Under Texas Law, Which Family Members Can File a Wrongful Death Truck Accident Lawsuit?
When 40 ton 18-wheelers involved in an accident, the sheer size of the truck greatly increases the likelihood that the accident will be a fatal one. This leaves families without a mother, father, sister, daughter, or cousin. Texas law recognizes the significance of this loss by allowing certain surviving family members to file wrongful death lawsuits against the negligent truck driver and their employer.
Questions answered on this page:
- Who has standing to file a wrongful death suit?
- What must the plaintiff establish to pursue a wrongful death claim?
- How does a wrongful death claim differ from a survival claim?
Who can file a wrongful death claim under Texas law?
Texas law limits the right to file a wrongful death claim to certain relatives of the deceased. The relevant portion of the law is found in the Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Title 4, Chapter 71, Section 71.004:
(a) An action to recover damages as provided by this subchapter is for the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased.
Simply put, wrongful death claims are reserved for:
- Spouses - This includes those who are officially married and those who have informal marriages under Texas law. In addition, last year's Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges means that same-sex spouses, either formal or informal, have the same rights as opposite sex couples.
- Children - Children of the deceased, including adoptive children, also have wrongful death claims.
- Parents - Parents of the deceased, either biological or adoptive.
On the other hand, the list of people ineligible to file wrongful death claims in Texas includes siblings, grandparents, cousins, friends, and unmarried partners of any duration.
How Truck Accident Wrongful Death Claims Work
There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to truck accident wrongful death claims. Since insurance companies have so much money on the line, at least $1 million dollars in Texas, they will defend themselves vigorously. No matter how obvious it is that they are at fault for the accident, they will never accept blame voluntarily. In our experience, this can be very upsetting to our clients, who have not only lost a loved one, but also have to endure the additional pain of those responsible disclaiming any responsibility.
Large amounts of money makes people behave strangely. Families should even be prepared for the trucking insurance companies to vigorously argue that the accident was the fault of your deceased relative. We understand that when family members are still mourning their loss, trying to deal with the tremendous emotional anguish, not to mention more practical matters, like lost income, and potential medical bills, this is the last thing they need. While we do our best to shield grieving families from the worst of what insurers will do, in the end, the best shield is knowing what is coming and fighting for what the law entitles you to.
Some things that you need to be aware of when you are pursuing a wrongful death claim are:
- You and your attorney are responsible for proving the damages of your case
- The damages in a fatal truck accident are different from those in other personal injury claims
- The trucking company and their insurance company will aggressively attempt to discredit your claim
While pursuing a wrongful death claim may sound daunting, it should not scare you away from exercising your legal rights. Armed with help from an experienced attorney who has successfully handled hundreds of wrongful death claims, there is no reason that you cannot succeed. These are complex situations, but we have over 25 years of experience handling truck accident claims in Texas. We are more than willing to answer whatever questions you might have regarding your claim.
We've won hundreds of commercial vehicle accident cases for grieving families throughout Texas and across the country. We have experienced attorneys available to talk to you at whatever time is most convenient. Feel free to call us regarding your claim or any questions you have. You can reach us at (855) 326-0000.
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