After an accident in which someone is gravely injured, there can be a protracted medical fight as doctors struggle to keep a person dear to you alive against all odds. Unfortunately, this is a battle that can’t always be won, and the injured person may pass away weeks, months, or even years after the accident that caused the injury. In situations like this with a significant gap in time between accident and death, it isn’t always clear-cut to survivors whether they can still seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.
Here’s what survivors should know about the time restrictions on a wrongful death lawsuit.
Proving a Wrongful Death Case
Even though your loved one did not pass away right at the time the accident happened, you may still be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to seek damages for your loss.
While the law in Texas does put a time limit on how long the surviving family has to file a wrongful death lawsuit, it’s important to note that this timeline typically begins from the time of death, not from the time of the accident or injury. Once the clock starts, the family has up to two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit, unless one of the rare exceptions applies.
Like any other wrongful death lawsuit, there will be four important elements to building a successful case when there has been a gap between injury and death. Typically, you and your attorney must:
- Show a duty of care. This means that you must show that the defendant had a duty to make sure that his actions didn’t harm someone else, such as obeying traffic laws while operating a motor vehicle.
- Show that the duty of care was violated. Once a duty of care has been established, it has to be proven that the responsible party violated that duty of care, such as if he or she ran a stop sign or a traffic light or was intoxicated behind the wheel.
- Prove that the violation caused the injury. You must be able to prove to the court that the actions of the defendant were what caused the death.
- Show that there were damages. You must also show that the accident caused you damages that can be compensated for financially. This includes the costs of emergency medical treatment and follow-up visits, repeated surgeries, long-term care with a home aide or at a nursing home, hospice expenses, and funerary costs.
As time passes between the initial accident and death, it becomes even more critical for families to contact a personal injury attorney to begin a wrongful death claim as soon as possible after their loved one passes away. Not only is the two-year statute of limitations in effect starting with the date of death, but evidence can also degrade over time. The memories of those involved can fade, physical evidence can become lost or deteriorate in quality, the original doctors that treated the injuries can change practices or retire, and other factors mean that there can be a real challenge to make a case.
Challenges of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Proving any wrongful death case can be challenging based on the situation, but there’s still hope for families who wish to seek recovery in a court of law. Whenever there is a significant time gap, the key factor is going to be showing that the person passed away due to the original injury and not due to an unrelated cause.
An experienced attorney with investigative skills can be a big help in any wrongful death case, but it’s especially important in cases when there is a time gap between the initial injury and death. He or she can help you protect your rights in this complex legal situation and discuss your legal options to move forward with your claim.
Get Legal Help Today
The attorneys at Wayne Wright LLP have been defending the legal rights of survivors for decades, and we’re here to help you and your family seek the compensation you may be owed in a court of law. To arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our legal professionals, call us by phone, use our contact form to send an email, or click the live chat box on this page now.