The 5 Elements of a Successful Wrongful Death Claim in Texas

If your child, spouse, or parent was killed by someone else’s negligence, carelessness, or deliberate malice, your life changed forever. Although recovering monetary damages can never compensate you completely for their death, it can help you cope financially with the unexpected tragedy by addressing losses such as:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental and emotional anguish
  • Loss of earnings that the deceased brought into the household
  • Lost care, advice, counsel, and related support that he or she would otherwise have provided to the family
  • Lost love, companionship, society, and comfort
  • Lost inheritance, or money the person would have left his or her family if they lived out their normal expected lifetime

In Texas, it is possible to receive exemplary damages (also known as punitive damages in other states), when someone dies due to another party’s gross negligence or intentional act or omission. Their purpose is not to compensate the family, but rather, to punish the wrongdoer for their actions.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Texas?

Texas has very specific laws regarding who can file a wrongful death claim and who is eligible to receive a settlement. The parents, spouse, and children of the deceased can file a case, with adopted family members having the same legal standing as blood relatives, and any damages collected must be awarded to the spouse or children. Unlike some other states, siblings and cousins may not pursue a wrongful death claim in Texas.

Any eligible family member can file a claim individually, or a group may do so together. If the decedent’s surviving children, spouse, or parents do not commence proceedings within three months after the date of death, the estate executor or personal representative may file a wrongful death claim instead, unless a family member requests that no such action take place.

Texas law requires that a wrongful death claim be filed within two years of your loved one’s death, unless certain rare and limited exceptions apply.

What are the Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim?

Texas Statutes section 71.001 establishes the elements that must be in place for a wrongful death suit to succeed. Specifically, it requires that your loved one’s death be due to one or more of the following, all of which must be attributable to another party:

  • Neglect
  • Carelessness
  • Unskillfulness
  • Default (failure to complete an obligation)
  • Wrongful act

All of these elements tend to be present when the wrongful death is due to negligence. If another party owed a duty of care to your loved one and failed to uphold it, resulting in injuries that caused death and subsequent losses, they can be found guilty of negligence. For example, a manufacturer has a duty to design, create, and distribute products that are reasonably safe to use. If those products are defective and someone dies, a negligence claim may apply.

Texas law also also allows you to pursue a wrongful death claim if your loved one died due to a violent attack by someone else. Although criminal proceedings usually arise from such an incident, you can pursue damages in a civil court action against the perpetrator.

Wrongful death cases are emotional and complicated affairs that require you to prove the existence of multiple elements before you can recover damages. For experienced and compassionate legal support and representation, contact the Sharp Firm today.