punishment. Exemplary damages are not meant to compensate the surviving family members for their loss. Instead, these damages are awarded to punish the defendant for their outrageous conduct and deter the defendant and others from similar conduct.
In Texas, courts award exemplary damages when a personal injury or wrongful death case involves fraud or malice (Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 41.001).
Is a Survival Action Claim the Same as a Wrongful Death Claim?
Many people mistakenly believe that a survival action claim and a wrongful death lawsuit are the same things. Similar to a wrongful death claim, a survival action claim can be filed after the death of a person caused by someone else’s negligent, reckless, wrongful, or intentional conduct.
However, the two claims are different because:
While a wrongful death claim can be filed by surviving family members (as mentioned earlier), a survival action claim is filed by the representative or executor of the deceased person’s estate.
A survival action claim is focused solely on the damages sustained by the deceased person between the time of their injury and the date of their death.
The damages recovered through a surviving action claim will be put into the deceased person’s estate, while the damages awarded in a wrongful death case will be distributed among eligible family members.
If the situation warrants filing a survival action claim, the deceased person’s estate can seek compensation for the following types of damages:
Lost wages between the date of the injury and the date of the death
Medical expenses that the deceased person or their family members incurred before the death
Pain and suffering and other types of emotional trauma suffered by the victim
Consult with a skilled attorney to review your unique situation and determine if you can receive compensation for your losses through a survival action and wrongful death claims.
How Much Compensation Will Family Members Receive?
When plaintiffs prevail in their wrongful death case, the damages award will be distributed among eligible family members. However, determining how much compensation each family member will receive can be problematic.
The amount of money each surviving family member will receive depends on whether the case goes to trial or is settled pre-trial:
If your lawsuit goes to trial, the jury will have full discretion to decide how to distribute the award between the family members.
If the wrongful death case is settled pre-trial, it will be up to the surviving family members to decide how the award will be distributed among them.
Disputes regarding the distribution of the damages award are not uncommon in wrongful death cases. If surviving family members cannot reach a consensus on the division of compensation in their wrongful death case, it might be necessary to contact a wrongful death attorney to facilitate negotiations and reach a mutually beneficial agreement.
The Time Limit for a Texas Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Every state has its own statute of limitation for filing lawsuits, including wrongful death lawsuits. In order to preserve your right to compensation and obtain the compensation to which you are entitled, you must file a wrongful death lawsuit within a specific period of time.
If a lawsuit is filed after the statute of limitations has passed, the court will dismiss the lawsuit, though there may be exceptions to the general rule. Under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 16.003, the time limit for wrongful death lawsuits is two years from the date of the death.
Why Do You Need a Wrongful Death Attorney in Texas?
Recovering damages through a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas can be a complicated process, which is why you might want to have a knowledgeable attorney on your side to guide you throughout the process and protect your interests.
Consider the following reasons to hire a wrongful death attorney for your legal case in Texas:
Your attorney will help you understand your rights and options. You need an attorney with extensive experience representing clients in wrongful death lawsuits. Your attorney can help you build a strong case and provide you with invaluable legal advice to make sure that you and other family members receive the compensation you need to move forward with your life.
Your attorney will maximize your recoverable damages. Many plaintiffs in wrongful death cases do not understand the actual value of their damages. That is why you might benefit from hiring a lawyer who can determine the value of your case and ensure that you receive the maximum compensation to which you are entitled.
Your attorney will handle all aspects of your claim. Following the death of your loved one, you need to take the time to mourn your loss. Handling paperwork and dealing with the legal aspects of your wrongful death case may be the last thing on your mind. That is why you might want to hire a skilled lawyer to handle the legal process on your behalf while you focus on your grief and your family.
If your loved one died because of someone else’s negligent or wrongful conduct, consider speaking with an attorney to discuss the legal process and determine what steps you can take to hold the other party accountable for their actions.
Speak with a Wrongful Death Attorney at the Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard
Losing a family member is never easy. At the Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard, we understand what you are going through. If you lost a loved one due to the fault of another person or entity, consider contacting our attorney to start fighting for the justice you deserve. We have decades of experience helping family members recover damages and achieve justice in wrongful death cases stemming from motor vehicles, product liability, medical malpractice, and other causes.
Discuss your case with our attorney during a free case evaluation by contacting us online or by calling (254) 220-4225.