Losing a loved one is an experience that can only be made worse when it
comes as a result of sudden tragedy. Fortunately for the families of victims
who are killed as a result of the negligent or wrongful acts of another,
wrongful death laws provide the legal channels through which family members can seek
justice and economic compensation for their losses.
According to Texas Statutes section 71.001, an action for
wrongful death may be brought if the “wrongful act, neglect, unskillfulness, carelessness,
or default” of one party causes the death of another party.
Texas’ wrongful death statute allows certain relatives of a deceased
family member whose death was caused by the acts of another to pursue
wrongful death actions. These eligible parties commonly include:
- Surviving husband or wife
- Parents of the deceased
One individual may file the claim alone, or a group of the eligible individuals
may elect to file it together. However, if the surviving spouse, children,
and parents do not file a wrongful death claim
within three months of the date of death, the personal representative or executor of the deceased individual’s
estate may file the claim instead. While adult and adopted children are
allowed to file wrongful death claims over the death of a parent, the
law does not allow surviving siblings to file a wrongful death claim for
the loss of a brother or sister.
Burden of Proof
Wrongful death claims are hinged on proving that another’s negligence,
carelessness, or wrongful conduct “more likely than not” caused
a victim’s death. “More likely than not,” also known
as a preponderance of the evidence, is the burden of proof used in the
civil justice system. In criminal cases, the burden of proof is higher:
beyond a reasonable doubt. However, civil and criminal cases are separate
from one another, so you may still be able to pursue and win a civil wrongful
death claim regardless of whether there is a criminal case or a defendant
is found innocent of committing a crime. Eligible family members can work
with our experienced legal team to better determine how fault and liability
can be established given the unique facts and circumstances involved.
Texas law calls for a statute of limitations in wrongful death cases. Generally,
eligible parties must file a wrongful death action within two years of
the date their loved one died. Failing to file within this time period
could bar families from recovering any compensation at all. There are
a handful of exceptions to the time limitation, but you should always
contact a lawyer as soon as possible after a preventable death.
Wrongful death claims allow families to recover financial compensation
for damages that were directly incurred as a result of their loved one’s
death, such as any medical expenses and funeral expenses. In addition,
families are able to recover economic damages for the loss of financial
support a loved one would have provided had they not passed away, as well
as noneconomic damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of
support and consortium, emotional injuries, and loss of quality of life,
among others. Our legal team can help you better understand the types
of damages you may be entitled to in your case.
Contact Our Austin Wrongful Death Lawyer to Discuss Your Case
For a personalized review and discussion of your case, we encourage you
to reach out to our lawyers for a free and confidential consultation.
The Stewart Law Firm, PLLC proudly serves families throughout Austin and
the surrounding areas of Texas.
Contact us for the caring and compassionate support you deserve.