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What if the Wrongful Death was Caused by a Minor?

What if the Wrongful Death Was Caused by a Minor?

The Texas Wrongful Death Act provides that the statutory beneficiaries of someone who has been killed in an accident are entitled to recover damages arising from the death of their spouse, child, or parent. The fact that the wrongful death was caused by the act of a minor does not change anything. As long as you are a statutory beneficiary of the decedent (the person who was killed), you are entitled to bring a wrongful death claim. Statutory beneficiaries include the decedent’s spouse, children (including adult and adopted children), and parents (but not stepparents).

Note that under Texas law, siblings are not entitled to bring a wrongful death claim for the death of their brother or sister. Nor are grandparents entitled to maintain an action for the wrongful death of their grandchild. In addition, Texas does not recognize wrongful death actions by same-sex couples at this time. On the other hand, Texas does recognize common law marriage and permits a spouse to bring a wrongful death claim even if he/she was separated from the decedent when the accident occurred. Similarly, a wrongful death claim can be brought even if the surviving spouse remarries after the decedent’s death.

Damages Recoverable
Successful wrongful death claimants may be entitled to recover both actual and exemplary damages.

What are Actual Damages?
Actual damages may include financial losses, such as loss of the decedent’s earning capacity, in addition to the value of the maintenance, services and support they would have provided their family members. Actual damages may also include damages for mental anguish and loss of consortium, which is a term of art for the love, comfort, society, and companionship that is lost when a loved one passes away. Finally, actual damages may include loss of inheritance.

What are Exemplary Damages?
Unlike actual damages, exemplary damages are only recoverable if the decedent's death was caused by the defendant’s willful act or omission or their gross negligence.

Other Important Information
Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Actions
Generally speaking, a person has two years from the date their spouse, child, or parent died to file a claim for wrongful death in Texas. Once the two-year statute of limitations has expired, you are forever barred from bringing your wrongful death claim. For this and many other reasons, it is important to consult with a qualified Texas personal injury attorney as soon as possible if you think you have a wrongful death claim. By filing a claim before the two-year statute of limitations expires, your attorney can preserve your wrongful death action.

Hiring an Attorney to Handle Your Wrongful Death Claim
Given the complexity of wrongful death claims, it is very rare that a person pursues a wrongful death action on his/her own. Fortunately, most wrongful death attorneys work on a contingency-fee basis, meaning they only get paid if there is a recovery.