When a life has been taken away due to someone’s negligent behavior, a wrongful death lawsuit can help the surviving family and loved ones recover financially from the responsible party. Though money can’t fix the wrong that has been done, a civil lawsuit can help make sure that those left behind are taken care of and receive some form of compensation for their loss.
Here’s how wrongful death lawsuits work in the state of Texas, including who may file one, what to expect during the case, what kinds of damages may be awarded, and how to get legal help with your own case.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit?
Wrongful death suits are restricted to the surviving parents, children, or spouse of the deceased. Adult children may also file for the loss of a parent, and a child who is adopted may file for the loss of a parent who adopted him or her, as long as the adoption was legally complete. However, an adopted child may not file a wrongful death lawsuit for the loss of a biological parent that he or she was adopted from, as there is no longer a legal relationship. Wrongful death lawsuits may not be filed for the loss of a sibling.
The personal representative of the estate (sometimes called an executor) of the deceased may choose to file a wrongful death lawsuit, if three months have passed and no other eligible family member has chosen to file a suit. However, eligible family members may also request that the estate not pursue a case, such as when the family is still in the process of preparing its own lawsuit after those three months have passed. In that case, it’s important to stay aware of the two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death cases in Texas, so avoid delays as much as possible.
Steps in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Once you’ve decided that you’re interested in pursuing a wrongful death case, there are a series of steps that you will go through to get started. Before you set foot near the courthouse, though, here are some of the steps you’ll likely go through on your way to a successful lawsuit:
- Hiring an attorney. Your first step is to find a qualified attorney with experience handling wrongful death lawsuits. Your attorney will help you determine if you’re eligible to file a lawsuit, and how to best proceed from this point.
- Investigation. Your attorney will look at who may hold legal liability for the loss of your loved one, including individuals, businesses, institutions, manufacturers, or insurance companies, depending on the nature of the incident that resulted in the loss. Your lawyer will investigate the cause of death and begin gathering the necessary evidence to build the fundamental basis of your case.
- Negotiations and settlements. At this point, it’s common for there to be some back-and-forth negotiations between your attorney and those for the defendant(s). There may be an offer to settle the matter out of court. Your attorney can help you determine if the offer is worthwhile, or if you should proceed to the formal litigation process.
If the sides cannot agree on a settlement, then your attorney will file with the court to begin litigation, and the other parties will be served notice indicating your intent to pursue a lawsuit. They will have a chance to respond, and may attempt to settle again, either at this point or at any future point, right up until a jury issues a verdict.
Get Legal Help With Your Case
If you’ve lost a loved one as the result of the negligence, carelessness, or wrongdoing of someone else, a skilled attorney can help you seek the compensation that your family may be owed. Wayne Wright LLP has been standing up for the rights of families for decades, and we’d like to help you and your family in your time of need. To arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with a professional about your legal situation, call us by phone, use the contact form to send us an email, or click the live chat box on this page right now.