Did you know that you are entitled to compensation if your loved one has died as a result of a car or truck accident in Texas? To get the compensation you deserve, you need to take the right steps after the collision. . Working with a dedicated Texas wrongful death lawyer will go a long way in ensuring your case is handled properly and that your legal rights are protected. Berenson Injury Law has proudly represented many families over the past 40+ years. We work diligently so that they can achieve justice, find peace, and try to make sure this tragedy does not happen to another family. However, it is important to have some basic knowledge about this type of lawsuit. This includes details regarding who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas.
Here is what you need to know.
An Overview of Wrongful Death Lawsuits
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action brought by a victim’s surviving family members against an individual or business who caused the death of their loved one. The legal process not only helps to ensure the party at fault is held accountable but also enables family members to claim monetary damages. These damages can include compensation for the victim’s medical bills, funeral expenses, and future earnings, the pain and suffering of the family, and more. Additionally, punitive damages may be available. The family members must prove that the death was a result of the negligent actions of the liable party.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas?
Under Chapter 71 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, only specific family members are eligible to file and pursue a claim following a wrongful death. Individual plaintiffs can file a claim either on their own or jointly. Below are the people who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in this state and the priority order in which they can do so.
1. The Decedent’s Surviving Spouse
The victim’s surviving spouse is given the first priority when it comes to filing a wrongful death suit. The decedent’s spouse is allowed to take legal action if they were in either a formal marriage or common-law relationship with the deceased.
A spouse will maintain the right to file a claim if the couple was separated or going through a divorce at the time of the victim’s death. The same applies even if the spouse remarried after their loved one’s death. However, the former spouse cannot file a claim if they had already finalized their divorce before the victim died.
2. The Decedent’s Surviving Children
Biological and legally-adopted children of the deceased can file for damages irrespective of their age. However, if the decedent was a member of a blended family, stepparents and stepchildren may not be able to file a claim. The only time stepchildren can bring a case is if they were legally adopted by the deceased.
When the deceased is survived by minor children, the statute of limitations will not apply to them until they are of legal age to bring a lawsuit on their own. This means that the minors’ right to pursue a claim will last until they are legally considered adults. However, the other surviving parent or a court-appointed guardian can file the suit on their behalf.
3. The Decedent’s Surviving Parents
The victim’s surviving parents, both biological and adoptive, can file a claim. However, if an adoption has not been officially finalized, parents cannot file a wrongful death lawsuit even if they had physical and legal custody.
Also, divorced and unmarried parents have a right to file a claim on behalf of their deceased child. However, the Texas Wrongful Death Act does not allow foster parents or non-adoptive stepparents to sue for wrongful death.
4. The Personal Representative or Executor of the Deceased’s Estate
If the decedent’s surviving spouse, children, or parents do not file a claim within three months of the victim’s passing, the representative of the deceased’s estate can do so on behalf of the estate. However, the eligible parties can request that the wrongful death claim not be filed by the executor.
Distributions After a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Once the case is settled, the damages recovered will be shared among the eligible family members. If none of these family members is alive, the money will go to the deceased’s estate.
When it comes to wrongful death claims in Texas, the law limits the statutory beneficiaries to the above parties. As such, loved ones such as fiancés, siblings, grandparents, and other extended family members cannot file a wrongful death claim. Also, if a beneficiary dies during the pendency of the case, their right to the benefits dies with them.
Time Limits to File a Wrongful Death Suit
A wrongful death case can be dismissed if it is not filed promptly. In Texas, the individuals entitled to file a claim have to do so within two years of their loved one’s death. If you initiate legal proceedings after the statute of limitations has expired, the court will dismiss your case if requested by the defendant. An experienced Texas wrongful death attorney will provide expert advice and guidance to ensure you do not lose your right to seek compensation.
A Texas Wrongful Death Attorney With Your Best Interests at Heart
The heartbreak and financial hardship you may experience after losing your loved one after an accident can make it difficult to know the next steps to take. Being informed on who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas and related issues will help you to avoid costly mistakes. However, the importance of hiring an experienced lawyer cannot be denied. Your lawyer will act in your best interest and work hard to ensure you get the most money from your claim. Contact us today to discuss your case with a free consultation.