Losing a loved one because of the negligent or wrongful conduct of another person or entity can be devastating. Texas law recognizes the rights of certain family members to file lawsuits against those who are responsible for the deaths of their loved ones. By filing a wrongful death civil lawsuit, you may be able to recover damages to compensate you for your losses. The experienced legal team at Pusch & Nguyen might help you to hold those people or entities caused your loved one’s death accountable for their actions. Our attorneys are strong advocates for both injured victims and the families of those who are killed throughout Houston. It is important for you to learn about this area of law so that you might hold the defendant in your loved one’s case responsible.
What is wrongful death?
Wrongful death is a legal term to describe a type of civil claim that can be filed by family members against the person or entity that caused the death of their loved one. In Texas, the wrongful death law is codified in Chapter 71 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. The law allows certain family members of people who are killed because of the negligent or wrongful actions of others to file lawsuits against the persons or entities who caused the deaths. Texas originally did not allow family members to sue for wrongful death until the state passed its wrongful death statute in 1860. Prior to that date, the common law did not allow family members to file lawsuits because the right to sue for injury was considered to end when the decedent died. The passage of the wrongful death statute in Texas recognized that family members of people who are killed should be able to recover damages for the losses that they suffer because of the deaths of their loved ones.
Family members who are authorized to bring wrongful death claims
The only people who can bring wrongful death actions are outlined by the law in Texas in Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 71.004. Under this law, only the spouse, children or parents of the person who died is allowed to bring a wrongful death civil lawsuit against the liable party or parties. If the decedent adopted a child, and the adoption was finalized, the adopted child may file a wrongful death lawsuit. Parents may also file a lawsuit if their adopted child is killed by the negligent or wrongful acts of another. People who have the right to sue may file a single claim together. It is important to note that siblings are not allowed to wrongful death civil lawsuits when their sibling is killed. The claim must be filed by one of the listed parties in the statute.
People who bring wrongful death actions may recover certain types of compensatory damages for the losses that they have suffered. The types of damages that the plaintiffs might recover will depend on the relationship of the plaintiff to the decedent. Common types of wrongful death damages in Texas include the following:
- Lost earning capacity
- Mental anguish and pain
- Lost rights of inheritance
- Loss of guidance, care and support
- Loss of companionship
If the death was caused by intentional conduct or gross negligence, Texas allows the recovery of exemplary damages. These are damages that are meant to punish the defendant for his or her conduct and to deter others from engaging in similar conduct in the future.
In addition to compensatory damages and the potential for exemplary damages, the decedent’s estate is allowed to recover survival damages. These are the damages that the person who died would have been able to recover if he or she had survived and been able to file a personal injury lawsuit. In general, these might include the physical and mental pain and suffering that the decedent went through between the injury and his or her death. Other survival damages might include the funeral and burial expenses and the medical expenses that were incurred before the decedent died.
When the claims must be filed
Like all other states, Texas has a statute of limitations within which people must file their lawsuits against the defendants. Under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 16.003(b), wrongful death lawsuits have a limitations period that accrues on the date of the death and that runs for two years. This means that a lawsuit must be filed no later than two years after the death. If you have the right to sue and fail to bring a wrongful death lawsuit within the limitations period, your ability to recover damages will be permanently barred. It is best for you to talk to an experienced lawyer at Pusch & Nguyen as soon as possible after your loved one has died instead of waiting until the limitations period is nearly up, however. Getting help early may allow your attorneys more time to conduct thorough investigations so that they can present a stronger case on your behalf.
Losing a close family member is devastating. While there isn’t an amount of money that can replace your loved one, you should still not be expected to bear the losses that have resulted. The attorneys at Pusch & Nguyen are compassionate and believe that family members of people who are killed because of the negligent or wrongful conduct of others deserve to be fully compensated for their losses. Call us today at 713.524.8139 to schedule a consultation.
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