The unexpected death of a loved one, with its terrible realization of how precious and fragile even the closest of relationships can be, is unwelcome enough. When the death is somebody’s fault, the mix of anguish and injustice is unimaginable to those who have not experienced it.
Texas law allows those left behind to seek accountability from those responsible. For some, it can play a role in recovering financially and emotionally.
Only some are eligible to file, and they do not have long
In Texas, the spouse of the deceased can file a wrongful death suit, as can the deceased’s parents or children (including adopted children whose adoption is final). They must file within three calendar months, after which only the legal personal representative of the deceased can file the suit.
In any case, whoever files the suit can only do so for the benefit of the parents, children and spouse. The brothers and sisters, for example, cannot file a wrongful death suit in Texas.
Altogether, the chance for anyone to file a wrongful death suit in Texas expires two years after the death, except in limited circumstances such as when the death involved certain crimes or causes.
Suits might seek various kinds of compensation
A wrongful death suit allows those who file to seek only certain kinds of compensation, known as damages. Often, another lawsuit seeks other damages as well.
Texas wrongful death suits can seek compensation for financial losses to the family, such as lost earnings and lost inheritance the deceased could have expected to contribute to the family members.
A suit can also seek losses that are less easy to calculate, such as the loss of child or elder care the person could have offered and the emotional support, advice, love and companionship they could have offered. Compensation may also go to the family for their emotional and mental suffering, pain and anguish from the death.
The judge might also award “punitive damages,” as other states often call them. Although the court distributes these funds to the family, their purpose is purely to punish whoever caused the death intentionally or out of carelessness.
Finally, families often file a “survival” claim. It is not technically a wrongful death lawsuit but is instead a personal injury suit filed on behalf of the deceased, just as they might have if they were still alive. It can seek damages for such things as the pain and suffering the deceased experienced between the injury and their death.