After the unexpected loss of a loved one, a wrongful death lawsuit may be the last thing on your mind. Instead, you’re navigating your family’s new reality and dealing with the emotional and financial impact of your loss. “There will be time for lawyers later on,” you tell yourself.
However, it may not be in your best interest to delay your wrongful death and survival claims. To balance your family’s need to grieve and your legal rights, turn to the respected attorneys at Crosley Law. We handle the legal hassles and help clients get the compensation they need while they focus on their emotional recovery.
While nothing compares to the personalized advice and emotional support our team can offer, this article outlines three essential steps you need to take to protect your wrongful death claims.
1. Get to Know Texas’s Wrongful Death Laws
Wrongful death claims compensate family members for the death of a loved one and help them recover from their loss. However, under Texas law, there are strict rules and procedures that apply to your claims.
Only Certain Family Members Can File a Wrongful Death Claim
Texas restricts the ability to file a wrongful death claim to certain immediate family members of the deceased, including:
- Adult biological children
- Adult adopted children
- Legal parents
Surviving siblings, grandparents, and other members of the family cannot file a wrongful death claim. A legally adopted child cannot file for their biological parents and vice versa – since their parent-child relationship was legally terminated.
If there are no eligible surviving family members or the family does not want to file, a personal representative of the deceased’s estate can file a claim on the deceased’s behalf.
Wrongful Death Damages Focus on the Survivors’ Losses
When someone’s negligence or recklessness causes a death, your family may have several legal claims in Texas. First, the family may have a wrongful death claim. Second, if the deceased survived the incident (even for a short time), their estate may have a survival claim. While these claims are deeply intertwined, they compensate you for different losses.
The purpose of a wrongful death claim is to help the surviving family members recover from their personal losses. Damages may include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Loss of additional inheritance
- Lost household earnings and income
- Loss of companionship
“Your wrongful death claim cannot demand compensation for your loved one’s medical bills and their pain and suffering; you will need to file a survival claim to demand these damages.”
You Must File Your Lawsuit Within 2 Years of Your Loved One’s Death
Finally, eligible family members only have two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit. While this may seem like a lot of time, you need to give your lawyer enough time to investigate your loved one’s death and file a lawsuit. Never wait until the last moment to start your claim.
2. Open an Estate and File a Survival Claim
As we mentioned above, one of the limitations of a wrongful death claim is that you can only receive damages for the financial and emotional harm you experienced as a result of your loved one’s death. To recover damages that cover the pain, suffering, and financial burden accrued by the deceased before they passed, you’ll also need to file a survival claim.
Survival claims are a bit different than wrongful death claims, and not just in what damages are recoverable. Because these claims are demanding compensation for the deceased’s losses, you must open an estate.
An estate is essentially a legal stand-in for the deceased, tasked with handling and settling their affairs. To open an estate, you’ll need to file a series of documents with the court and designate a personal representative. If your loved one has a will, this document should name the personal representative. Otherwise, you will need to appoint someone for the job.
Texas has a strict probate code that dictates how representatives or family must handle an estate. To ensure that the estate complies with the numerous legal requirements, you may need to hire a probate attorney. Your wrongful death attorney can recommend a probate attorney and help coordinate between the creation of the estate and filing the survival claim.
Again, you only have two years to file your loved one’s survival lawsuit, so the sooner you start this process, the better.
Contact Crosley Law’s Wrongful Death Claim Attorneys for Help
At Crosley Law, our wrongful death claim attorneys have a long history of helping grieving families. We also work closely with probate attorneys to help ensure that our clients can file all of their claims. Our goal is to give you the space and compensation you need to heal.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.