How Long Do I Have To Sue Someone In Texas For Wrongful Death?
Losing a loved one is traumatizing. There is no way that we can overstate or empathize with the pain and heartache that you're going through at this time in your life. Further, to make matters worse, that family member may have been a contributor to your monthly bills, so now not only are you emotionally stressed, but so too are you financially strained.
Losing an income earner can lead to fiscal ruin. It's hard to be prepared for the sudden loss of a loved one, especially due to another's negligence.
In most wrongful death cases the Texas wrongful death statute of limitations gives plaintiffs a two year window to file a lawsuit. Essentially, that means that the claim must be resolved within that two year period from the time of death OR a lawsuit must be filed within that two year period, since filing a lawsuit will extend the deadline further.
Exceptions to the 2-Year Statute of Limitations
When the Plaintiff is a Minor Child
The wrongful death claim of a minor child can not expire until the child is of legal age to pursue such a claim. The two year statute of limitations therefore does not start to count down until the child's 18th birthday. For example, if a 15-year-old child lost their father in a work-related accident, that child's claim would be extended until two years after they are of legal age (so until their 20th birthday). A minor child is not required to wait until they turn 18 to pursue a wrongful death claim.
A parent or guardian can pursue the claim on behalf of the minor child and this is usually a better idea than waiting, because the evidence necessary to win a wrongful death case will usually vanish long before the child becomes of legal age.
When a parent or guardian pursues a wrongful death case on behalf of their minor child, the court will appoint an ad litem, a non-biased, third-party attorney, who will review the terms of the settlement or jury verdict to determine that the resolution was fair and in the best interest of the child. This keeps family members and other parties from helping themselves to the child's claim. Once the case is resolved, the money is put into the court's registry and is made available for the child when they come of legal age.
When the Defendants or Their Negligence Were Unknown
Wrongful death cases in Texas are subject to the "discovery rule" which states that the two year time period does not begin to run until the time that a reasonably prudent person would have known that they had a cause of action. A perfect example to illustrate this would be a drug injury case.
Imagine that a man takes a pharmaceutical drug and dies due to complications from taking that drug. Ten years after his death, it is determined that the drug was defective and that the he died as a result of this defect. The decedent's widow would more than likely be able to file a claim even though the standard two year window had expired. The idea behind this is that the plaintiff would not know that they had a case until years later, which would therefore extend the statute of limitations.
In cases where the defendant deliberately concealed their involvement or culpability in a death, the statute may be extended to allow the family of the deceased to pursue civil action against said defendant.
Mentally or Physical Incapacity
If a plaintiff has suffered some physical or mental incapacities that keep them from responding within the standard two year statute of limitations, the statute may be extended to accommodate. For example, if a man and his wife are involved in a car accident and the man dies but the wife goes into a coma for three years, her statute of limitations would likely be extended due to the fact that she was mentally or physically incapacitated and was unable to pursue a wrongful death claim on behalf of her husband.
Wrongful death cases should not be handled by inexperienced law firms. Attorney Michael Grossman has 25 years of experience in successfully litigating wrongful death claims and our attorneys can help you with your wrongful death claim as well. Contact Grossman Law Offices at (855) 326-0000 (toll-free) for a free consultation.