What are the Rights of the Spouse in a Wrongful Death Case?
As we mentioned in our earlier article, a spouse is considered a statutory beneficiary in the state of Texas. As a result, they can file a wrongful death claim on behalf of their deceased spouse. Let's look a little closer at the different kinds of spousal arrangements that are provided for under the law and what kind of rights are entitled to these beneficiaries.
Click here to learn everything there is to know about Wrongful Death claims.
By Formal Marriage
A spouse in a formal marriage can bring a wrongful death suit. The basic requirements of a formal marriage in Texas are:
- a marriage license obtained from a county clerk and
- a ceremony performed by an authorized person.
This category covers most of the cases we see. It's the other scenarios that people are less aware entitles them to bring a claim.
By Informal Marriage
In the state of Texas, a spouse in an informal (common-law) marriage can also bring a wrongful death suit.
An informal marriage can be proved either as part of the wrongful death suit or in a separate judicial, administrative, or other proceeding. The informal marriage can be proved by evidence that:
- neither member of the couple is married to a third party, and
- either a declaration of informal marriage was signed as provided by Family Code 2.402, or the couple agreed to be married and after the agreement lived together in Texas as husband and wife and represented to others that they were married
If you were part of a common-law marriage, don't make the mistake of thinking the law excludes you from provision. Give us a call and we'll talk you through what you'll need to do to make a claim on behalf of your deceased loved one.
Separated Spouse or Remarried Spouse
As with the earlier arrangements, the law also provides for separates or remarried spouses.
- A spouse who was separated or abandoned at the time of the decedent's death can bring a wrongful death suit.
- A spouse who remarried after the decedent's death can bring a wrongful death suit.
Continue reading to get an idea of some of the kinds of damages that are available to you as the claimant of a wrongful death suit.
In the wake of the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision, same-sex couples are afforded the same rights as any other married couple. This includes the right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit should spouse die due to someone else's negligence.
Given that Texas didn't recognize same-sex marriages until very recently, it is also possible that same-sex partners who were previously married in other states, or held themselves out to be married would be considered to be in a lawful informal marriage under Texas law. The rights of informal partners are the same as those who have chosen to go through the formal marriage process for the purposes of wrongful death law.
Types of Damages Available to You
Some of the damages that Texas law says you can be compensated for include:
- Pecuniary losses (financial losses) - like your loved one's wages, loss of parental and/or spousal services, Funeral expenses
- You can be compensated for mental anguish - the emotional pain caused by your loss.
- Punitive damages, and others
There are many kinds of damages available to you. This is why it is so important to speak with an experienced attorney about your case and the options available to you.
How We Can Help
We have attorneys with over 25 years of experience handling wrongful death claims in Texas. We know this area of the law backwards and forwards. We would be more than happy to discuss your case with you and answer any questions that you might have. Feel free to call us at any hour at (855) 326-0000.