According to Texas statute 16.003, the statute of limitation for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas is two years. Specifically, two years from the date of the loved one’s passing, not the date when they sustained the injuries that eventually led to the loss of life. Sadly, it’s hard to pick up the pieces of one’s life after losing a loved one. Relatives often need time to grieve.
As a result, the last thing anyone wants to do at that time is file a wrongful death lawsuit. But with bills that have to be paid–particularly if there are huge medical bills accrued from when the loved one was hospitalized–and family members that need to be cared for, a claim can help take care of all the costs brought on by the loss.
And although it’s hard to think about filing a wrongful death claim, it’s the best thing you can do for yourself and other surviving relatives. Also, it’s imperative to do it as soon as possible, given that wrongful death suits can take over a year to resolve. If you need help with this, our experienced Texas wrongful death attorneys at The Buzbee Law Firm can help with this.
Exceptions to the Two-Year Statute of Limitations
Sometimes, the statutory two-year rule doesn’t apply. This happens under certain circumstances and is often referred to as tolling the statute of limitations.
When this applies, the statute of limitations won’t start counting until a certain time. Or, it can be paused for a while. What matters when it comes to tolling is that the statute of limitations can extend beyond the regular two-year time frame.
Here are some conditions where tolling the statute of limitations applies:
A Minor Loses Their Parents to Someone’s Carelessness
For example, if a 14-year-old girl loses her parents in a drunk driving accident, the child can wait until she’s 18 to file a wrongful death claim.
In that scenario, the statute is tolled or suspended until she’s officially considered an adult. Once she clocks 18, she has two years to file the claim. However, if she has other adult guardians, they can file the claim on the girl’s behalf, thus eliminating the need for waiting.
The Person’s Carelessness Wasn’t Glaring
Sometimes, new information can show that your loved one’s death was as a result of someone’s negligence. For example, if investigations showed that your loved one passed on because a doctor made a mistake in the treatment of your loved one.
This is a clear case of being reasonably unaware. So, even if you didn’t have that information until years after the loved one’s passing, you have two years from the day you learned of the negligence to file your claim.
The At-Fault Party’s Negligence Was Hidden
If there’s proof that the liable party or an associated entity intentionally covered up their negligent act that led to your loved one’s demise for years, the statute of limitation only starts counting after you’ve learned of the fraudulent act.
You’ve been ill or indisposed. If you were ill, weak, paralyzed, or incapable of doing anything at the time of a loved one’s death, the statute of limitation will be paused until you’re healthy and capable of tackling that issue. A good example of this is if you were hurt in the same crash as the loved one who passed and had to be in the hospital.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Action in Texas?
Only a few people are eligible to file a wrongful death claim in Texas. These include:
- The spouse
- The parents
- The children
While these three entities are the ideal candidates, an estate administrator or personal representative may file the claim if the parents, spouse, or children do not file the claim within 90 days of the date the person died.
According to the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, the only condition in which the executor cannot file the claim is if the deceased’s surviving relatives expressly state that they do not want to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.
Damages You Can Claim in a Texas Wrongful Death Case
Although money cannot serve as a replacement for the loss of your relative, it can help offset your bills and ensure that you and other loved ones are taken care of. So, depending on the situation surrounding or preceding your loved one’s passing you may be able to claim the following damages in a Texas wrongful death suit:
- Loss of household income or earning capacity
- Loss of companionship, society, comfort, camaraderie, and love
- Loss of maintenance, care, counsel, advice, support, and services that the person who died would have provided to their loved ones if they were alive
- Medical expenses for treatment until the loved one’s demise
- Loss of inheritance, including money they would have handed down to surviving relatives if they’d lived for longer, and savings
Also, the court might award exemplary or punitive damages if there’s proof of willful gross negligence, omission, or action. These damages are not given to the surviving relatives. Instead, they are meant to serve as punishment for the liable party and serve as a warning to others.
What’s the Maximum Amount You Can Get in a Wrongful Death Suit in Texas?
Texas wrongful death damages cap for non-economic damages can be up to $1.5 million, depending on the circumstances. Please note that this is the maximum amount regardless of the number of claimants or people filing the wrongful death lawsuit.
The same also applies to the number of defendants. For example, if a claimant files a wrongful death suit against two hospitals, the courts will adjust the compensation from each party to a max of $750,000 each to make up the total amount.
However, compensation is largely dependent on multiple factors, such as the cause of death, the number of people suing for damages, liable parties, and entities responsible for the person’s death.
Hire a Texas Wrongful Death Attorney
Every wrongful death case is unique and requires the expertise of a seasoned Texas wrongful death lawyer. So, you need to discuss the specifics of your case with an attorney who can give you an idea of what you will likely receive as settlement.
Although it may seem like you have time, the reality is that wrongful death cases in Texas can last over a year. So, if you wait for too long, you and your attorney may not have enough time to seek adequate compensation and negotiate a settlement. Therefore, even if you don’t feel like you want to proceed with a lawsuit, try seeking legal counsel at the very least.
Contact The Buzbee Law Firm today to discuss your case or find out what’s possible if you decide to move forward with a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas.