WHAT IS A WRONGFUL DEATH CASE?
It is exactly what it sounds like. It is a civil case filed against a person, business, or entity that is legally responsible for someone’s death. Many actions can contribute to the death in a wrongful death case including:
- Negligence or careless conduct, such as medical malpractice
- The construction or distribution of defective products
- Reckless or negligent acts, such as a drunk driver or physical assault
Officially, Texas Statutes section 71.001 states that an suit for wrongful death may be brought if the “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default” of one party causes the death of another.
CAN I FILE A WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM?
The surviving spouse, children, or parents of the deceased person are all elgible to file a wrongful death claim in Texas. Texas laws are restrictive relative to some states but if the spouse, children, or parents chose not to file a claim within three months of the death, the personal representative or executor of the deceased person’s estate may file the claim instead. However, if a surviving family member requests that the claim not be filed, a representative or executor of the estate may not file the claim.
In Texas, adult children children are permitted to file wrongful death claims over the death of a parent. Similarly, adopted children are also permitted to file claim for the death of an adoptive parent. This only holds true if the child was fully and legally adopted before the death. On the same vein, adoptive parents are permitted to file a death claim if their adopted child suffers an unlawful death. Interestingly, an adopted child may not file a claim for the a biological parent.
Texas wrongful death law does not permit surviving siblings to file a claim for the death of a brother or sister. Stepparents, foster parents, and grandparents cannot file a death claim. Divorced parents can bring a lawsuit for the death of their child in Texas.
A wrongful death claim may filed regardless of whether or not criminal charges have been pressed in connection with the death. In a wrongful death claim, the family members or estate personal representative must file the claim directly and liability is expressed solely in terms of monetary damages, not imprisonment or probation like in a criminal case.
HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO FILE A WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM?
These are subject to two statutes of limitations, which define how long someone can wait before bringing a claim. There is the limitations period on the claim that the deceased person could have filed. In Texas, that period is, in most cases, two years from the date of the person’s injury. There is also the limitations period on your own claim for death, which normally is two years from the date your spouse, child or parent died.
It’s important to consult with a qualified personal injury attorney as soon as possible if you think you have a wrongful death claim.