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Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Texas

When an individual is wrongfully killed in an accident as a direct result of another’s negligence, then the victim’s surviving family members have the right to file a “wrongful death” claim.

Under Sec. 71.001 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code, a wrongful death action can be brought if an individual’s death was caused by another’s wrongful act, carelessness, neglect, or their lack of skill.

Who can file a Texas wrongful death claim?

In Texas, the surviving spouse, the children, and the parents of the deceased may file a wrongful death claim. These parties may bring an action alone, or they may bring an action together.

If the deceased was adopted, his or her adoptive parents may file a wrongful death claim; however, Texas law does not allow a decedent’s siblings to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of their brother or sister, regardless if they are biological or adopted.

With a wrongful death claim, the surviving family members or a personal representative files the claim, and money damages are sought: this is different than a criminal homicide case.

If there is a criminal homicide case, charges will be filed by the prosecuting attorney’s office, and if the defendant is found guilty, they face imprisonment, fines, and other penalties.

If your case involves criminal charges, a wrongful death claim can still be filed even as the criminal case is pending.

Seeking Damages in a Wrongful Death Case

In a Texas wrongful death case, damages are paid to compensate the surviving family members for the losses stemming from their loved one’s untimely death. The following are the types of damages that can be sought in a Texas wrongful death claim:

  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental and emotional anguish
  • Loss of support, advice, and counsel that the deceased would have provided

In a successful wrongful death suit, the damages are divided among the surviving family members; these proportions are usually determined by the court.

In Texas, there is a time limit for filing a wrongful death lawsuit – this is called a “statute of limitations.” The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim is within two years of the decedent’s death.

If a claim is filed after the two year deadline has passed, the court will not hear the case, so it’s critical that you file your claim as soon as possible.

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