A wrongful death claim can arise from any situation where a party causes a fatality because of negligence, intentional torts, illegal behavior, or other wrongdoing. When the person’s death could have been avoided had it not been for the party’s conduct, certain loved ones may qualify to sue. Motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall accidents, medical malpractice, and defective products are common causes of wrongful deaths.

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Texas?

The Texas wrongful death statute gives the right to file a wrongful death claim to the family members of the deceased. However, not all family members have the right to file a wrongful death claim.

The following family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit after the death of a family member:

  • The surviving spouse
  • Biological and adoptive children
  • Biological and adoptive parents

If the deceased has no surviving relatives who have the right to file a claim or the family members do not file a claim within three months, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate can file a claim. 

Any compensation received from the claim would be paid to the estate and distributed according to the person’s Will or Texas intestate distribution laws.

Proving Liability for a Wrongful Death Claim in Houston, TX

You might have the right to sue for the wrongful death of a family member, but you must prove your case to recover compensation for damages. There are four legal elements you must prove to win a wrongful death case in Texas:

  • The defendant who caused the person’s death owed the person a legal duty of care;
  • The defendant breached the duty of care through their actions or omissions;
  • The breach of duty was the direct and proximate cause of the person’s death; and,
  • You incurred damages because of your family member’s death.

The burden of proof for a wrongful death claim is by a preponderance of the evidence. You must convince the jurors there is a greater than 50% chance that the defendant’s conduct caused your family member’s death. 

Evidence in a wrongful death case could include medical records, death certificates, autopsy reports, expert opinions, and police reports.

What Damages Could I Receive if I Sue for Wrongful Death in Texas?

If you successfully prove a wrongful death claim, the jurors may award you compensation for damages. The damages in a wrongful death claim differ from a personal injury claim. The damages are restricted to the losses incurred by the surviving family members.

Examples of damages in a Houston wrongful death case include:

  • The reasonable costs of a funeral and burial
  • Medical bills you paid to care for your family member if they survived the injuries for any period of time
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Mental anguish and distress
  • Loss of support, companionship, guidance, and love
  • The financial support your family member would have provided had they survived
  • The value of services or goods lost because of their death
  • Loss of consortium

The damages in a wrongful death case can be reduced if your family member is partially to blame for the cause of their death. Under comparative negligence, the compensation is reduced by your family member’s level of fault.

If they were 20% to blame for the car accident that resulted in their death, your compensation for a wrongful death claim is reduced by 20 percent. However, if your loved one’s percentage of fault exceeds 50%, contributory fault bars recovery of compensation for damages.

Some wrongful death lawsuits result in punitive damages. These damages are not intended to compensate the family members for losses, even though they receive the money. Instead, juries award punitive damages to punish the defendant for specific types of conduct.

Punitive damages may be awarded if you prove that the defendant acted with gross negligence, malice, or fraud in the death of your loved one. The burden of proof is by clear and convincing evidence, which is slightly higher than the burden of proof for compensatory damages.

What Is the Deadline To Sue for Wrongful Death in Texas?

The Texas statute of limitations for most lawsuits involving wrongful death is two years from the person’s date of death. If you do not file a lawsuit before time runs out, the defendant can file a motion asking the court to dismiss your lawsuit. Without a legal reason to allow the lawsuit to proceed, the judge dismisses the case. Exceptions to the statute of limitations and facts of a case can change the deadline to sue for wrongful death in Texas. Therefore, to preserve your right to file a lawsuit, it is best to seek legal advice as soon as possible from a Houston wrongful death lawyer.

Contact a Houston Personal Injury Lawyer to Help You With Your Claim

For more information, contact the Houston personal injury law firm of Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers by calling (713) 500-5000

Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers

3120 Southwest Freeway, Suite 350
Houston, TX 77098
United States

Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers – East Fwy
11811 East Fwy, Suite 630-06
Houston, TX 77029
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Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers – South Loop

2600 S Loop W, Suite 293
Houston, TX 77054
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