Wrongful Death Lawyers in Houston, TX(281) 283-8500
There is no event a family can face more traumatic and emotional than the loss of a loved one.
It can feel impossible to move forward after the sudden loss of a loved one. However, if your loved one has been fatally injured and it was someone else’s fault, you face an unanticipated future and a number of legal questions. We can help. Our Houston wrongful death attorneys will compassionately listen to your story and tenaciously fight to make sure you receive the compensation you deserve after the wrongful death accident that changed your life. Financial recovery cannot bring your loved one back, but it can alleviate some of the stress you face after a sudden loss.
Depending on the circumstances, Texas law may entitle you or another family member to bring a wrongful death claim or survival action. However, the law and procedures surrounding these claims are complicated. You will need the advice and guidance of an experienced Houston wrongful death lawyer from The Krist Law Firm, P.C. We will explain your rights and responsibilities and help you determine the best course of action for you and your family. Contact us online or call 281-283-8500 today to schedule your initial consultation.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
The wrongful death legal process can be complex. If you lost a family member in an accident you believe was caused by another person’s carelessness, recklessness, or intentional misconduct, then you should speak to an attorney about a Texas wrongful death claim. Based on the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Chapter 71, Subchapter A, certain family members may be entitled to recover damages through a wrongful death claim if their loved one’s death was the result of another party’s negligence. This cause of action exists if the individual who passed away would have been entitled to bring a personal injury claim had they lived.
Section 71.004(b) states that the people who can make a wrongful death claim in Texas include:
- Spouses, even if they were separated at the time of death
- Adoptive and biological children
- Parents of the deceased
However, if none of the surviving relatives who are entitled to bring the action file the suit within three months after their loved one’s death, then the executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate can bring the action. The only limitation to this is if all of the surviving family members who could bring the action request that the executor does not move forward with the claim.
The Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
Under Section 16.003(b), the surviving spouse, children, and parents, or the estate’s representative, have two years from the time the action accrues to file a wrongful death claim. The date the cause of action accrues is typically the day your loved one passed away, though this is not always the case. There are multiple situations that could delay the start of the wrongful death state of limitations or pause it.
If you are approaching the two-year mark or it has been more than two years since your loved one’s death, contact an experienced wrongful death attorney to discuss whether you can still file a wrongful death claim in Texas.
Wrongful Death Compensation
Under Section 71.004(a), a wrongful death action to recover damages is for the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased. Other family members and loved ones, including grandparents, siblings, cousins, and romantic partners are typically not entitled to compensation for their loss.
Compensation the surviving family members may recover includes:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral and burial costs
- Loss of the family member’s financial contributions
- Loss of the family member’s care, support, maintenance, advice, and counsel
- Loss of the family member’s love, companionship, and comfort
- Loss of inheritance from that family member
- Physical pain and mental anguish
Punitive damages, which are meant to punish the wrongdoer, are only available in certain situations. Speak with a Houston wrongful death lawyer today about the compensation you and your loved ones may be able to recover.
Laws That May Affect Your Legal Claim
Depending on your loved one’s occupation and the cause of their death, a number of other state and federal statutes may apply to the situation. More specifically, your recovery, if your loved one was a maritime professional killed in a workplace accident, may be affected by these federal laws:
Family members may have the right to sue a seaman’s employer when the employer’s negligence caused the seaman’s death.
Temporary income benefits
If you are injured and must miss more than seven days of work, you can receive temporary income benefits. Temporary income benefits pay 70 percent of the difference between your average weekly wage and the wage you are capable of earning after the injury. You receive this income benefit until you reach maximum medical improvement, you fully return to work, or 104 weeks after your eighth day of being off work.
Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act
Family members of workers performing offshore oil and gas exploration on the outer continental shelf may sue for wrongful death damages if their loved one died because of workplace negligence.
Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
Family members of longshoremen and other dock workers may seek wrongful death benefits for negligence that occurred dockside and caused their loved one’s death.
The Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and Survival Action
Though some individuals will use the terms wrongful death and survival actions interchangeably, they are two different legal claims. A wrongful death claim arises when a person passes away and is intended to benefit the surviving family members who are injured by the loss. Based on Section 71.021, a survival action is a legal claim that arises during the deceased person’s life and is intended to compensate the decedent. For example, a surviving personal injury claim may exist if a person was severely injured in an accident and then passed away weeks later. It is known as a survival claim because the decedent’s legal claim survives their death.
Who May File a Survival Claim?
A number of individuals may be able to pursue a survival claim on behalf of the decedent, including any heir or legal representative of the estate. It is important to note that a decedent’s heirs are based on Texas law and not what was included in their will. Someone who is a named beneficiary in the decedent’s will may not be a legal heir, and therefore, may not be entitled to move forward with a survival action.
The Survival Claim Statute of Limitations
In most circumstances, the statute of limitations for a surviving personal injury suit is the same as it would be for a personal injury lawsuit brought by the living, injured individual. Based on Section 16.003(a), a personal injury claim must be filed within two years from the date the cause of action accrues. This is typically two years from the time the decedent was injured. However, a statute of limitations can toll based on a variety of circumstances. If you are worried about the clock running out, contact an attorney as soon as possible.
Survival Claim Damages
While wrongful death damages are based on the survivor’s injuries, the damages from a survival claim are those incurred by the decedent between the time of the accident and their death. Wrongful death damages typically go straight to the surviving spouse, parents, and children. Survival claim damages go to the decedent’s estate and then are divided among the decedent’s heirs. Under a survival action, other heirs than the spouse, parent, or children may also be able to recover compensation, including siblings.
The compensation these parties may obtain includes most of the damages the decedent would have been entitled to had they lived, including:
- Medical expenses
- Loss of earning capacity
- Physical limitations
- Physical pain
- Mental anguish
Wrongful Death Lawyer Frequently Asked Questions
Are there two statutes of limitations for wrongful death claims in Texas?
Yes and no. There are two separate claims that can be brought after a loved one dies. One is a wrongful death claim, brought by the qualifying family members. The other is brought in a survival suit by the estate on behalf of the decedent provide compensate for damages that occurred between the time of the accident and their death.
The statute of limitations period on a wrongful death claim – the claim the deceased person could have filed if they had lived – is two years from the date of the incident. The limitations period for a family member’s claim for wrongful death is two years from the date the family member died. These dates are very important because if you miss the statute of limitations — the deadline for bringing a lawsuit for damages — you could be barred from moving forward with your claim altogether. This is one of the reasons it is so important to consult with a wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. Sometimes there may be ways to get around these deadlines, but the best course of action is to retain a lawyer and file an action well within the limitations periods.
Is a common law marriage considered a marriage in Texas for purposes of making a wrongful death claim?
In Texas, a spouse is allowed to bring a wrongful death action even if the marriage was by common law; however, all elements required to establish a valid common law marriage must be proven.
Can I bring a wrongful death action if my spouse and I were separated at the time of his fatal accident?
Yes, you can bring an action for the wrongful death of your spouse even if the two of you were separated when they were killed. Texas does not have legal separation anyway, so regardless of any technical separation, Texas law considers you still married. You can even still bring the action if you get remarried after their death.
Can a surviving spouse in a same-sex couple file a wrongful death action?
Yes, same-sex couples who are married or satisfy the requirements of a common law marriage can bring a wrongful death claim in Texas.
Is there an age limit by which children must file a wrongful death claim after they lose a parent?
While some states prevent adult children from obtaining compensation for a parent’s death, this is not the case in Texas. In Texas, biological or adoptive children of any age can file for damages after a parent’s death regardless of their age. If adoptive children qualify to file a claim for their adoptive parents, they may not also recover wrongful death damages for their biological parents.
My stepmother raised me. Can I join my siblings in bringing a claim for my stepmother’s wrongful death?
Unfortunately, no. Stepchildren do not have the right to file an action for wrongful death for a stepparent. Similarly, stepparents cannot bring a claim for wrongful death following the death of a stepchild.
How much will it cost me to hire a lawyer to handle my wrongful death claim?
At The Krist Law Firm, we do not charge you any fees up front. Your initial consultation is free and if you hire us as your attorneys, we will pay all of the costs of investigating and prosecuting your case and you are not charged any fees unless and until your case is settled or resolved in court. We then take a percentage of your recovery for our fees and also deduct expenses from the award. If you don’t win your case, you owe us nothing.
How Our Houston Wrongful Death Lawyers Can Help
Wrongful death claims and survival actions can be complicated. You may have to deal with a workers’ compensation claim, an insurance claim, or file a lawsuit in court, all of which have different applicable laws and procedures. Instead of attempting to navigate these types of claims yourself, contact our experienced and trusted wrongful death lawyers of The Krist Law Firm, P.C.
We have more than 40 years of experience helping families recover compensation after losing loved ones in tragic accidents. We know how difficult this time is for you, and we make it our priority to protect your rights and fight for the maximum compensation possible.
To learn more about how we can help you and your family, contact us through our online form or call 281-283-8500 .