Jason Stephens | November 27, 2023 | Wrongful Death
Did another party cause the death of your family member? If so, you might consider suing for wrongful death.
The Texas wrongful death statute gives family members the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation for damages. However, the law imposes a wrongful death lawsuit statute of limitations that restricts the amount of time a family has to file a lawsuit.
You should contact a Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer to discuss your legal options as soon as possible. You do not want to lose your right to hold the party who caused your loved one’s death responsible for their actions.
Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Texas
You do not have an unlimited time to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas. Every state sets limitations on the amount of time families have to pursue wrongful death claims. In Texas, the government has set the statute of limitations at two years for wrongful death lawsuits.
The time to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Fort Worth begins on the date of the person’s death. The right to file a wrongful death lawsuit is given to the deceased’s surviving spouse, children, and parents.
However, if none of these parties have filed a wrongful death action within three months after the deceased’s death, the personal representative for the estate can file an action for wrongful death.
Why Does Texas Have a Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations?
The state imposes a statute of limitations for wrongful death actions for several reasons. The state attempts to balance the rights of the family members to seek compensation for losses with being fair to the defendant(s).
A defendant has the right to build a defense to allegations of causing a wrongful death. However, a defendant could lose access to evidence they need for their defense as time passes. By setting deadlines for filing wrongful death lawsuits, defendants know how long they need to maintain evidence they will need at trial.
Additionally, it is unfair to keep a person in limbo forever, wondering if they might be sued. It can be difficult for someone to go about their lives worrying that they could be sued for wrongful death at any time. Setting a statement of limitations ensures that a timely lawsuit is filed.
Statutes of limitations in wrongful death cases work in favor of the family members, too. Evidence can be lost the longer you wait to file a claim. The sooner the family hires a lawyer to file a claim, the sooner the lawyer can begin securing key evidence to prove the legal elements of a wrongful death claim.
It takes time to prepare a wrongful death claim. Your lawyer needs to investigate the circumstances of your loved one’s death and gather evidence proving fault and liability. When you file a lawsuit, you want as much evidence as possible to build a solid case.
Understandably, you might not be ready to speak with an attorney while grieving the loss of a family member. However, waiting too long to contact a lawyer about a lawsuit could result in losing the right to pursue a claim against the responsible party in court.
What Happens if I Miss the Deadline for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Fort Worth, Texas?
The court can dismiss a lawsuit that is filed after the statute of limitations expires without considering the merits of the case. You might have a valid claim against the party who caused your loved one’s death. However, missing the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit means no one will answer for your loved one’s death.
The statute of limitations for a wrongful death case is a strict deadline. The court cannot bend the rules if a family files a lawsuit just after the deadline passes. Missing the statute of limitations by one day is sufficient to end the case.
There could be situations where the court might allow the lawsuit to proceed, but these situations are very limited. For example, the court might allow a wrongful death lawsuit to proceed after the statute of limitations expires if the defendant had knowingly and intentionally tried to hide their conduct. However, the family would need overwhelming evidence proving the defendant’s actions, which is still a high bar to prove.
The best way to protect your right to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit is to seek legal advice as soon as possible after your loved one’s death. An attorney can review your situation and advise whether you have a claim and, if so, the deadline for filing your claim.
Are There Exceptions to the Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Texas?
Yes, there are exceptions to the statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits in Fort Worth, TX.
For example, the type of case could change the deadline. If your family member died because of a defective product, the statute of limitations could be extended. On the other hand, if the claim is against a government entity, you could have just months to file a claim to protect your right to file a lawsuit.
In some situations, the law tolls (pauses) the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims. For instance, if a child is the plaintiff, the state may toll the statute of limitations, but the pause would only impact the minor’s right to file a lawsuit. The statute of limitations would also be tolled if the defendant leaves Texas to try to avoid liability for a claim.
The exceptions to the statute of limitations are narrowly defined. It is unwise to assume you have plenty of time to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Doing so could result in losing the opportunity to sue the party who caused your family member’s death.
If you need help understanding the statute of limitations for your case, talk with a Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer. During a free consultation, you can learn more about deadlines to file wrongful death lawsuits and your legal options.
A wrongful death claim does not ease your grief nor undo the horrific event that has happened. However, filing a wrongful death lawsuit can help you gain some measure of justice for your family and loved ones.
Contact Our Wrongful Death Law Firm in Fort Worth, TX
If you’ve been injured in an accident in Fort Worth and need legal help, contact our Fort Worth wrongful death lawyers at Stephens Law Personal Injury | Wrongful Death | Truck Accidents to schedule a free consultation.
Stephens Law Personal Injury | Wrongful Death | Truck Accidents
1300 S University Dr # 406
Fort Worth, TX 76107