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.
Beginning to Understand Wrongful Death Law
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 - oftentimes 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.