Your loved one was killed by a drunk driver or due to a medical mistake. If they had survived, they might have pursued a personal injury lawsuit against the person that negligently injured them. However, your loved one has passed on and cannot sue, leaving you in financial distress and emotional pain.
Texas law recognizes the financial difficulties faced by the family of a person whose passing was caused by someone else’s actions, whether these actions were the wrongdoer’s direct fault or whether the actions were due to the wrongdoer’s neglect or carelessness. Thus, the law provides a means for these survivors to seek compensation for their losses: a wrongful death lawsuit.
Wrongful death claims are civil actions
First, it is important to recognize that wrongful death claims are civil actions, not criminal cases. The person allegedly responsible might be criminally charged with the victim’s death and a criminal trial might follow.
However, the victim’s survivors can still pursue a wrongful death claim in civil court whether the criminal case ends in a plea deal, a guilty verdict or even a “not guilty” verdict. Civil lawsuits and criminal trials are two separate processes, and both can be based on the same incident.
Who files a wrongful death claim?
In Texas, a spouse, child or parent of the victim can file a wrongful death claim on behalf of all of them. If they do not do so within three months, then the executor of the victim’s estate will file the wrongful death claim unless the victim’s survivors agree they do not want the executor to pursue a lawsuit.
Note that these individuals only have two years from the time of the victim’s passing to file a wrongful death claim, although there are a few exceptions to this rule.
Damages in a wrongful death claim
Wrongful death claims cover the damages the survivors suffered due to their family member’s passing. This might include compensation for funeral costs, medical expenses, the emotional distress the survivors suffered, loss of companionship and the loss of the income the victim provided.
Damages for the pain and suffering the victim experienced prior to death cannot be pursued via a wrongful death claim. These types of damages are pursued via a survival action, which is often filed alongside a wrongful death claim.
Punitive damages might also be sought in certain situations. If so, the purpose of doing so is not only to compensate the victim’s survivors, but also to deter others from committing the same types of acts that led to the victim’s death.
Hold a wrongdoer accountable
A successful wrongful death lawsuit can provide you with the compensation you need to move forward from your loved one’s death Moreover, the wrongdoer should not walk away from the incident consequence-free.
A wrongful death lawsuit can hold the wrongdoer accountable for their actions, even if the wrongdoer is not adjudicated guilty criminally.