CALL (800) 863-5312 TO SPEAK WITH A FORT WORTH WRONGFUL DEATH LAWYER FOR FREE
The loss of a loved one is one of the greatest challenges that anyone can face in life, particularly if their death was the result of some third party’s wrongful acts. Regardless of how it happened, the surviving family members are left to pick up the pieces. Our Fort Worth wrongful death attorneys may help you during this emotional time. At Zinda Law Group, we understand you not only need time to grieve the loss of your loved one, but you also want to hold the negligent party responsible.
The lawyers at Zinda Law Group have handled numerous wrongful death claims on behalf of decedents’ surviving beneficiaries. We can help you make sense of the legal and financial aspects of a family’s loss and obtain financial compensation from those responsible. If the negligence of another caused the death of your relative, call Zinda Law Group today at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation with our experienced personal injury lawyers.
Defining Wrongful Death in Texas
A wrongful death occurs when a fatality arises due to the negligence or carelessness of another person or company. A lawsuit for wrongful death imposes liability on the at-fault party, or his or her employer, for their wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.
Each state has its own laws regarding who can file a wrongful death claim, what damages they can recover, and when a wrongful death claim must be filed. The state laws governing wrongful deaths in Texas can be found in the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code § 71.000 – 71.020.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Texas?
Due to the highly intimate and personal nature of wrongful death lawsuits, only specific people may file a wrongful death claim – typically only the decedent’s immediate surviving family members. In Texas, the wrongful death statutes are narrowly tailored to include only:
- A surviving spouse or domestic partner,
- Any surviving biological or adopted children, and
- The parents of the decedent
Not all these individuals need to be involved in the lawsuit, but any one of these qualified persons may file the lawsuit for the benefit of all recipients. If, however, none of these individuals has begun an action for wrongful death within three calendar months after the decedent’s death, the executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate must bring the action, unless otherwise instructed by the decedent’s heirs.
Unfortunately, this means that (unadopted) stepchildren, siblings, and grandparents are not included within the class of persons who can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
How Long Does a Person Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
A “statute of limitations” refers to a law that sets the maximum time period during which a party can initiate a legal proceeding. Under Texas law, a surviving beneficiary typically only has two years to file a wrongful death claim, starting from the date of the decedent’s death. Therefore, while the cause of action (i.e. the type of lawsuit) dictates when the particular statute of limitations begins, there are occasionally grounds to extend this time to ensure a fair trial. Some of these exceptions that can extend the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims include:
- The only surviving plaintiff was a minor child when the statutory period began to toll,
- The negligence of the defendant wasn’t known during the two-year period after the decedent’s death,
- The only surviving plaintiff suffered a mental or physical impairment that prevented them from filing the lawsuit during the two-year period, or
- There is evidence of fraud surrounding or relating to the decedent’s death.
Given that Texas has a fairly short statute of limitations for wrongful death claims, it is highly advisable that surviving beneficiaries contact an experienced wrongful death attorney within a few months after the death of their loved one. This both ensures their claim is filed prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations and provides the attorney ample time to gather evidence for the case.
What Compensation Can Be Recovered in Texas?
Surviving beneficiaries of wrongful death claims in Texas may recover both economic damages as well as costs associated with non-economic losses.
Economic damages refer to the monetary benefits that the beneficiaries would most likely have received from the decedent had he or she survived. Pecuniary benefits include not only money, but everything that can be valued monetarily. The amount of economic losses will depend both on the age of the beneficiary and the class of the decedent (i.e. whether they are a spouse, parent, adult child, or minor child.)
A surviving spouse, for example, may recover not only lost financial contributions from their deceased partner, but they may also be able to recover the value of lost services, advice, and counsel.
A minor child may be entitled to recover the sum of all monetary contributions that the deceased parent most likely would have contributed to his or her upbringing and support. This not only includes the reasonable value of the parent’s nurture, care, and moral training, but also any monetary benefits that he or she would have received during their age of majority, including the cost of the child’s future education and lost inheritance.
An adult child, similarly, has a right to recover contributions that he or she would have likely received from the parent, including costs of future education, loss of inheritance, as well as the value of such intangible things as loss of advice and counsel.
The parents of the decedent likewise may recover the reasonable cash value of the services, advice, and counsel that the child would have provided to them into their old age.
Non-economic damages are a type of damages that are difficult to discern and quantify. They typically include mental anguish, loss of consortium, and/or loss of companionship and society.
In Sanchez v. Schindler, the Texas Supreme Court held that a plaintiff could recover damages in a wrongful death action for mental anguish. In later cases, the Court defined the category of mental anguish to include “emotional pain, torment, and suffering that the named plaintiff would, in reasonable probability, experience from the death of the family member.”
Loss of Companionship and Society
This form of damages attempts to encompass the social or interpersonal loss of a close relative. The Texas Supreme Court in Moore v. Lillebo defined the loss of companionship and society as the ending of “the positive benefits flowing from the love, comfort, companionship, and society the named plaintiff(s) would, in reasonable probability, experience if the decedent lived.”
Loss of Consortium
This type of loss is a form of damages exclusive to a surviving spouse. “Consortium” encompasses all of the emotional and romantic intimacy of life partnership; including the mutual right and exchange of spousal affection, solace, comfort, companionship, society, assistance, and sexual relations necessary for a successful relationship.
Types of Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Wrongful deaths that occur as a result of negligent behavior can occur in numerous ways. As of 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that “accidents” were the fourth leading cause of fatalities in Texas, with 10,763 deaths statewide. The most common unintentional injuries or accidents which lead to wrongful death claims include:
- Car Accidents
- Truck Accidents
- Pedestrian Accidents
- Drunk Driving Accidents
- Distracted Driving Accidents
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Bicycle Accidents
- Medical Malpractice
- Defective Products or Equipment
- Premises Liability
- Workplace or Construction-Site Accidents
Get Help from Our Fort Worth Wrongful Death Lawyers Today.
At Zinda Law Group, our Fort Worth attorneys have helped many surviving family members get their lives back on track after losing a loved one. We have the knowledge and resources to help you seek financial compensation for their death, including any medical bills, pecuniary damages, and any other costs they or you have incurred as a result of their passing.
Our firm believes that clients should never have to worry about their ability to afford legal representation. This is why we offer free consultations and operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning you will pay nothing unless we win your case. That’s our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
If you or a loved one has lost a parent, spouse, domestic partner, or child to the negligence of a third party, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive your free consultation with our Fort Worth wrongful death attorneys.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.