Every year, a substantial number of people in Texas lose family members in accidents that were completely preventable and the result of someone else’s negligence. These accidents can take many forms and can be caused by careless individuals or by businesses that fail to take the safety of others into account.
Such incidents can commonly include car accidents, truck accidents, slip and falls, medical malpractice, or accidents caused by defective consumer products, but can also occur in any way imaginable.
When a loved one’s death occurs as a result of the negligence or wrongful act of another party, it can be extremely emotionally and financially difficult on the remaining family members. Losing a loved one is hard, whether you have lost a child, parent, or spouse, and many people feel the need to seek some form of justice.
Fortunately for survivors, Texas law often allows them to obtain significant financial compensation to help pay for any medical expenses, lost income, loss of companionship, pain and suffering, and other losses they may have sustained from the responsible party. After a person has passed away, there are two different lawsuits that can be filed by surviving family members and/or the personal representative of the person who has passed away.
State Laws Provide Survivors with Legal Options
Historically, when a person died in an accident or as a result of someone else’s willful act, their family members would not have any legal recourse to recover for their financial and emotional losses. The most that the family members could hope for was the successful criminal prosecution of the person responsible for their loved one’s death, and this only occurred in cases in which there was unlawful activity involved.
If a death was caused by an accident, there was no legal action that a family could take to recover for either the financial or economic losses they sustained as a result of their accident.
Fortunately for surviving family members, all 50 states have now passed laws providing them with the right to sue if they lose their loved one to an accident caused by someone else’s negligence or by the wrongful conduct of another. Below is some information about the two Texas laws that may provide family members with compensation after the death of a loved one.
The Texas Survival Statute
The Texas Survival Statute is one of two state laws that provides compensation for certain parties after a person’s death under circumstances involving the wrongful or negligent conduct of another. Under this law, the heirs, legal representative, or estate may bring a personal injury action on behalf of the deceased as if they were still alive.
The law is referred to as the “survival statute” as it allows the personal injury action to survive the death of the victim. Some of the damages that are available in an action brought under the Texas Survival Statute include the following:
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- Medical expenses for care received prior to the death;
- Property damage caused in the accident;
- Lost income due to injuries prior to the death.
Wrongful Death Actions in Texas
While a survival action proceeds as if the victim were still alive, a wrongful death lawsuit is brought by the surviving family members on their own behalf to recover for the losses that they have personally sustained. These lawsuits can be filed by the surviving spouse, parents, and/or children of the deceased, and all of these parties may pursue the action together or one may pursue it for the benefit of everyone eligible to recover.
If none of these relatives files an action within three months of their family member’s death, an executor or personal representative can bring the action unless all of the family members object. Importantly, a wrongful death action can be filed if an unborn child is killed under certain circumstances.
The losses that surviving family members can recover in a wrongful death lawsuit include the following:
- Economic losses, including the loss of their family member’s support and loss of future inheritance;
- Loss of the care, advice, maintenance, and counsel that the person who died would have been able to provide his or her family members;
- Emotional and mental suffering, pain, and anguish;
- Lost comfort, love, and companionship.
Of course, the exact damages available in a particular wrongful death or survival action will vary based upon the specific circumstance of your case. In many cases, you may be able to file both types of legal claims and the compensation can be significant.
While no amount of money can bring your loved one back, obtaining a settlement or award from the responsible party can often bring a sense of justice and closure to the situation and can also help mitigate any financial strain that may have occurred as a result of your loss.
Contact a Houston Wrongful Death Attorney Today to Discuss Your Legal Options
If you have lost a loved one in an accident that you believe was caused by the negligence of another person or party, you should discuss your legal options with an attorney as soon as possible. At Sutliff & Stout, PLLC, we are dedicated to obtaining justice through the Texas civil courts and work tirelessly to ensure that each client we represent obtains the largest settlement or award possible.