Every state has its own laws and statutes regarding the filing of wrongful death cases. These cases, which are completely separate from criminal charges, allow you to receive financial compensation for the harm you’ve suffered after the loss of a loved one due to someone else’s negligence.
Of course, collecting on these claims can get complicated, and there are specific statutes in place regarding who may file suit, and when. Let’s examine the laws surrounding who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas, and why it’s a good idea to work closely with a qualified wrongful death attorney.
What Constitutes Wrongful Death in Texas?
In Texas, the state laws define wrongful death as any death that occurs as the result of neglect, unskillfulness, carelessness, default, or other wrongful act. In other words, when someone acts irresponsibly and that act causes someone else’s death, you can file a wrongful death case to collect damages.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas?
In Texas, the law is also clear about who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. The surviving spouse, parents, and children (including adult, adopted and stepchildren) of the decedent have the right to file such a claim. Anyone of these parties can file the case on their own, or they can band together and file as a group.
If within three months, none of these people file a suit, the estate’s personal representative can file a claim instead, unless someone in the family requests that they don’t file the claim.
Wrongful Death Damages
A wrongful death claim is a civil case, designed to compensate you for losses, not strictly to punish the defendant. This is how it differs from a criminal case—there’s no jail time imposed, no probation or other penalties. Just financial awards to the survivors. In Texas, these include funeral expenses, loss of companionship, maintenance, support, advice, counsel, pain and suffering, emotional anguish, loss of earnings and benefits, inheritance and other damages.
You can even, in the worst cases, get exemplary damages. These damages are awarded when a death is caused by a willful action or by negligence that’s truly negligent. These damages are also called punitive damages and are designed to send a message that such behavior is unacceptable.
Who Gets the Damages?
The damages in Texas are generally divided up among the surviving family and are divided based on the injury each family member suffered the loss. The courts are generally the ones who determine exactly how damages are divided up.
Are There Time Limits?
There are time limits for filing this kind of case. These are known as a “statute of limitations,” and in Texas, that’s 2 years from the date of death. Any cases that are filed after this time are very unlikely to be heard by the courts.
There are a lot of pitfalls to avoid and it can be very tricky to get the full damages you deserve. To have the best shot at collecting full compensation, call on the services of a Odessa wrongful death attorney like those at Braker White. If you need help with information about who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas, contact our office for a free consultation today.