When someone’s negligence or recklessness causes the death of a loved one it can be emotionally and financially draining on those left behind. Whether you have lost a spouse, parent or child it can be difficult if not impossible to fill the void. Our laws provide for money damages to help families cope by compensating them for medical bills, funeral expenses, lost earnings, pain and suffering and loss of companionship.
When someone has died there are two causes of action that may be brought by those surviving and left behind. These lawsuits are generally available to the families of those who have died as a result someone else’s negligence, wrongful acts, or a defective product. They are technically brought by the representatives of the deceased individuals and in their own capacity. See Civil Practices and Remedies Code 71.002.
The first of these causes of action is the Texas Survival Statute. This statute allows an estate, heirs or legal representative to bring what is known as “a survival action”. Civil Practices and Remedies Code § 71.021(b). The Survival Statute is so named because it allows a personal injury lawsuit to “survive” the death of a person and is prosecuted in the same manner as an ordinary personal injury lawsuit where the injured person had lived. Civil Practices and Remedies Code §71.021(c). Thus, damages such as past and future lost wages, medical bills, property damage, funeral expenses and the like are available under this statute and the recovery will be given as part of the deceased’s estate.
The second cause of action is a wrongful death action. A wrongful death action is a lawsuit available to the surviving spouse, children and parents of the deceased. Civil Practices and Remedies Code § 71.004. The deceased may be any person including a child not born alive. Civil Practices and Remedies Code 71.001(3).
Under the Wrongful Death Act, beneficiaries are able to recover personally for the damages they incur as a result of the loss of their loved ones; these are not the actual injuries sustained to the deceased as in a survival action.
In any wrongful death case, the damages that can be recovered are very fact sensitive. They often are tangible as well as intangible benefits and so a number of issues must be addressed in an effort to place a monetary value on them.
The law provides only a short period of time after an accident to bring a lawsuit; this is called the limitations period. Therefore, as in all personal injury cases, it is important to seek the advice of an attorney as soon as possible after an injury or death has occurred.
In a survival action, the limitations period is the same as the personal injury action that could have been brought if the deceased person was alive, except that the limitations period is extended for up to one year after the date of death. Civil Practices and Remedies Code § 16.062.
In a wrongful death action the limitations period is generally two years after the death of the victim, but may be longer depending on the type of conduct that caused the death. For example, the limitations period may be extended for an additional two years for a claim resulting from a defective product. Texas Business & Commerce Code § 2.725.
In the case of a minor child, the statute of limitations is extended until that child reaches 18.Civil Practices and Remedies Code 16.001(a)(1). Such extension of the limitations period applies only to the minor’s cause of action.
The effect of the limitations period on a wrongful death or a survival action is the same, a lawsuit cannot be brought after the limitations period has ended and will be forever barred. That is why it is always of paramount importance for someone who has been injured or lost a loved one to seek out competent legal advice as soon as possible.
Wrongful death lawsuits and survival actions are often extremely complicated. The procedural aspects, the legal issues and the difficulties in proving the financial value of damages are complex. This is why it is critical that you only consider hiring only an attorney who is experienced in handling such matters.
If you or a loved one has suffered the loss of a family member as a result of the negligence or recklessness of another, you owe it to yourself and your family to hire an attorney who specializes only in representing injured victims. Contact an attorney at The Law Offices of Adrian Crane by calling or by contacting us through the case evaluation form located on this website.
For your convenience, we offer home, hospital, office and nursing home visits. Our team of professionals at The Law Offices of Adrian Crane will provide you with the experience, strategy and commitment that protect your rights and claims.
At our personal injury firm, you speak directly with an attorney, not just secretaries and paralegals. A Spanish-speaking attorney and staff members are available for your assistance. Se habla Español.
Attorneys associated with The Law Offices of Adrian Crane handle cases across the state of Texas. Our principal office in North Texas is in Dallas however we are happy to welcome cases from anywhere in Texas, regardless of where you live or where the accident took place.