Losing a loved one is likely one of the most challenging moments you will ever face. When the loss is tragically unexpected and due to another individual’s negligence, the resulting anxiety, pain, and frustration rise to an emotional level that can be overwhelmingly unbearable.
If an accidental loss of a loved one or family member is a direct consequence of the carelessness or wrongful act (or inaction) of a person or a business/company in Texas, you may have the right to seek compensation for the events that led to the wrongful death. This can be used to help overcome the financial difficulties created by someone else’s reckless or negligent choices or actions.
The Houston wrongful death lawyers at the Waldman Legal Group understand that nothing of value can ever replace the loss of a spouse, parent, or child. However, Texas law provides legislation that will allow you to hold the negligent individuals accountable for their actions or choices that led to the wrongful death. Call our legal team now at (713) 688-4878 for a free and confidential consultation.
Why Choose Waldman Legal Group as Your Wrongful Death Attorney
Each wrongful death case has both unique and distinctive aspects, which need the expertise of a Houston-based wrongful death attorney from the Waldman Legal Group — a skilled professional with the experience to protect the rights of the loved ones of the victim.
The surviving members of a decedent’s family have the legal option to file a wrongful death suit if their death results from another person’s negligent actions (or inaction). However, the legal path required to receive financial compensation can be complex since the final determination is defined by the facts of the case and applicable Texas state law.
The professional you choose for your wrongful death legal representation is among the most important decisions you can make at this difficult time. Unfortunately, facing a wrongful death is often life-altering for many family members.
To understand your legal options, contact the Waldman Legal Group now at (713) 688-4878.
How Does Texas Law Define Wrongful Death?
The wrongful death legal process in the Lone Star State can be complex.
The Texas statute Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 71.002 defines wrongful death as follows:
A wrongful death is defined as any wrongful act, carelessness, neglect, unskillfulness, or default that results in the death of another.
Wrongful death lawsuits in the state of Texas are considered civil actions, which means the lawsuit can be filed regardless of whether the defendant faces criminal charges.
The most common wrongful death cases involve:
- Drunk or impaired driving
- Car accidents
- Assault and battery
Have you recently lost a family member due to an accident you believe was the result of another individual’s negligence, recklessness, carelessness, or intentional lack of action? If so, you are advised to speak to our Houston wrongful death attorneys regarding a wrongful death claim in Texas.
The Elements of a Houston Wrongful Death Claim
To bring a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas, the law requires that certain defined elements be established.
- The plaintiff must be a statutory beneficiary of the decedent — a surviving spouse, children, or parent. (Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 71.004)
- The defendant in a wrongful death claim must be a person or a corporation.
- The defendant’s wrongful action/behavior caused the decedent’s death — and, had the decedent not died, they would have the right to bring a personal injury lawsuit due to the injury.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim?
Before a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed, it is essential to determine if you have a legal right to bring forth this type of claim. The law in Texas restricts the people who may be able to file a lawsuit for a wrongful death when a loved one dies due to another person’s recklessness or negligence.
Based on the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Chapter 71, Subchapter A, only certain family members may be entitled to recover damages through a wrongful death claim. This cause of action is permitted because if the individual who passed away had lived, they would have been entitled to bring a personal injury claim themselves.
Texas CPRC Section 71.004(b) identifies those individuals who have the legal authority to make a wrongful death claim in Texas. The claim may be made by the following decedents:
- Surviving spouse
- Surviving adult or child
- Surviving parent(s)
- Legally adopted child or children
- Surviving adoptive parent(s).
Note that other family members and loved ones, which may include a sibling, cousins, romantic partners, or even grandparents, are not entitled to compensation for their loss under Texas state law.
However, note that should none of the deceased individual’s surviving relatives (those who have a legal right to bring forth a lawsuit) file the suit within three months from the date they lost their loved one, the estate’s administrator or executor is eligible to do so.
The only limitation to this legal caveat is if each of the surviving eligible family members makes a formal request to the executor that they do not want to move forward with the wrongful death claim.
How Can Our Wrongful Death Lawyers Determine If Negligence Was Involved?
Was your loved one’s death due to someone else’s mistake or responsibility? In those situations where the fault is painfully obvious, like when a loved one was hit and killed by a drunk driver while riding a bike in a designated lane, it may be a straightforward task to prove the negligent behavior or action.
However, most incidents and accidents are more complex, and determining guilt and accountability may take more work. In these instances, an experienced Houston wrongful death lawyer can employ legal techniques and begin forensically investigating the accident to determine where the liability and blame lie.
Seasoned attorneys can then build a stronger position for your wrongful death lawsuit.
Texas Wrongful Death Statute Of Limitations
The loss of a family member or a loved one often causes an emotional upheaval that takes time to process and accept. And learning to navigate the world without a parent, spouse, or child is incredibly difficult and often so traumatic that it can take many months to begin to feel as if the ground is solid under your feet.
This is why it is essential to consider approaching a wrongful death legal proceeding. Certain time restrictions (statutes of limitations) require you to decide quickly about hiring a Houston wrongful death lawyer to file a legal claim.
If you wait too long, your chance to seek the compensation you deserve may expire under Texas law. Under Section 16.003(b), the surviving spouse, children, parents, or the estate’s representative generally have two years from the time the action occurs to file a wrongful death claim in Texas. (*Always speak directly to an experienced attorney to learn the exact deadlines that apply to your potential claims.)
The date the time begins accruing is usually the day of the incident that caused your loved one’s death. Under the Lone Star State’s wrongful death statute, an eligible individual has only two years to file a wrongful death claim unless the situation meets one of the following exceptions:
- The wrongful death lawsuit plaintiff is a minor child.
- The negligence of the defendants was not known until the two-year timeframe passed.
- The plaintiff’s mental/physical impairment precluded them from filing the claim during the two-year statute of limitations.
- The case involves fraud.
Wrongful Death Compensation in Houston, Texas
As a reminder, according to Texas CPRC Section 71.004(a), an action to recover damages in a wrongful death lawsuit is only for the benefit of the surviving spouse, the children, and the parents of the deceased.
Several factors affect the average wrongful death settlement in Texas. Most of these relevant factors fall into one of three categories of damages: economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
The first two types of damage will be applicable in most wrongful death lawsuits. However, cases that include punitive damages (that which is awarded as punishment) are much less common.
Economic damages refer to the tangible or calculable losses sustained by the plaintiff due to the victim’s death. Ultimately, the amount that may be awarded for economic damages depends on several pertinent factors, including the victim’s age, education level, role in the household, career status, and more.
Typical economic damages that are awarded in a wrongful death claim include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Medical expenses incurred before your loved one’s death
- Funeral costs
- Loss of the decedent’s current and future earnings
- Loss of medical insurance coverage
- Loss of inheritance.
Non-economic damages are subjective, intangible damages the claimant sustained due to the wrongful death. Non-economic damages will vary significantly from case to case, and the intricacy of this issue requires legal expertise to accurately reflect the actual value of the losses sustained.
Unlike economic damages, these losses have no standard as they are hugely personalized. This category of damages includes things like:
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium for the victim’s spouse
- Loss of care, protection, and guidance
- Mental anguish
- Pain and suffering.
Similar to a personal injury claim, the material facts related to the case are the essential factors that determine the value of any wrongful death claim. Specifically, wrongful death claims can include damages for:
- Pecuniary losses (i.e., anything related to or consisting of money, income, earnings, or support)
- The plaintiff’s mental anguish
- The loss of companionship and society
- The loss of inheritance and more.
Since non-economic damages have the potential to greatly impact the offered settlement in a wrongful death case, it is vital to seek the legal guidance of an experienced Texas wrongful death attorney as you begin to pursue the claim for wrongful death.
Although a rarity in most wrongful death lawsuits, a Texas court can award punitive damages in certain wrongful death cases. Punitive damages are not the type of damages that are used to compensate the plaintiff but rather to punish the individual for their negligent or intentional and egregious behavior.
Texas and only a few other states permit punitive damages to be awarded as a part of a wrongful death case. (Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 71.009).
How Can Our Houston Wrongful Death Attorneys Help?
Losing a loved one is both tragic and difficult. This is especially true if the death is unexpected and caused by another’s reckless or malicious actions or choices, such as in cases of:
- Medical negligence/malpractice
- An intentional action of another person or entity
- An accident
Under any of the circumstances stated above, it is essential to contact a Houston wrongful death lawyer to help you properly manage and pursue a wrongful death claim against the person, people, or company who is legally liable.
Losing someone you love unexpectedly can be devastatingly shocking, with no way to accurately describe the emotional rollercoaster it creates for those left behind. For many, a wrongful death claim appears to be just another problem that has to be managed unexpectedly, but in fact, it may offer extremely helpful compensation if it’s managed by a skilled legal representative with compassion and support.
FAQs About Wrongful Death
What ways are there to sue in wrongful death claims in Texas?
After a loved one dies, the state of Texas has two ways a claim can be brought against the responsible party:
- Eligible family members can bring a wrongful death claim. The statute of limitations for this type of lawsuit is two years.
- The estate brings a survival actiont on behalf of the decedent to provide compensation for expenses/damages that were incurred between the accident and the date of the victim’s death. (Texas Civil Practices & Remedies Code, Section 71.021)
The Texas Survival Statute is one of two state laws that provide alternative avenues for compensation for specific individuals after a person’s death should the circumstances include another person’s reckless, negligent, or wrongful conduct.
Under the law, the heirs, legal representative, or the decedent’s estate can bring a personal injury action on behalf of the decedent as if they were still alive. The representative of the decedent’s estate usually takes on the responsibility of a survival claim.
The damages that may be awarded to those seeking compensation for a Texas Survival Statute lawsuit include:
- Medical expenses for care received before the death
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Property damage that was the result of the incident
- Lost income due to injuries before death.
Can I bring a wrongful death action if my spouse and I were separated at the time of his fatal accident?
A married individual who was separated from their spouse at the time of the wrongful death is eligible to bring forth legal action for the wrongful death. Because Texas does not recognize legal separations, there can be no legal technicality that would disqualify the spouse of the decedent. One has the potential to bring forth legal action even if the now widow/widower chooses to remarry after the wrongful death of the previous spouse.
Is a common law marriage (an “Informal Marriage”) considered a marriage in Texas for the purposes of making a wrongful death claim?
Yes, a spouse in Texas has the potential to bring a wrongful death lawsuit even if their marriage was defined by common law. However, all the elements required to establish a legitimate, existing informal marriage must be met. Section 2.401 of the state Family Code identifies how to provide evidence that a common law marriage existed:
- The individuals have agreed to be married.
- After the above agreement, the individuals lived in Texas as husband, wife, or married individuals.
- The individuals in question have represented to others that they were indeed married.
Contact Waldman Legal Group Now for Wrongful Death Legal Representation
Our Houston wrongful death lawyers at the Waldman Legal Group understand that nothing can ever replace the loss of a spouse, child, or parent. But they also know that the law provides legal avenues that allow you to hold accountable the individuals who acted recklessly or negligently.
We have extensive experience in dealing with insurance claims or proving negligence in a court of law. At Waldman Legal Group, we are ready to investigate the incident and hold the at-fault parties responsible.
For more information about the wrongful death legal process, contact our legal team at (713) 688-4878 for your free and confidential consultation.