Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
An unintentional injury is more than a bruise or cut; these injuries are the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States. More than 80,000 Americans died from car accidents and falls in 2020 alone.
Your loved one’s death may be the most devastating thing you go through. But you can reclaim your life with help from a Houston wrongful death lawyer. All you need to do is determine if you are eligible to file a lawsuit.
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit under Texas laws? When can you file the lawsuit? What is a wrongful death, and what should you do to file your lawsuit?
Answer these questions, and you can find your path forward through the criminal justice system. Here is your comprehensive guide.
Section 71.004 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code clarifies who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Only the deceased person’s spouse, children, and parents can file a lawsuit and claim damages from it. One of these people can initiate a lawsuit on behalf of the other immediate family members.
After three months of inaction, the executor of the deceased person’s estate can initiate a lawsuit. They will claim damages to the estate and the person’s immediate family members. However, if immediate family members ask the executor not to sue, the executor will not be able to sue.
Adopted children can sue for the death of their adoptive parents. Adoptive parents can also sue for the death of their adopted children, especially if the deceased person is a minor. Stepparents and foster parents cannot sue, even if they have a long relationship with the deceased.
Someone in a common law marriage can sue on behalf of their deceased partner. They may need to prove that they were living with the deceased and consider them like their spouse. A document like a life insurance form that shows one partner listed the other as their spouse can indicate this.
Who Cannot File a Wrongful Death Suit
Texas laws provide very few exceptions for wrongful death lawsuits. If a single parent died, their child could be adopted by someone else. The child’s guardian can then file a suit on their behalf, even if they are not biologically related to the child.
Beyond that, no one outside the deceased person’s immediate family can sue. Siblings, grandparents, and cousins cannot file a lawsuit, even if they could claim damages. People financially dependent on the deceased person, such as business partners, cannot pursue a case.
Fiancés or partners in a civil union or domestic partnership cannot sue unless they show proof of a common law marriage. A divorced spouse also cannot sue, even if they planned on remarrying the deceased person.
Statute of Limitations
Texas laws require a wrongful death lawsuit to be filed within two years of a person’s death. If a minor is filing a lawsuit, they have two years to file a suit until after they turn 18.
Remember that the statute applies when a case is filed, not when it concludes. A case may take several years to resolve, especially if multiple plaintiffs or defendants are involved.
It also applies to when the person passed away, not when the injury occurred. A person may experience years of symptoms after an accident or act of medical malpractice before passing away.
You can still file a lawsuit decades after the accident if you can prove a connection between the injury and death. For an electrocution injury, you can use medical paperwork to show your loved one experienced significant symptoms. You can ask for an autopsy report showing your loved one’s heart, and the electricity injured brain.
If a defendant passes away before or during the legal process, you can still sue their estate. The executor of the estate will act like they are the defendant.
Standards for Wrongful Death
A wrongful death occurs when someone dies from the wrongful actions of someone else. A wrongful action is a reckless, neglectful, or unskillful act.
There are several common situations for wrongful death. A person who murders another person can be the defendant in a lawsuit. A doctor who misdiagnoses a patient or performs an incorrect treatment can also be sued.
Many lawsuits occur after automobile accidents. A driver who hits a pedestrian or another driver can face a lawsuit.
However, there must be clear proof that they were acting incorrectly. They may have been speeding, driving drunk, or breaking traffic laws.
You must also prove that there are monetary injuries connected to the death. You could claim damages if you spent money on your loved one’s medical care.
If your loved one experienced pain, you can claim money for that. A jury can also reward you money for your grief and lack of companionship.
Starting a Wrongful Death Case
If you believe you are eligible to file a case, you can do so before the statute of limitations expires. However, you should get resources to build a good chance for yourself. Follow a few steps, so you have the strongest possible case.
Look at Your Loved One’s Will
If your loved one had a will, you may want to check it to see who the executor is. This lets you know who can file a lawsuit if you and other immediate family members don’t have the time to do it.
You or another immediate family member may be the executor. Keep a copy of the will so you have proof that you can act on your loved one’s behalf. You can also use the will to show a connection to your loved one and clarify how much money in damages you should receive.
Assess the Situation
Though you can file a case without evidence, you will not likely win at trial. You should spend a few months gathering evidence proving that your loved one died from negligence.
Some cases are easier to gather evidence for than other cases. In a car accident case, you can use a police report or eyewitness statements to show that the defendant hit your loved one. In a medical malpractice case, you can get prescription notes, medical records, and death certificates to show who treated your loved one.
You can start a wrongful death case based on an industrial accident. However, you need to show that the defendant created an unsafe environment to work in.
You can use emails, text messages, and recorded phone calls to show they were aware of the unsafe conditions but did nothing to improve them. You can also use contracts to show they were responsible for maintaining the equipment or grounds.
You can use tax documents or work stubs to claim damages based on your loved one’s lost earning potential. If you want to claim money based on your grief and anguish, you may need to provide bills showing you have received psychiatric care or therapy.
Hire a Houston Wrongful Death Lawyer
A lawyer can build a solid wrongful death case and help you navigate the court system. They can also take over the case for you and let you return to your normal life.
You should start looking at lawyers once you determine you are eligible to sue. However, you may want to wait until you’ve done some research. Many lawyers will only take on a case after examining evidence; having your own evidence can increase your credibility.
In addition to the evidence you’ve gathered, you should provide proof to your lawyers that you can sue. If your loved one was your spouse, you can give a copy of your marriage certificate. If your loved one was your child, you could show your lawyer their birth certificate.
Focus on lawyers in your local area with expertise in your loved one’s type of wrongful death. You can hire a workplace accident lawyer to manage a wrongful death case.
Whoever you hire should have experience in similar cases, and they should give you client references. Wait until after you’ve spoken to several clients of theirs.
Once you hire an attorney, they can go to court and file a lawsuit. They will handle the legal documents for you, but they may give you updates and request assistance.
The Essentials of Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Under Texas laws, only immediate family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit. The executor of the person’s estate can file if they have the family’s permission, and no one else can pursue a lawsuit.
You have two years to find a Houston wrongful death lawyer. Spend time coping with your loss, then start the search for evidence. Examine a few different lawyers and talk to their clients before you hire your attorney.
Lawyers are standing by to hear from you. The Morgan Legal Group handles wrongful death cases in the Houston area. Contact us today.