A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil (as opposed to criminal) claim where eligible family members can recover money damages from the person or company who caused the death of their loved one. If the wrongdoer was acting on behalf of their employer when the accident occurred, the employer could also be held responsible. To prove the claim, a plaintiff must show that the defendant’s wrongful, negligent, or careless act caused the death of their loved one. In addition to providing monetary compensation for a family’s tragic and preventable loss, a wrongful death lawsuit can hold the wrongdoers accountable.
Family members can recover damages for the mental anguish, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship caused by the death of their loved one. Damages for loss of financial support are also recoverable. For example, a surviving child can recover damages for the amount the deceased parent would have contributed to his or her maintenance and support, as well as the value of the parent’s care, education, and training. Similarly, a surviving spouse can recover damages for the financial support he or she would have received from the deceased. If the defendant acted willfully, or was grossly negligent, a wrongful death plaintiff can also recover punitive, or exemplary damages, which are money damages intended to punish the defendant and deter similar behavior. Wrongful death lawsuits are often resolved before trial in a wrongful death lawsuit settlement.
In Texas, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within 2 years of the family member’s death. Although there are narrow and limited exceptions to this rule, if a case is not filed within 2 years of the family member’s death, there is a strong chance the claim will be barred. It is also important to act quickly because the more time that passes, the greater the chance that evidence supporting your claim will be lost or destroyed.