What You Need to Know About Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Texas

Losing a loved one can be an incredibly difficult experience for anyone. The death of a family member can cause a great deal of grief, sorrow, and emotional turmoil. A family may also experience financial difficulties as they determine how to pay for a person’s funeral and burial, address the loss of income and benefits, and make changes to their lives and routines. These issues can become even more difficult when a person has been killed because of someone else's negligence or intentional actions. In these tragic circumstances, family members may be able to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. Understanding how these lawsuits work in Texas is crucial for those who are seeking justice for the death of a loved one.

Situations Where Family Members May File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Wrongful death claims can arise from many different types of situations where negligence or intentional misconduct led to someone's death. Some examples include:

  • Car accidents: Motor vehicle collisions can be devastating, and high-speed crashes, situations where negligent drivers strike pedestrians or bicyclists, or collisions between passenger vehicles and large commercial trucks may lead to fatal injuries. When a person dies as a result of another driver's careless or reckless behavior on the road, such as drunk driving or distracted driving, the victim's family may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
  • Medical malpractice: When medical professionals fail to provide proper care, make mistakes when providing treatment, or act negligently in other ways, this can result in the death of a patient. Some forms of medical negligence that may lead to the death of patients include failure to diagnose life-threatening conditions such as cancer, surgical errors, or failure to account for potential allergic reactions when prescribing medications. In these situations, a family may be able to seek compensation from a negligent medical provider through a wrongful death lawsuit.
  • Dangerous products: Defective consumer products, auto parts, or other items that affect people’s safety can lead to fatal injuries. For example, faulty machinery may lead to accidents at construction sites, contaminated food products may contain harmful toxins, or malfunctioning brakes or airbags may lead to fatal injuries in car accidents. In these cases, a manufacturer, distributor, or retailer may be held liable for a wrongful death that occurred due to products that were defective or dangerous.
  • Premises liability: Property owners have a duty to maintain a safe premises and ensure that visitors are protected from harm due to hazards on the property. If someone dies due to unsafe conditions on a property, the property owner or the tenant who was in control of the property may be held liable for the wrongful death. These cases may involve slip and fall accidents that lead to fatal head injuries, inadequate security measures leading to violent crimes, or broken railings or balconies that lead to fatal falls.
  • Nursing home abuse or neglect: Elderly people or other residents of nursing homes may be at risk of fatal injuries or health conditions if they are not provided with the proper care. Nursing home residents may suffer fatal injuries due to physical abuse by staff members, bedsores or infections that occur due to neglect, medication errors, or lack of proper medical care. In these situations, family members may be able to hold a negligent facility liable for its failure to protect the health and safety of their loved one.
  • Criminal acts: If someone intentionally causes harm that leads to another person's death, such as assault or homicide, they may not only face criminal charges, but they could be held civilly liable for the person’s wrongful death.

Pursuing Compensation for Wrongful Death

Under the Texas Wrongful Death Act, certain people are eligible to pursue compensation for a person’s wrongful death. Because the damages that may be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit are for the exclusive benefit of the deceased person’s immediate family members, a claim may be filed by a person’s spouse, children, or parents. Any of these parties may pursue a lawsuit against the party responsible for the wrongful death, and they may act for the benefit of all surviving family members. If no eligible family members file a wrongful death lawsuit within three months after a person’s death, the executor or administrator of their estate may take legal action on their behalf.

Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims in Texas

In Texas, there is a limited timeframe within which wrongful death claims must be filed. This is known as the statute of limitations, and it starts running from the date of the person's death and typically expires two years later. Families may be involved in funeral arrangements, probate proceedings, and other concerns related to a person’s estate, and the time limit for filing a wrongful death lawsuit may expire more quickly than they realize. Because of this, it is important to take the required legal action to pursue compensation for a loved one’s wrongful death as quickly as possible.

Types of Damages Recoverable in Wrongful Death Claims

The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to recover compensation for family members and address the losses they have experienced as a result of their loved one's untimely demise. The damages sought can include:

  • Economic damages: These are tangible financial losses that a family has experienced because of a person’s death. They can usually be calculated precisely, since they will involve verifiable expenses and financial records demonstrating the income the deceased person earned. A family may be compensated for the medical expenses related to treatment the person received before their death, funeral costs, and other related expenses. They may also be compensated for the loss of the wages and benefits the deceased person would have earned throughout the rest of their life, the loss of an inheritance they would have received, and any other ways they have been affected financially.
  • Non-economic damages: In addition to financial losses, family members are likely to be personally affected by the untimely death of a loved one. While these losses may be more challenging to calculate, compensation can help family members cope with the ways they have been affected. Damages may address issues such as the pain and suffering endured by the deceased before their passing; the emotional anguish experienced by surviving family members; and the loss of companionship, love, guidance, and support that family members would have received from their loved one.
  • Punitive damages: In cases where the defendant's actions were particularly egregious, such as when a person exhibited gross negligence or engaged in intentional misconduct, a court may require them to pay punitive damages. These damages are meant to punish a person for violating the law or engaging in behavior that they knew was dangerous, and they can also serve as a deterrent against these types of actions in the future. Punitive damages are typically only awarded in exceptional circumstances, and they may require clear evidence proving gross negligence or malicious intent.

Get Legal Help From a Wrongful Death Lawyer

If you have lost a loved one due to someone else's negligence or intentional acts in Texas, it is crucial to seek legal representation promptly. An experienced San Antonio wrongful death attorney can help you take the correct steps to ensure that the person or parties who were responsible for your loved one’s death will be held liable. Your lawyer can help you build a compelling case supported by evidence and advocate for you to receive financial compensation that can help you move forward following your tragic loss.

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