Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Suit in Texas?

When someone dies at the hands of another in a preventable incident, survivors of the deceased may file a wrongful death claim against the person or group responsible. Wrongful death claims provide survivors with financial compensation to cover funerary, living, and loss of companionship costs. Only certain people can file wrongful death claims, and every state enforces its own laws for recovery. To learn more about who can file a wrongful death suit in Texas, continue reading below or consider speaking with a dedicated Austin wrongful death lawyer.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit in Texas?

Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Title 4, Chapter 71 establishes the groundwork for wrongful death claims in Texas. If someone dies as the result of a negligent, wrongful, or careless act of another, certain survivors may file a claim for compensation. A defendant in a wrongful death suit may include a driver, physician, property owner, or company owner.

Under current laws, legal surviving spouses, children, and parents of the deceased may initiate the claims process for recovery. If the family does not file a claim within three months of a loved one’s death, an estate representative may also file a wrongful death claim. Families today include a variety of people, relations, and circumstances. Understanding wrongful death suit eligibility goes beyond basic relationship identification.

Some states prevent adult children from obtaining compensation for a parent’s death. In Texas, children of any age can file for damages after a parent’s death. The law allows both adoptive and biological children and parents to engage in the claims process. Adoptive children may not, however, file a claim for recovery for biological parents if they qualify for recovery for their adoptive parents. Siblings and other close relatives may not file wrongful death claims under any circumstances.

Texas does not recognize non-marital relationships for the purposes of wrongful death claims. Individuals can file claims even if they and their spouses were separated at the time of death. Significant others, unfortunately, cannot file a claim. The law also bars blended families who do not formally adopt children from recovery for the death of a step-parent or a step-child.

Filing a Texas Wrongful Death Claim

Any of the eligible family members can file a claim alone or along with a group of other eligible beneficiaries. Family members must file the claim within two years of the date of death to qualify for damages under the law.

Once settled, the state will divide damages among eligible beneficiaries. Individuals may recover compensation for their losses associated with the deceased’s lost income capacity, lost love and companionship, lost inheritance, lost support and advice, and for emotional pain and suffering. In some cases, juries will also award compensation for exemplary (punitive) damages in cases involving willful acts of violence as well as gross negligence.

Survival Claims vs. Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful death claims provide family members with compensation for their losses. The state of Texas also recognizes another type of claim, known as a survival claim. This civil remedy extends the damages of a personal injury claim to the deceased’s estate. In other words, a survival claim is for the losses a decedent suffered. The estate and its beneficiaries can pursue the survival claim to cover the pain and suffering of a loved one prior to death, medical expenses associated with the incident, and funerary expenses.

Limitations on Wrongful Death Claims

When statutory beneficiaries file a wrongful death claim, they may face certain legal limitations on the amount of damages they receive. Much like a personal injury claim, rules governing comparative fault, damages caps, and defense strategies can change the final amount of compensation beneficiaries receive. Insurance companies often play a role in wrongful death claims just as in personal injury claims.

Those who lose loved ones to acts of negligence hold the right to pursue justice and fair compensation for their losses. An Austin personal injury attorney who specializes in Texas’ wrongful death laws can help you understand your rights and state laws that will come into play during the claim.