Jason Stephens | March 23, 2023 | Wrongful Death
Each state sets wrongful death laws dictating filing deadlines, who can file claims, and how the money from the lawsuit is distributed. The Texas Wrongful Death Act determines who gets the money in a wrongful death lawsuit. Generally, one or more of the deceased surviving family members receives the settlement or jury verdict for damages.
In a Texas Wrongful Death Case, Who Gets the Awarded Compensation?
State law reserves the right to wrongful death settlements in Texas to the decedent’s closest family members, including:
- The surviving spouse
- Biological and adoptive children
Suppose the victim does not have a surviving spouse, child, or parent, or the surviving family member does not file a wrongful death claim within three months after the person’s death. In that case, the decedent’s estate can file the claim.
The Personal Representative would file a wrongful death lawsuit for the estate’s beneficiaries. If the estate receives a settlement, the proceeds would be distributed according to the person’s will or Texas probate law for intestate succession.
What Compensation Can a Family Receive in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Fort Worth, Texas?
The court cannot bring back a deceased loved one. The only remedy the court can offer is to order financial compensation for damages.
Who pays in a wrongful death suit? The party responsible for the person’s death would be liable for damages. For example, if a person dies in a car accident, the at-fault driver could be liable for damages caused by the fatal collision.
Texas wrongful death laws provide various forms of compensation for surviving family members.
Damages in a wrongful death lawsuit can include:
- Reasonable funeral and burial costs
- Loss of household support
- Medical bills incurred between the person’s injury and death
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of guidance, care, counsel, and support
- Mental anguish
- Loss of financial support
- Loss of companionship
A jury could also punish the defendant by ordering them to pay punitive damages to the family. Punitive damages are awarded in a small number of personal injury cases when defendants commit an intentional tort or act with gross negligence.
Does Shared Fault Apply in Texas Wrongful Death Claims?
The party who caused your loved one’s death might try to blame the cause of the accident on your family member. A party can only be liable for damages if they caused the accident or incident leading to your loved one’s death.
Texas has a modified proportionate responsibility law. If a person is more than 50% at fault for their injury, they cannot recover any compensation for damages. Therefore, if the other party proves that your family member was more than 50% to blame, you will not receive any money in a wrongful death lawsuit.
However, the comparative fault law does not prevent someone from recovering compensation if they are 50% or less to blame. Instead, the amount received is reduced by the person’s percentage of fault. Therefore, if your loved one was 25% to blame for a car crash that took their life, you could recover up to 75% of the damages.
How Long Does a Family Have To File a Wrongful Death Claim in Fort Worth, TX?
The Texas statute of limitations sets deadlines for filing claims. In most wrongful death cases, the deadline for filing is two years after the person dies. However, there could be exceptions, so always talk with a Fort Worth wrongful death attorney as soon as possible about your case.
How Do You Prove a Wrongful Death Case in Texas?
There could be two actions related to your loved one’s death. First, the criminal courts hear charges filed by the state or local prosecutors. The criminal case is separate from a civil action for wrongful death.
In a wrongful death case, a civil court handles the case. You have the burden of proving the legal elements required to establish fault and liability. In most cases, it requires proving:
- The party being sued owed your family member a legal duty of care.
- The party breached their duty of care through their actions or failure to act.
- The breach of duty was the proximate and direct cause of your family member’s death.
- The untimely death of your loved one caused the family members to sustain damages.
Unlike a criminal trial, you do not need to prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, the burden of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence. The jurors must find there is greater than a 50% chance your allegations are true, and the other person caused your loved one’s death.
Wrongful death cases can be complex, and it could take time to investigate and gather evidence proving fault. If you suspect your family member died because of another party’s negligence or wrongdoing, it is best to seek legal advice from a Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer immediately.
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 # 300
Fort Worth, TX 76107