If your loved one was killed due to the negligent actions of another person or corporate entity, you may be able to pursue justice and restitution by filing a wrongful death claim. According to Texas Statutes section 71.001, a plaintiff can legally file a wrongful death claim so long as the “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default” of one entity is responsible for an otherwise preventable fatality. Texas has a unique history when it comes to establishing laws regarding wrongful death. If you’re planning to file a claim, it’s important to review the following facts and contact an attorney as soon as possible.
Fact #1: Wrongful Death Claims & Survival Actions Are Not the Same
In Texas, surviving family members may be able to file both wrongful death claims and survival actions. Many people tend to confuse these terms, so here are the basics:
- Wrongful Death Claims: The Texas Wrongful Death Act allows family members to sue for damages when their loved one is killed by the actions of another person. The purpose of this lawsuit is to recover the “full value of the life” of the deceased individual. In other words, to receive damages, the plaintiffs need to prove that they are suffering emotional and monetary injuries due to the loss of their loved one. If a lawsuit is successful, family members can directly receive compensation for medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, and loss of companionship and financial support.
- Survival Actions: A survival action can recover economic, non-economic, and punitive damages on behalf of the decedent’s estate. These damages are meant to represent the compensation the individual may have received if the accident hadn’t resulted in their death. Unlike a wrongful death case, damages go directly to the estate for distribution.
Contact the Austin wrongful death attorneys at The Stewart Law Firm, PLLC to learn more about wrongful death claims and survival actions. We can assess your unique circumstances and thoroughly evaluate your legal options.
Fact #2: Only Certain People Can file Wrongful Death Claims
Before Chapter 71 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, or the “Wrongful Death Act,” surviving family members could not sue negligent parties for compensation. While this is no longer the case, there are still some limitations and nuances that you need to discuss with your wrongful death attorney.
Under the Wrongful Death Act, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim so long as your case meets these 2 basic criteria:
- You are a statutory beneficiary of the deceased (spouse, child, or parent only)
- The defendant’s negligent or wrongful actions caused your family member’s death
Per this statute, siblings, divorced spouses, and grandchildren are not allowed to file wrongful death claims. Likewise, the children of a biological parent who had their legal parental rights terminated cannot sue for damages. Interestingly, stepchildren and stepparents can take legal action, but only if the adoption process has been completed.
Fact #3: Wrongful Death Claims Are Subject to Two Statutes of Limitations
In Texas, wrongful death claims can be subject to two separate statutes of limitations. The first is the limitations period on the claim a deceased person could have filed. The second is the limitations period for the plaintiff’s wrongful death claim. Keeping these deadlines in mind, a plaintiff ultimately has 2 years from the date of their loved one’s death to file their claim.
Learn More by Scheduling a Consultation
If you’re planning to file a wrongful death claim, contact the compassionate Austin wrongful death attorneys at The Stewart Law Firm, PLLC. Our legal team is available 24/7 and can accommodate both English and Spanish-speaking clients.
Call The Stewart Law Firm, PLLC at (512) 271-5112 to schedule your free, no obligation consultation.