Death is a natural part of life, but when someone has been taken from you
too early, you want justice. In the criminal courts, people are held accountable
for murders and manslaughters. When found guilty, they face prison time.
What if someone caused a death through negligence? They weren’t directly
involved in a hit-and-run like a manslaughter case, and they didn’t
commit an evil act like a murder case. Instead, they were responsible
for creating a dangerous environment or situation that led to someone’s
death. A wrongful death lawsuit may be the best course of action when
seeking justice in that situation.
In Texas, the deceased’s spouse, parents, or adult children may file
for wrongful death. The only other person who may file a wrongful death
lawsuit in Texas is the deceased’s personal representative.
What Is Wrongful Death?
We all have heard a story or two about someone who was injured in a parking
lot, sued the store owner, and won a substantial sum of money. This is
a “personal injury” suit. What if, however, that person was
immediately killed in the accident? What if they were injured so badly
that they died from the injuries later? That’s when you can file
a wrongful death suit on their behalf.
Wrongful death is a kind of personal injury lawsuit. The difference between
it and other personal injury cases is that the injured party died, and
their survivors are filing the suit.
Immediate Family May File in Texas
In the state of Texas, the law allows for a wrongful death lawsuit to come
from the deceased’s spouse, children, or parents. Interestingly,
not bring forth a wrongful death suit. Other members of the estate or people named in the will are barred from
filing as well.
The children of the deceased must be legal adults, and they must be the
legal children of the deceased. This means that someone who was adopted
could not sue on behalf of their deceased, biological parent. The same
is true for parents suing on behalf of their kids. They may sue only if
the other person was legally recognized as their child.
Immediate family members have three months from the date of death to file
a wrongful death lawsuit. After that, only one other person has the authority to sue.
Personal Representatives May File
The personal representative is the person who is handling the affairs of
the deceased. It can be an executor or administrator, depending on the
situation. If the immediate family of the deceased doesn’t file
a lawsuit within their three-month window, the representative has a full
two years from the date of death to file.
Wrongful Death Damages
There are several forms of compensation you can win in a wrongful death
case. First, you can seek damages for lost wages. If the deceased was
the breadwinner or made the most money in the home, their death fundamentally
shifts the income of the household. Future earnings may be considered
as well. Maybe the deceased just got that high-paying job they’d
worked so hard for, and a comfortable retirement was all but assured.
You can sue to have financial benefits replaced.
People also provide for one another in ways that are not financial. Perhaps
you suffer from a mental illness, and the deceased was your “go-to”
for support. Maybe your spouse was an amazing mother who was able to manage
the home in ways you just weren’t capable of, and now they’re
gone. Clearly, it’s not possible to put a dollar amount on the value
someone brings to your life. A compensation reward, however, can ease
some of the burden as you attempt to rebuild without them.
You can also sue for pain and suffering. Again, no price can be put on
your situation to make the pain worth it, but a damages reward can ease
some of the stress of your daily life. This is especially true if, in
your grief, you’ve been unable to work or lost a job. You would
still be gainfully employed if not for someone else’s negligence,
and that can be argued in court.
When you win your case, the damages are distributed among the family based
on their degree of injury. For example, the deceased’s parents may
be given a smaller portion for their pain and suffering, but the spouse
might get a much larger sum for her loss of income.
Punitive Damages, also called exemplary damages, are designed strictly
to punish someone. In the absence of a criminal verdict, you may want
a way to seek justice that goes beyond repaying your losses. You can’t
discipline the negligent person by sending them to jail, but you can still
hold them accountable financially. Exemplary damages are there to send
a message that the defendant’s behavior was egregious, uncalled
for, and deserving of retribution. Wrongful death suits can call for punitive
damages when they are deserved.
If you’ve lost a loved one due to someone’s negligence, please
reach out us. We are here to listen and help you through this hard time.
We can fight for the justice you deserve. Consultations are free, at no
risk to you. Our number is (817) 591-4222, and you can contact us online.