Statute of Limitations in Wrongful Death Cases in Texas
In the US, over three million people pass away each year. Yet, not all these people are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. To file for wrongful death in Houston, the death must have occurred due to someone else’s negligence.
You must consider additional requirements before hiring a wrongful death attorney and filing a lawsuit. For example, you must submit your case within the statute of limitations for wrongful death.
Statutes of limitations vary by case and state, and in Texas, there are two states of limitations to consider. The deadline you must meet to file depends on whether you are the deceased person’s family member or estate executor.
What else do you need to know to file for wrongful death in the Lone Star State successfully? We guide you through all the details in this guide, so keep reading for everything you need to know.
What Is Wrongful Death in Texas?
A wrongful death occurs when someone is fatally injured due to someone else’s wrongful act, neglect, or carelessness. In Texas, “someone else” could mean an individual or a public or private corporation.
Texas also recognizes unborn children as protected under wrongful death law. For instance, if someone’s negligence causes a pregnant woman’s injury, which results in the fetus’ death, the woman can file a wrongful death claim on her unborn child’s behalf.
Wrongful death law is similar to personal injury law. In other words, had the person lived, they could have filed a personal injury claim against the party causing their injury. But because they passed away, a loved one must instead file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf.
Who Can File for Wrongful Death?
Not just anyone can file for wrongful death on behalf of their loved one, and Texas law restricts these types of lawsuits to the spouses, children, and parents of the person who passed away. One of you can file the case, or all of you can file and recover damages jointly.
There is one exception to this rule. Family members may choose not to file for wrongful death. When three months have passed, the executor of the deceased person’s estate may file a wrongful death lawsuit on the client’s behalf.
Family members can request that the executor of their loved one’s estate not file the claim. According to Texas law, the wishes of the deceased person’s loved ones get precedence over the estate executor.
Types of Wrongful Death Claims
If wrongful death claims are like personal injury cases, then it stands to reason that there are just as many types of wrongful death claims as there are personal injury lawsuits.
Below, we discuss the five most common types of wrongful death lawsuits.
According to the latest Texas Motor Vehicle Crash Statistics, 4,489 people died in vehicular crashes in 2021. Many of these crashes occur because another driver was speeding or intoxicated.
In both cases, victims’ families can seek compensation from a wrongful death lawsuit. We will talk more about the types of compensation you and your family may be able to win by filing a lawsuit.
Medical malpractice occurs when a health care professional acts negligently, injuring their patient(s). Wrongful death cases can arise if the patient’s injury results in a fatality.
Unfortunately, the state of Texas places caps on the maximum amount of compensation a deceased person’s loved ones can receive from medical malpractice-related wrongful death.
A family can only receive up to $1.5 million in non-economic damages for a wrongful death lawsuit arising from medical malpractice. We will tell you more about non-economic damages later in this guide.
In Texas, approximately 3.9% of workers get injured on the job each year. Slip-and-fall accidents, falling objects, and collisions are the most common reasons for workplace injuries. Sadly, these injuries can sometimes result in death.
Compared to other states, Texas has added protections for workers. Even if the deceased person’s employer did not have workers’ compensation insurance, you could still file a workplace accident lawsuit for wrongful death.
US law requires that all products sold to the general public must be safe to use. Products that are not safe to use are known as defective. Defects can arise from the design or assembly of the product.
When a defective product causes someone’s death, there may be grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. Defective car parts, electronics, extreme sports gear, medical devices, and children’s toys are all known to lead to wrongful death.
In some cases, a company might recall the defective product. Even so, a wrongful death resulting from the recalled product can still be grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas.
Texas ranks #14 for the highest rate of dog ownership among US states. Over 43% of Texans reported owning a dog in 2022. Perhaps that is why dog bite personal injury claims are so common in the Lone Star State.
Fatalities resulting from dog bites also fall under wrongful death law. The deceased person’s loved ones can sue the dog’s owner or caretaker if they can prove the owner acted negligently.
Types of Damages in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
“Damages” refer to the monetary awards a deceased person’s family or estate may receive after filing a wrongful death claim. We typically differentiate between two types of damages: compensatory and punitive.
Compensatory damages intend to compensate individuals for a loss. We can distinguish between two types of compensatory damages: economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages compensate the family for the lost earning potential of the deceased person. These types of compensatory damages may also repay any inheritance lost due to the person’s early passing.
Non-economic damages compensate the family for emotional losses incurred from the deceased person’s death. Loss of consortium and mental pain and suffering are two types of non-economic compensatory damages.
Punitive damages are also known as exemplary damages. In Texas, a deceased person’s family can receive this type of damages if the death occurred due to the other party’s willful act, willful failure to act, or gross negligence.
Unlike compensatory damages, judges award punitive damages to punish the defendant, not compensate the plaintiff (the person filing the case). Punitive damages are up to the judge’s discretion.
What Is the Statute of Limitations in Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Texas?
“Statute of limitations” is a legal phrase referring to how long you have to file a case. If you do not file a case within the statute of limitations, you must forfeit your right to file it at all.
You need to know two deadlines when filing for wrongful death in Texas. First, you need to understand that if you do not file within three months of your loved one’s death, their estate executor can file instead.
As mentioned, you and your family can block the executor from filing the claim. At that point, you then have a little more time to bring the case to a judge, and that is because the general statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is two years.
Failing to bring the lawsuit within two years of your loved one’s death means you will never be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit for them.
Did your loved one pass away due to someone else’s negligence? If so, you need to call a wrongful death attorney ASAP before the statute of limitations runs out.
Can Attorneys Specialize in Wrongful Death?
Technically, you could hire any attorney to file a wrongful death lawsuit on your behalf. But what is the best type of lawyer to hire for your wrongful death case? That would be an attorney who specializes in wrongful death.
Often, personal injury attorneys also specialize in wrongful death cases. That is because both types of law feature similar legal principles like negligence and breach of duty.
At Morgan Legal Group, our wrongful death attorney specializes in precisely that. We have the experience and expertise to win you and your family the damages you deserve, whether for pain and suffering or actual financial losses.
File for Wrongful Death in Houston
The statute of limitations to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas is two years. Keep in mind that this means you must file within two years of the date of your loved one’s passing.
Are you considering filing for wrongful death in Houston? The Morgan Legal Group specializes in wrongful death and personal injury law. Contact us today for a free 30-minute consultation.