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The Basic Principles of Wrongful Death Lawsuits Explained By a Wrongful Death Lawyer

Any sudden, unexpected death comes as a shock to the victim’s family and friends, and knowledge that the death may have been preventable only adds to the survivors’ grief. On this page the Tyler wrongful death lawyer at the Doan Law firm explains how the victim’s survivors have the option of filing a wrongful death lawsuit against those believed responsible for a loved one’s death.

Definition of wrongful death in Texas

Texas law defines a wrongful death to be any death of an individual that resulted from a “... wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default…” of another or another’s agent, employee, or representative.

Texas includes as an individual “…an unborn child at every stage of gestation from fertilization until birth…”. Thus, according to Texas law, an unborn child may be classified as a victim if it can be shown that an injury caused a death in utero.

Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas?

As in other states, Texas law defines standing as to who may bring a wrongful death lawsuit. The following individuals are granted standing to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas courts:

  • The surviving spouse, children, or parents of the victim may sue for wrongful death individually or as a group of plaintiffs. However, if no lawsuit has been filed by the any survivor within three months of the victim’s date of death, the executor of the deceased’s estate or a personal representative of the estate may file a wrongful death lawsuit unless asked not to do so by the survivors.
  • The biological adult children may sue for the wrongful death of a parent and an adopted child may sue for wrongful death of an adoptive parent if the child was fully and legally adopted.
  • An adoptive parent may file a wrongful death lawsuit for the death of an adopted child.

There are also restrictions in Texas law barring specific wrongful death lawsuits:

  • An adoptive child cannot sue over the death of his or her biological parents.
  • Any surviving sibling cannot sue over the death of another biological or adopted sibling.

As you can see, the Texas law regarding who can a wrongful death lawsuit is complicated and questions regarding standing should be discussed a wrongful death lawyer.

Damages in lawsuits for wrongful death

In a wrongful death lawsuit, damages are awarded to compensate the victim’s survivors for “economic” and “non-economic” losses caused by the victim’s death. Economic damages can include:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of wages and other income that the victim would have provided to the survivors.
  • Loss of the victim’s estate, meaning what the deceased would have saved or accumulated in personal and real property that the deceased would have left as inheritance for his or her survivors.

Non-economic damages can be awarded for “intangible” or “difficult to measure, but real” damages such as:

  • The emotional trauma caused by the victim’s death.
  • The loss of the victim’s participation and guidance in the survivors’ family life.
  • The long-term psychological distress experienced by the survivors

Texas also allows the awarding of “exemplary” (“punitive”) damages if the victim’s death was due to a willful, unlawful act or gross negligence. Such damages can be awarded in addition to the damages listed above. Exemplary damages have been known to exceed the amounts of economic and non-economic damages combined!

In all wrongful death damage awards the court, rather than the representative of the estate, will determine what share of the damages award will go to each claimant to the estate.

Time limits for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas

A lawsuit alleging wrongful death must be filed within two years of the date of the victim's death. A lawsuit filed after that period will be rejected unless it can be shown that one of a very narrowly-defined exceptions should be made. These exceptions regarding wrongful death lawsuits are rarely granted and should be addressed only by a lawyer with experience in wrongful death lawsuits.

Contacting the Tyler wrongful death lawyer

The Tyler wrongful death lawyer at the Doan Law Firm understands how disruptive the death of a family member can be to the survivors, and our firm understands how families need to be protected from the economic crises that a sudden death often brings.

If you are considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit over the untimely death of a family member, you should contact the Tyler wrongful death lawyer at the Doan Law Firm by calling us to arrange a free consultation regarding the facts of your lost loved one. Our free initial consultation is always free and does place you under any obligation to hire our firm.

Should you decide that our Tyler wrongful death lawyer should manage your case, we will assume all financial costs of preparing your case for trial in return for an agreed-upon percentage of the settlement that we will win for you.

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