In most cases, you will have two years from the date the person died to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas. If you fail to file your lawsuit with the court before the two-year statute of limitations expires, then your case will likely be dismissed and you will be unable to recover damages.
There are limited exceptions to the two-year statute of limitations. The time to file a lawsuit may be extended if:
- You were a minor when the person died.
- You did not discover (and should not have reasonably discovered) that the person died because of someone else’s negligence until the statute of limitations had run.
- The defendant was fraudulent and concealed the truth about what happened.
- You were mentally or physically incapacitated before the statute of limitations expired.
Few cases fall into these limited exceptions.
While it can be difficult to consider a wrongful death case while you are grieving, it is important to consider the pros and cons of a wrongful death case as soon as possible after your loved one’s passing, and to make an informed decision about whether to proceed with a lawsuit well before the statute of limitations expires.
Two Things to Know Before Filing a Wrongful Death Case
If the statute of limitations has not yet run out and you are considering a wrongful death claim then you need more information before you can make an informed decision about filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Specifically, you need two questions answered:
First, Do You Have a Case?
According to Section 71.001 of the Texas Statutes, you have a wrongful death claim if you can prove that someone else caused your loved one’s death because of “[a] wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.” You will need to prove that:
- The defendant owed the person who died a duty of care.
- The defendant breached that duty of care by failing to act like a reasonable person would in similar circumstances.
- The defendant’s breach of the duty of care caused your loved one’s death, which would not have happened at that time but for the defendant’s actions or inactions.
- You have the legal right to recover damages.
You have the right to bring a wrongful death case if you are the personal representative of the decedent’s estate or if you are the surviving spouse, child, or parent. Before you file a wrongful death case, however, you should know what damages you may be able to recover.
Second, What Can You Recover If You File a Wrongful Death Case?
Each wrongful death case results in a unique award of damages. Your recovery could include compensation for:
- Medical expenses from the time of the accident until the time of death.
- Out-of-pocket costs, including funeral and burial costs.
- Lost income from the time of the accident until what would have been the person’s reasonably anticipated retirement date. Lost income may include compensation for past and future wages, bonuses, benefits, income from self-employment, and other compensation.
- Physical pain suffered by your loved one prior to death.
- Emotional suffering of your loved one prior to death and of your family since that time.
- Other non-economic losses such as loss of care, advice, counsel, love, companionship, and comfort.
While it can be difficult to determine exactly what you may recover, an experienced wrongful death lawyer can give you an idea of what to expect if you file a successful wrongful death case.
Is Now the Right Time for You to File a Wrongful Death Case?
Now is the right to time to talk to a lawyer to determine if you should file a wrongful death case. You do not gain anything by waiting. Instead, you risk your recovery by failing to gather evidence soon after the accident and by running up against the statute of limitations deadline.
We know that you are grieving and that you have a lot to think about right now. Let us help you with this important decision before your time to bring a wrongful death case expires and you no longer have the right to seek damages. Contact us today for a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation to learn more.