Wrongful Death / Truck Accident
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Wrongful Death / Workplace Accident
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Wrongful Death / Truck Accident
Attorney Fees 2,180,000 Litigation Expenses 100,000
Back Injury / Car Accident
Attorney Fees 288,750 Litigation Expenses 2,500
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Everything you need to know about Texas wrongful death law, all in one place:

Everyone understands that if someone deliberately murders a loved one, the police will arrest that person and lawyers who work for the State of Texas will prosecute the murderer to the fullest extent of the law.

But what happens when a loved one is killed by accident or through carelessness, rather than through a willful murder? The answer to this question is found in the Texas Wrongful Death Act. Frankly, most lawyers are reluctant to provide information to grieving family members about wrongful death law. Instead, they take a paternalistic approach, wherein they impliedly state, “I know what I’m doing, just trust me” while effectively keeping their clients in the dark.

We think that’s the wrong way to practice law and that a client has the right to know how their case is being handled and why. On that note, we have prepared the following material to thoroughly explain the ins-and-outs of Texas wrongful death law so that you can:

  • know your rights,
  • know how to file a wrongful death claim, and
  • know what juries typically award grieving families.

Beyond the information presented below, our attorneys possess a wealth of knowledge on the subject of wrongful death law, having litigated hundreds of fatal accident cases. But more importantly, we’ve been in your position before. Several of our attorneys and staff have lost loved ones due to the carelessness of others, so we make it our mission to not only help our clients win their case, but to treat them with respect and compassion. A big part of that goal is being there for your clients when they need you. As such, should you have any questions, about your particular situation, call us. We’re here to help.

Getting Started

It’s helpful to understand all of the legal terminology we’ll use on this page. Here some key words, phrases, and terms of art used in the subject wrongful death law:

  • Decedent: The person who died in the accident
  • Defendant: The person/party being named in the lawsuit who allegedly caused the decedent’s death through their negligence. A lawsuit can have multiple defendants, or just one.
  • Negligence: Behaving irresponsibly or unsafely. More specifically, it’s defined as breaching a duty owed to someone else.
  • Duty: The obligation someone has to act reasonably and safely, and not to cause harm. E.g., a doctor has a duty to care for their patients and drivers have a duty to drive the speed limit.
  • Claim: A lawsuit, essentially. If you have a claim, you have a right to a lawsuit.
  • Compensation: The money paid to you in a wrongful death lawsuit, depending on how great your damages are.
  • Damages: Represents the losses suffered in a wrongful death. “Damages” refers to what you can sue for by law, and can be physical injuries, lost wages, mental anguish, etc.
  • Texas Wrongful Death Act: The written law, drafted by our state’s lawmakers in the early days of Texas, which creates a specific right for the family to sue when a relative is wrongfully killed. The law allows the family members to sue for certain damages when their loved one is killed due to someone’s negligence.
  • Wrongful Death Claim: The claim that Texas law allows certain family members, statutory beneficiaries, to file for their damages due to losing their loved one.
  • Statutory beneficiary: The particular family members that Texas law allows to file wrongful death claim
  • Texas Survival Statute: A written law that allows a decedent’s estate to sue for the pain and suffering that the deceased endured prior to their death.
  • Survival Claim: The decedent’s claim that they would have filed, save for their death, is taken over by the personal representative of their estate – often times a family member.
  • Personal Representative of the decedent’s estate: The representative of the estate is the person who handles the financial affairs of the decedent. Who gets to be the personal representative of the estate? The PR of the estate is either specifically named in the decedent’s will or a family member will petition the court and ask to serve as the PR. The PR of the estate is tasked with pursuing the survival claim.

Additionally, our Frequently Asked Questions page is very helpful in addressing common concerns that our readers have.

What Makes a Death a “Wrongful Death”?

Under what circumstances can you file a lawsuit? Perhaps the simplest way to understand when you can file a wrongful death claim is this: when someone inflicted an injury through negligent or reckless behavior and the victim passes away instead of simply being injured, then the victim’s family has a claim for wrongful death.

The operating word, as you’ve easily picked up by now, is wrongful. There must be some kind of bad act rather than a coincidence or a set of uncontrollable actions. A few quick examples can flesh this out:

  1. An 18-wheeler driver is on drugs when behind the wheel. He blanks out and steers into oncoming traffic, hitting a motorcyclist. The fault is plainly on the truck driver. If the motorcyclist lives, he has a personal injury claim. If he passes away, his family will have a wrongful death claim.
  2. A woman takes a defective drug for diabetes that ends up causing her cancer. Until she dies, she has a personal injury claim. Once she dies, her family has a wrongful death claim.
  3. A child has a congenital heart condition and is treated by a doctor. Despite the doctor’s best efforts, the child dies. While clearly a tragedy, so long as the doctor didn’t perform substandard medical treatment, the family does not have a wrongful death claim against the doctor.

You’ll notice in the above examples, a personal injury claim—in which someone misbehaves and causes harm—becomes a wrongful death claim for the family once the individual passes away.

  • Further reading on how wrongful death lawsuits work

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Case?

When someone dies prematurely, countless people suffer in their own way. Valued employees no longer contribute to their organizations, friends lose confidants, and society at large misses out on the many ways the decedent could have added to our common well being.

But it would create a logistical nightmare if every single person who was affected by someone’s passing was allowed to sue for wrongful death. So, every state in America limits who can file a lawsuit for wrongful death. Each state’s legislature has decided through a written law drafted by state lawmakers (or by acquiescence to a state supreme court decision) which family members can sue and which family members they consider to be “too far removed” from the decedent to have legal standing. In Texas, our Wrongful Death Act specifies that only three categories of individuals can file claims:

  • spouses,
  • children, and
  • parents.

This means that unadopted stepchildren, siblings, same-sex partners, long-term boyfriends and girlfriends, grandparents, and anyone else cannot file a claim. Instead, spouses, children, and parents are referred to as “statutory beneficiaries,” meaning, they’re the only people our wrongful death statute allow to sue.

Many believe that such limitations don’t take into account the changing landscape of the American family. Nonetheless, the law has restricted eligibility and until the legislature changes the rules, it’s what we’re left with.

Further Reading:

What Exactly Is a Wrongful Death Case?

To briefly review what we’ve just said, there are only three types of family members who are allowed to bring wrongful death claims when a loved one dies. But, what does a wrongful death case actually look like? Here are three unique things about wrongful death claims you need to be familiar with:

I. The claim is yours

Except in limited circumstances, you’re not technically filing a claim on behalf of the decedent in a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death claim is for what you personally lost, not what your loved one lost by dying before their time. (Further down the page, we’ll talk about the “survival claim” which is filed on your loved one’s behalf)

In a wrongful death claim, you’re allowed to sue for certain losses, which we’ve outlined below. These are the compensatory damages, or the losses which Texas law says you can be compensated for.

  1. Losses of a pecuniary nature (financial)
    • Loss of decedent’s earning capacity. This refers to what someone would have made, given their education, age, and work history.
    • Expenses associated with psychological treatment or therapy
    • Loss of services
      • Loss of parental services
      • Loss of child services
      • Loss of spousal services
    • Loss of advice and counsel. In general, parents, spouses, and children provide help around the house, child care, and guidance that’s taken away by the wrongful death.
    • Funeral expenses. The costs of laying the loved one to rest can be recovered in a lawsuit, but only if they’ve been paid for by the family. If the decedent’s estate paid for the funeral, that’s a different story.
  2. Mental anguish, which refers to the emotional pain caused by the loss of your loved one.
  3. Loss of companionship and society. This is the loss of time and enjoyment you would have likely had with your loved one.
  4. Loss of inheritance. This is the amount a beneficiary of a will or estate claim would have likely received.
  5. Punitive damages

II. Your claim piggybacks the decedent’s personal injury case:

This is where it can get a little confusing. While your wrongful death case’s damages are based solely on your losses, the mechanism by which you sue the defendant is the underlying personal injury right to sue. For instance:

  • If your loved one was killed in a car accident, you file a wrongful death claim against the defendant and all the underlying elements of the case are the same as they would be in a car accident personal injury case.
  • If your loved one was killed in a work-related accident, you file a wrongful death claim against the defendant employer and all the underlying elements of the case are the same as they would be in a work injury case.
  • If your loved one was killed due to a negligent doctor’s mistakes (called “medical malpractice”), you file a wrongful death claim against the doctor or hospital, and all the underlying elements of the case are the same as they would be in a regular medical malpractice personal injury case.

In legalese, we would say that a wrongful death claim is a “derivative claim,” meaning that the family’s right to sue for the family’s losses is derived from the actual victim’s underlying personal injury claim. But it’s much clearer to simply say that a wrongful death claim piggybacks on the personal injury claim the decedent would have been able to file if they were injured instead of killed.

III. Your claim is limited in the same way that the “personal injury version” of your case is limited

Since a wrongful death claim is based on personal injury law, that means it follows all the same rules. If the law puts some restriction on a personal injury case, then it puts the same restriction on a wrongful death case. One way to think about this is to imagine a wrongful death case as simply a personal injury case where someone was “injured” to death.

Here are the three ways a wrongful death claim is limited:

  1. Limited by operation of lawIf, for example, someone has a personal injury medical malpractice case, they are limited in the amount that they can sue for under Texas law because of a “damages cap” that was voted into law. That means the defendant (in this case, a doctor or a hospital) only ever has to pay some fixed amount, or less. By extension, if someone dies due to medical malpractice, their family members’ wrongful death case is also limited to the same damages cap.

    Further, if someone is hurt on the job in Texas, and their employer elects to participate in the work injury disability plan known as “workers’ compensation,” then the injured worker is not allowed to file suit, and he must instead file an administrative claim with the workers’ compensation system. Again, a fatal work injury results in a wrongful death claim, which is limited by the same inability to file a lawsuit.

    Yet another example would be if someone signs an agreement to settle all disputes in arbitration rather than in court (known as a binding arbitration agreement), but they are injured after signing the agreement. They can only seek compensation through the arbitration process, and they are disallowed from suing the person they made the agreement with in a regular court of law. Likewise, if the person who signed the arbitration agreement dies, their family is also only able to pursue the case through the arbitration process. They cannot file a regular lawsuit.

    In other words, your right to file a wrongful death case is intimately tied to the underlying personal injury laws. In legalese, we would say that you have a wrongful death damages model that is predicated on proving liability under the applicable personal injury theory of negligence.

  2. Limited by comparative faultComparative fault is the law’s way of saying that each party involved in an accident is responsible for their own contribution. When a jury hears a case and is asked to apportion fault, they assign a percentage of fault to each party involved, adding up to 100%. In Texas, and many other states, you can’t receive compensation for your damages if you’re more than 50% at fault for your own accident. We call this the doctrine of modified comparative fault.

    Since fault is apportioned by percentage points, that corresponds to a dollar amount the responsible party has to pay. So, as an example, imagine a car accident scenario where one driver is rear-ended by another on a rainy, wet road and suffers back injuries. Their chiropractic bills amounted to $1,000 and the injured driver files a lawsuit against the other driver. In court, the jury determines that the at-fault driver is only 80% at fault since the roads were wet. According to Texas’ modified comparative fault regime, the at-fault driver would only owe $800 to the injured driver. Again, each party is responsible only for their contribution.

    In a wrongful death case, if your loved one had contributed to their own accident in any way, that carries over. Had they lived, their own claim would have been limited by the extent to which they were at fault. Hence, a wrongful death case will be limited in the same way.

  3. By the application of defensesThere are a litany of defense strategies and tactics that defense lawyers can try to use against your case. These apply to both personal injury cases and wrongful death cases in the same way. Common defense tactics include trying to discount the evidence in your case, claiming you’ve interpreted the law incorrectly, or even trying to get a judge to throw out your case by invoking a “motion for summary judgement.
    • Since your claim piggybacks onto the underlying case, it’s extremely important to select an attorney who has actual experience in litigating those specific types of cases. We’ve seen valuable wrongful death cases ruined by lawyers with no knowledge of how to litigate the underlying claim. Think about it this way: you don’t just need a “wrongful death” attorney, you need a wrongful death attorney who has litigated truck accident cases, auto wreck cases, work accident cases, etc. Each type of case is night-and-day different from the other.

      A common misperception about lawyers is that law school teaches us how to actually practice law. This isn’t true; instead, the tricks of the trade are learned over years of actually working up each individual type of case, knowing the pitfalls and requirements, and being able to make judgment-calls when problems arise.

      • Quick Review:
        • The purpose of a wrongful death case is to recover your financial and emotional losses
        • In order to succeed, the underlying personal injury case and applicable laws must be favorable because they’ll translate over to your wrongful death case
        • Only a lawyer with the experience of handling wrongful death cases in several areas of the law can get you what you deserve

      What Is a Survival Claim?

      Let’s begin this topic by saying that it’s a rather tricky subject. Most people probably know that they can file a wrongful death case (or at least they’ve heard of it before), but very few people have ever heard of a survival claim. So, what exactly is a survival claim?

      A survival claim is another type of claim filed against the defendant responsible for your loved one’s death. However, instead of being a claim for your losses (like a wrongful death claim), a survival claim is actually a claim against the defendant for the pain and suffering that they caused your loved one to endure. In other words, you’re taking over the claim your loved one would have had.

      Technically speaking, the survival claim does not belong to any particular family member. Instead, it belongs to the deceased person. But how can that be? How can the deceased person recover compensation?

      The answer is that when people die of perfectly natural causes, they rarely die with every financial loose end already tied up. They usually leave behind some amount of debt (money owed on a mortgage, car payment, unpaid utility bills, etc.) and they also usually leave behind some assets. These assets include money in their checking account, personal possessions, and – most applicable to this discussion – money that is owed to them from some other person.

      In order to “dispose” of a deceased person’s debts and assets, an “estate” is created. The estate is simply the deceased person’s legal self that continues after they die until all of the debts and assets are disposed of. How the estate functions is determined either by the instructions in the decedent’s written will (in which they specifically outline how they want these loose ends to be tied up), or, if they do not have a will, by the Texas probate law. The Texas probate late outlines how this process should be handled, and the process of disposing of an estate’ assets is called “probating the estate.”

      Now, if someone dies instantly and there was no observable pain and suffering, there is no personal injury claim to be filed by their loved ones. For the purposes of this discussion, though, we can assume that when your loved one passed away, it was due to their injuries. That would mean they had an injury case against the person who hurt them (unless they died instantly). In other words, they were “owed” money by that person since that they caused your loved one to suffer. But, when your loved one passed away, their injury case and the money they were owed did NOT die with them. Rather, the right to sue for injuries became another asset of their estate that needs to be probated.

      To clarify, let’s consider an example. Imagine a man named John who owns $500 in cash, a few outfits, and a car that is paid off. John owes $200 in utility bills, but is otherwise debt-free. Let’s say that John is killed in a work accident wherein he was hit by a forklift and suffered numerous broken bones and injuries, dying at the hospital a few days later. Up until his death, he would have had a work injury case – which would have resulted in him being compensated for his broken bones and other injuries. Let’s say that his broken bones and whatnot entitled him to $100k in compensation. Furthermore, his hospital bills amounted to $30K. When it comes time to probate his estate, whoever is in charge of his estate will use his $500 in cash to pay the $200 utility bill, they will then sell his clothes and his car for, say, $5,000. Then, they will sue the forklift driver for John’s injuries and settle with that company for the $100k. If we’re looking at John’s estate’s assets, it should look something like this:

      • Assets:
        • $5,500 in cash (what he had in his bank account plus the money made from selling his car and clothes
        • $100,000 in cash paid for his work injury claim
      • Debts:
        • $200 to pay the utility bill
        • $30,000 in medical bills incurred prior to his death

      Doing the math, once John’s estate is probated, the estate has remaining assets to the tune of $75,300. That money will then be handed out per a plan of distribution outlined in John’s will, or according to Texas probate law if he has no will. In practical terms, though, the statutory beneficiaries (spouse, parents, children) are the ones who usually get any money from the estate per the decedent’s will, since they are often times close family members. Further, the person in charge of the estate is normally a statutory beneficiary as well.

      It’s possible that someone could die and leave a will, stating that all of their money should go to someone their family has never heard of, but that’s not usually the case. When there is no will, the money will eventually go to the family and is divided according to a formula found in Texas probate law.

      As a matter of convention, even though the survival claim is distinct from the wrongful death claim, they are usually filed in unison in a single lawsuit by the statutory beneficiaries.

      In a survival claim, the estate can be owed several types of compensation, such as:

      In the interest of complete and accurate information, there is an abnormal scenario wherein a relative can have an ongoing personal injury case only to die from something unrelated to the injury, and the family, under the survival statute, can inherit that relative’s injury case. It’s the same concept as what we described above, only it’s taken in a different direction. Again, though, this is a rare phenomenon. Read more about it:

      How Does a Criminal Case Affect Your Wrongful Death Claim?

      When someone commits an act of negligence so serious that an innocent person dies as a result, the police and state prosecutors get involved. Often enough, defendants in wrongful death claims are defendants in a criminal case relating to the same incident. It’s important to keep in mind that there are two cases: i) the criminal case in which the state seeks to impose jail time on the defendant, and ii) the civil case in which private attorneys sue for money to compensate you for your injuries.

      Over the years, our clients have asked many of them same questions when confronted with this situation:

      • Will the defendant’s criminal case hurt my wrongful death claim? No. The two cases are totally separate. We do not negotiate with prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers to have your civil claim dismissed based on how the criminal case goes. Further, even if a jury finds the defendant “not guilty,” that doesn’t mean you cannot still bring (and win) your wrongful death claim
      • Could the criminal case slow down my claim? Maybe. While the criminal case goes on, the defendant has the right not to testify in any capacity because of his 5th Amendment right to remain silent. This means that he cannot be deposed or put on the stand at trial in the wrongful death case.
      • What if the defendant is sentenced to jail? This happens a lot in the drunk driving context. The driver pleads guilty or is convicted, and is then sentenced to years in prison. However, even if he cannot appear at trial, he can be placed under oath in prison (called a “deposition”) which can be admitted to the jury. Further, keep in mind that even if the defendant pleads guilty to the underlying defense, the civil case is not “over” as well. Claimants still have to prove up their case in civil court.
      • Will your law firm be involved in the criminal case? No. The state of Texas, through law enforcement and the District Attorney, is responsible for prosecuting the defendant. We work to stay informed about the criminal case, but that case is completely out of our hands.

      While the criminal process may slow down the civil case, it can often yield a treasure trove of evidence. Police investigate the initial accident; all of their findings will become part of the public record, which we can use for the civil case. Additionally, if the criminal case goes to trial, there will be pre-made witness statements that can help lead to a finding good evidence.

      In the end, the criminal process is designed to preserve the peace and dignity of the state as a whole and punish the wrongdoer. The civil process is there to directly compensate victims for the financial and emotional damages they’ve endured.

      Why Sue for Money?

      Those who’ve lost loved ones are primarily concerned with two things: finding out exactly what happened, and making sure such a tragedy doesn’t happen again to anyone else. Further, news reports are littered with talk of “jackpot juries” who award people exorbitant amounts of money for minor injuries. But the fact remains that while we cannot bring back those who’ve lost their lives, the victims left behind have seen their lives changed forever.

      So, why do we pursue money in a lawsuit at all? After all, the greatest victim is no longer alive to make use of the funds.There are two main justifications for pursuing financial compensation in a wrongful death claim:

      We Pursue Compensation for Justice

      As we have discussed, wrongful death claims “piggyback” the decedent’s personal injury claim. If the victim had lived and only been seriously hurt, he or she could bring a claim for the damages endured. In the wrongful death context, it would be wildly unjust to allow the perpetrator to escape payment simply because the victim is no longer around to pursue the claim.

      Think about it this way. If someone robs your grandmother’s house, we’d want that person thrown in jail. He caused your grandmother a great deal of fear and loss and must be punished. But what if your grandmother died two days later from unrelated reasons? Would we simply let the robber walk free and clear from jail because the victim has passed away? Of course not.

      We’re all born with an innate sense that the “scales of justice” must be righted as much as is possible. Since we’re not going to demand that the person who negligently killed your loved one himself be killed or physically injured, that leaves money.

      Further, by holding individuals and companies financially liable, we can create extra incentives for keeping such tragedies from happening again. In order to deter future bad actors, today’s perpetrators must be made to pay. The pocketbook is a sensitive thing—no one likes having to pay out significant sums of money, and when they see it happen to someone else, they’ll think twice about making the same mistakes.

      This is especially true of businesses. Companies employ teams of lawyers to keep them informed about potential legal liabilities. These lawyers keep close tabs on how their company’s competitors are faring when accidents happen and in turn advise their clients on what safety risks they have. When victims do not litigate cases, then these lawyers are not communicating to their clients that they might need to change dangerous practices.

      We Pursue Compensation Because It’s Necessary:

      Losing someone to an early death doesn’t simply take an emotional toll, but a financial one as well. Lost income, lost inheritance, household services—the list goes on. And since your loved one is no longer there to provide, you must make up the financial differences somewhere. The compensation that families receive in wrongful death cases isn’t about making anyone “rich,” but about replacing the finances wrongfully taken.

      The bottom line is that you need the money that your loved one provided. You shouldn’t be forced to make up the entire difference on your own. You need that money for groceries, to pay the mortgage, for school, and everything else that you need to live as normal a life as possible. Additionally, almost every victim has incurred significant financial loss from any number of sources, such as missed work, travel costs for other family members to attend the funeral, and counseling.

      The money that was taken from you belonged to you. It was supposed to be yours to use for your needs and at your discretion. You deserve to have it back.


      No discussion of wrongful death cases is complete without a brief explanation about how insurance impacts the case. Most negligent people do not have sufficient assets to cover your losses. To use one all-too-common example, the negligent trucker who killed your family member probably doesn’t have the thousands—or even millions—of dollars to cover your losses. For that, we have to go after the wrongdoer’s insurance.

      Insurance companies exist to compensate victims. Except they don’t.

      They exist for their own shareholders, and their shareholders want what all shareholders do: profits. Insurance companies take in money in premiums (revenue). Like any other business, they don’t like to pay money out (expenses). Your claim represents an expense, pure and simple. Every dollar they don’t have to pay you goes straight to their bottom line.

      Most people reasonably believe that once an insurance company is presented with a legitimate claim, they are legally required to pay you. In small claims like fender-bender car wrecks, insurance companies usually pay at least something. But when the insurance company faces the prospect of the potentially massive payouts when their insured caused a wrongful death, they dig in their heels and fight you hard.

      The biggest danger we see in wrongful death cases is a victim dealing directly with the insurance company. Insurance adjusters are paid to get you to say things and sign documents that hurt your case. It doesn’t matter how much education you have or how smart you are: insurance companies hold all the cards because they have the money to pay you and are willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to keep it.

      The only way an insurance company will ever pay you the amount you deserve is to scare it into thinking that a jury will award you even more. This is why you need a lawyer who can build a credible, thorough case such that the insurance company’s lawyers will advise them to cut you a check and walk away.

      Keep these few rules in mind with respect to insurance companies:

      • Don’t take any calls from insurance adjusters
      • Don’t give any “recorded statements” without a lawyer present
      • Don’t sign anything without having a lawyer look at it first
      • Don’t listen to “armchair lawyer” friends and family who aren’t attorneys but claim to know how to deal with insurance companies
      • Don’t give into the natural desire to just “get the whole thing over with” and settle for less than what you deserve

      How Long You Have to File Your Case

      Wrongful death victims have more to deal with in the aftermath of their loved one’s passing than lawsuits. In fact, taking any legal action at all might be the last thing on grieving victim’s mind.

      Nonetheless, two factors mandate that a wrongful death claim be filed relatively quickly:

      1. The statute of limitations
        Like every other state, Texas limits the timeframe in which you are allowed to bring a lawsuit. The general rule is that if you do not bring a wrongful death lawsuit within two years of the accident, you are forever barred from doing so. The reasons for this are many, but the main justification is that courts should be open to everyone, but it’s inefficient to allow victims to “sit on their rights” and wait.

      Two years may seem like a long time, but it isn’t. First, even after a period of intense mourning, victims understandably need time to attend to other issues. Getting the decedent’s affairs in order after an unexpected passing can take months with having to dispose of their property, having their will (if any) probated, and putting the pieces together of what family life will look like. Second, it takes significant time for even the most diligent attorney to complete an appropriate investigation before filing suit. The lawsuit must be drafted such that it will stand up in court against the correct party or parties with sufficient facts. Third, formally placing the lawsuit in the defendant’s hands (called “service of process”) can be tricky when parties flee the state—or even the country. And lastly, we cannot begin to tell you how many cases evolve from one defendant to three, four, or more. Once the process gets into gear, new facts come to light that show other parties could be responsible.

      • Learn more about the statute of limitations

      To see how quickly that time can get consumed, consider the following scenario. A man is killed in an 18-wheeler accident:

      • his family mourns for six months before hiring a lawyer (18 months to statute)
      • their attorney spends 3 months to investigate the claim, request records, and research the trucking company that killed the man (15 months to statute)
      • the trucking company is finally served with the lawsuit 2 months later (13 months to statute)
      • the trucking company files its initial answer with the court a month later (1 year to statute)

      Note that before anything particularly substantive in the case has occurred, an entire year has expired. Once the discovery process begins and the parties begin to exchange information, it becomes clear after 9 more months to the attorney that the brakes on the truck at issue were manufactured incorrectly. The attorney now has only 3 months to locate the brakes’ manufacturer, have them sued, and get the manufacturer served. The above illustration shows that, simply due to the length of the litigation process, 2 years is not a lot of time.

      An important wrinkle for this, however, is children. Under the wrongful death statute of limitations, a minor child’s 2 years doesn’t begin until they turn 18. Therefore, even if a child is 2 years old at the time of her father’s passing, she can bring a claim against the defendant up until she turns 21.

    • Concerns about evidence
      As we discussed above, the decedent’s family must piggyback their wrongful death claim to the decedent’s underlying case. In other words, they must prove not only their losses, but that their loved one passed away as the result of someone else’s negligence. At the risk of stating the obvious, this requires a great deal of evidence. While what evidence will be required varies by case type, one thing is true for every wrongful death claim: evidence tends to disappear.When claimants wait too long to bring their case, they are providing the defendant time to hide, or simply lose, evidence. Further, memories tend to fade, documents get destroyed, and witnesses move away and cannot be located.

      This is why it is never wise to rely on the statute of limitations to be your guide once you’ve decided that you need to file a lawsuit. Multimillion-dollar cases often turn on one email, a single text message, or a surveillance video. Once those items get destroyed, it’s virtually impossible to get them back.


      At the beginning of this article, we set out to explain wrongful death law and give you an inside look at how different types of cases can work themselves out. The bottom line is that we’re not afraid to show people how the law works and we understand it well enough to field any kind of question or concern.

      Too many lawyers keep their clients in the dark about their cases, and when it comes time to settle and disburse the funds, the family of the deceased is often unhappy with the results. We think that’s a bad way to practice the law and prefer to keep the client in the driver’s seat, so to speak. Since wrongful death cases are predicated upon personal injury cases, it’s important that your attorney be incredibly familiar personal injury law.

      Again, this website exists so that people in need can easily access legal information that would otherwise be unavailable to them. The law can be confusing, we understand, and so our goal is to translate it into helpful and useful information for those who need it. We’re always glad to share what we know, so give us a call or send an email if there’s some other question you have or you’d like to talk to an attorney without feeling confused afterward.

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Call us anytime toll Free 1-855-326-0000