A wrongful death claim arises under circumstances that would have justified a claim for monetary damages if the victim had not died. Of course, a deceased victim cannot file a lawsuit on their own. 

Nevertheless, the Texas Wrongful Death Act allows certain surviving relatives to file a wrongful death claim. This claim aims to collect damages for the survivors’ own losses arising from the victim’s death. Texas also allows the victim’s estate to file a survival action on the victim’s behalf.   

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Texas?

In Texas, certain close relatives of the victim can file a wrongful death claim: surviving spouse, children, and parents. Although any one of these people can file a wrongful death lawsuit, they must file it on behalf of all eligible survivors, not only themselves. A court will divide damages among survivors in the manner iit considers fair.

If none of these relatives file a wrongful death lawsuit within three months of the victim’s death, the estate executor (also typically a close relative) must file the lawsuit. 

The estate executor is excused from this duty if and only if all surviving family members ask the executor not to file the lawsuit. This might happen, for example, if a survivor is responsible for the victim’s death and a wrongful death lawsuit would generate intense emotional trauma for the family. 

Contributory Fault

The Texas contributory fault doctrine applies to distribute damages when more than one party is at fault for an accident. Initially, a court will assign each party a percentage of fault. 

If your percentage of fault is 50% or less, the court will deduct the same percentage from your damages. For example, if you were 20% at fault and your damages were $100,000, the court would deduct 20% or $20,000, leaving you with $80,000 in damages. 

If your percentage of fault exceeds 50%, however, your damages will drop to zero.

Wrongful Death Damages

Damages for wrongful death differ from ordinary personal injury damages. They can include:

  • Lost financial support;
  • The value of lost household services;
  • Mental pain and anguish suffered  by survivors;
  • Lost love, companionship, comfort, and society, and
  • Lost savings or inheritance.

These damages can add up to quite a bit of money in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Survival Actions

A survival action is a lawsuit by the deceased victim’s estate seeking recovery for the deceased victim’s losses. Suppose, for example, that the victim was injured in a car accident and died two weeks later. A survival action might seek compensation for:

Essentially, a survival action is like a personal injury lawsuit on behalf of the deceased victim. 

Statute of Limitations To File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The statute of limitations sets a deadline by which you must have either finalized a settlement or filed a lawsuit over your claim. In Texas, the deadline is generally two years after the date of the victim’s death. There are exceptions, so consult with your lawyer.

What’s the Difference Between Wrongful Death and Murder?

Wrongful death is a civil claim seeking monetary damages, while murder is a criminal charge seeking imprisonment or perhaps even the death penalty. 

Although murder is always wrongful death, many wrongful death claims do not involve conduct that amounts to murder–a DUI accident, for example. Other wrongful death claims do not even involve criminal conduct–most cases of medical malpractice, for instance. 

The burden of proof in a murder case is very high: “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The burden of proof in a wrongful death claim is much lower: ”a preponderance of the evidence.” A preponderance of the evidence is a simple “more likely than not” standard of liability. 

The consequence of this disparity is that you can win a wrongful death claim against a defendant who was acquitted in criminal court for the same conduct.  

Wrongful Death Cases Almost Always Need a Lawyer

Texas law places a very high value on human life. That is why wrongful death cases are almost always worth a lot of money. 

The high value of a wrongful death claim is why defendants fight so hard to avoid paying them. And that probably means that you don’t need to handle a wrongful death claim alone. Instead, seek the help of an experienced wrongful death lawyer. 

Contact the Laredo Wrongful Death Lawyers at Roderick C. Lopez Personal Injury Lawyers Today

If you were injured in an accident in Laredo, TX, and need legal help, contact our Laredo wrongful death attorneys at Roderick C. Lopez Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free case review today.

Roderick C. Lopez Personal Injury Lawyers
6557 Metro Court, Suite 1 Laredo, TX 78041
(956) 529-7336

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