When a personal injury results in death, the legal claim is called a wrongful death claim. Filing a wrongful death claim allows the family to receive compensation and hold others responsible for what happened.
The Haun Mena wrongful death lawyers are here to help. Our lawyers want you to understand how to file a wrongful death claim in Texas. If you’d like to talk with our lawyers about your case, contact us at (713) 715-1449.
Let’s explore the who, what, when, where, and why of filing a wrongful death claim.
Who are the plaintiffs in a wrongful death claim?
Filing a wrongful death claim begins with determining who can file the claim. In Texas, the surviving spouse, children, and parents may file. These surviving close family members are the plaintiffs who benefit from the wrongful death claim.
The beneficiaries don’t necessarily have to consent or even have knowledge of the proceeding, but the claim must be filed for their benefit. Avila v. St. Luke’s Lutheran Hosp., 948 S.W.2d 841, 850 (Tex. App. 1997). If the beneficiaries don’t want to file, then the personal representative or executor may bring the claim.
Who is the defendant in a wrongful death claim?
The defendant is the person or party that is legally responsible for the death of the victim. The defendant may be a person, or they may be a company or other entity. There may be multiple defendants. When filing a wrongful death claim, the people bringing the claim evaluate who has legal responsibility to name them as defendants.
What do you state in court documents when filing for wrongful death?
When filing for wrongful death, you need to know what you are claiming and what you must do to make the case successful. The first filing documents outline the case. They must include the following:
- Who the plaintiffs are
- Who the defendants are
- Jurisdiction for the court to hear the case
- A brief statement of the facts about what happened
- The legal basis for why the defendants are liable
- A brief statement of what the plaintiff is asking for (damages)
The first filing documents are meant to outline the case and give the defendant enough information to respond. Filing the initial documents formally starts a wrongful death case.
What can you receive for wrongful death?
Beneficiaries of a wrongful death claim may receive compensation related to the loss of their loved one, including:
- Lost income and financial support
- Personal care and household services provided
- Support, advice, counsel, comfort, and society
- Mental anguish and emotional suffering
- Lost inheritance
- Punitive damages
To claim punitive damages, the death must have resulted from a willful act, omission, or gross negligence of the defendant.
The jury may award damages that reflect the injury resulting from the death. A wrongful death is a great loss. The compensation that the victims claim should be proportional to the tremendous personal and financial losses they have endured. (§ 71.010)
Do you have to pay the deceased’s debts out of a wrongful death award?
No. Wrongful death damages are not subject to the debts of the deceased. (71.011)
When do you file a wrongful death claim in Texas?
Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code (CPRC) § 16.003 states you have two years to file a wrongful death claim. If the claim isn’t filed in that time, it can be dismissed by the court. In the first three months following the death, the spouse, children, and parents may file. If they don’t start the case in that time, the executor or administrator of the estate may file unless all of the beneficiaries state that they don’t want the claim filed.
There is no waiting period. You may file the wrongful death claim as soon as you investigate legal responsibility and prepare the paperwork.
Does the district attorney have to authorize a wrongful death complaint?
Filing a wrongful death complaint is up to the surviving family members. The district attorney doesn’t have to approve. There may also be criminal charges, but an action is not prohibited if there is also a criminal proceeding, according to Texas CPRC § 71.006.
Where do you file a wrongful death claim in Texas?
There are many different courts in Texas. They are organized by the types of cases they hear. There is a hierarchy to hear trials and appeals within the different types. You need to file your wrongful death claim in the correct type of court and in the right location. Our lawyers can help you determine where you can file your claim.
Why is a defendant liable for wrongful death?
A defendant is liable for wrongful death if the victim would have been entitled to bring a claim if they had lived. Some of the reasons why a defendant may be liable for wrongful death are:
- Wrongful acts
- Intentional acts
A wrongful death may occur because someone hurts someone else intentionally. The defendant may also face criminal homicide charges. However, a wrongful death doesn’t have to be the result of purposeful actions. Just like many personal injury claims are built on negligence, simple negligence can also be the basis of a wrongful death claim.
A wrongful death may be an accident or intentional. The question is what caused the accident and whether the defendant has legal culpability based on Texas personal injury law. Our lawyers can help you explore the circumstances and how we can best help you after losing a loved one.
Lawyers for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Texas
Filing a wrongful death claim can provide a measure of justice for your loved one and give you fair compensation after an unimaginable loss.
At Haun Mena, we’re dedicated to helping families who have lost a loved one to wrongful death. We are experienced in all the steps involved in filing a claim and pursuing it until you have a fair result. We invite you to meet with our lawyers to learn more about your situation. Call or send us a message to talk to our legal team today.