Filing a wrongful death claim means that you desire to seek financial compensation to help with the losses you’ve experienced from the negligent death of your loved one.
What’s the difference between wrongful death and murder?
While both acts result in death, there are differences between a wrongful death and a murder.
Firstly, murder is an intentional act to end another’s life. Wrongful death is the result of negligence, but that negligence does not stem from a blatant desire to cause a death. A wrongful death is the consequence for that negligence, but it is not intentional.
Murder cases are sent before a criminal court in order to determine punishment, and the goal of such a trial is just that: punishing the individual that intentionally killed another.
Wrongful death cases go before a civil court, and the goal is not to punish. It is to provide compensation to a grieving family for their economic and non-economic losses.
Who can file a wrongful death claim?
Texas law does limit the individuals that can file a wrongful death claim for their relative.
Texas’ Wrongful Death Act says that, as a rule of thumb, only the deceased’s spouse, children, or parents are entitled to compensation for a wrongful death claim. Whoever is filing must prove that he or she did suffer damages from the wrongful death.
There are certain instances in which other relatives may also file a wrongful death claim. They include a child born out of wedlock that was dependent upon the deceased for financial support, an adopted child, and adoptive parents if the deceased is a child.
Siblings, grandparents, and other more distant relations are not permitted to file a wrongful death claim for compensation in the state of Texas.
Which damages can I collect from a wrongful death?
Both economic and non-economic damages are available to your family after the wrongful death of a loved one. From your lawsuit you may collect compensation for:
Any medical expenses your loved one may have had before they passed
Loss of your loved one’s earning capacity, wages, and benefits
Loss of your loved one’s companionship
Anxiety and stress suffered because of the situation
Family members can collect compensation for both economic and non-economic damages in a wrongful death claim.
If you decide to file a wrongful death claim, there may be punitive damages available, as well.
Punitive damages are different from typical compensation. Compensatory damages are designed to compensate for your losses. Punitive damages are used to punish those responsible in an attempt to keep whatever negligent behavior caused the incident from happening again.
Punitive damages are more likely if a case involves gross negligence, which means that there is a conscious disregard for the safety of other people. Examples of gross negligence include:
Surgeons operating on the wrong part of the body
Speeding in an area where it could easily hurt others
A product manufacturer ignoring signs that the product can be dangerous for consumers
Is there a difference between the death of an adult and the death of a child?
There are differences between the wrongful death of an adult and the wrongful death of a child. Determining the amount of damages due may be the most prominent.
Parents’ damages after the loss of a child are limited to financial damages, and those are likely small when it comes to a child.
These financial losses will include any earnings that the child may have been able to contribute for their parents. Damages are determined by the child’s life expectancy, health, and earning potential. There’s many times where this can become complicated; for example, there’s a lot more evidence of a teenager’s potential earning capacity than there is for a child that is seven years old. It’s mostly up to speculation.
Is there a deadline to file in Texas?
Yes, Texas law states that there is a two year statute of limitations for wrongful death cases within the state. This means that you must file your claim within two years after the date of your loved one’s death.
Enjuris Tip: Your case does NOT have to be fully resolved within two years after the death of your loved one; this time limit is just for filing the claim. Read further to learn more about Texas’ statute of limitations.
There are a few exceptions to this statute of limitations. If a child’s parents are killed while the child is under 18, the two year statute of limitations does not begin at the date of death, but it begins when the child turns 18.
The statute of limitations is also voided if your loved one’s death is not determined to be caused by negligence until much later. For example, if someone dies and it is learned years later that it was the result of a defective drug, the statute of limitations may be extended so you have a chance to receive compensation.
What to look for in a Texas wrongful death attorney
Finding the right attorney can allow you to not only receive compensation for the wrongful death of your loved one, but peace of mind during such a trying time.
It’s important to choose an attorney you’re comfortable with and who is willing to go the extra mile for your case. Make sure they have good reviews from other clients and that he or she has experience in dealing with wrongful death cases.