Under Texas Statutes section 71.001, a lawsuit for wrongful death may be initiated if a party dies because of “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default” of another party.
A Texas wrongful death claim may be filed by the surviving spouse, adult children, and parents of the deceased. The claim can be filed singly or as a group. These relatives have three months to file a wrongful death claim after which the executor of the dead individual’s estate may file such a claim.
Adopted children can file wrongful death claims for the death of an adoptive parent, but not biological parents. On similar lines, adoptive parents can file a claim for the wrongful death of an adoptive child. Siblings, whether biological or adopted, cannot file a wrongful death claim in Texas.
A wrongful death claim must be filed by the surviving family members. In a criminal liability matter, the charges are pressed by the prosecuting lawyer, and the case will involve probation, imprisonment, fines, and other penalties. In a wrongful death claim, the liability is restricted to economic damages. A wrongful death claim can be filed alongside a criminal liability charge.
The damages in a Texas wrongful death claim can compensate for –
- Loss of earning.
- Loss of care, support, service, and advice that the departed would have given to the family.
- Mental trauma and pain.
- Loss of companionship.
- Loss of future savings and inheritance.
Texas law provides for exemplary damages for wrongful deaths resulting from willful acts of omission or because of gross negligence. The objective of such damages, also known as punitive damages, is to punish the guilty party and send a strong message that such acts of negligence will not be tolerated.
The court determines the proportion in which the damages are to be distributed among family members of the deceased, depending on the extent to which they suffered from the loss.