Question

Who Can Bring A Wrongful Death Claim In Texas?

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Answered by: Carl R. Knickerbocker

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Texas law allows the surviving spouse, children or parents of a deceased person to file a wrongful death claim. One of these individuals may bring the claim, or they can choose to file as a group. 

If a wrongful death claim is not filed within three months of the death, the executor or personal representative of the deceased’s estate may file a claim – that is, unless one of the surviving family members who is eligible to file a wrongful death claim specifically requests that a claim not be filed by the estate. 

Under Texas law, surviving siblings and grandparents of the deceased are not allowed to file a wrongful death claim. 

Can Adopted Children Bring A Wrongful Death Claim? 

Yes, if an adoptive parent dies, that parent’s adopted child may bring a wrongful death claim as long as the child was fully and legally adopted. If an adopted child dies, the adoptive parents may also file a wrongful death claim. 

However, if an adopted child’s biological parent dies, the adopted child may not bring a wrongful death claim for the death of the biological parent. 

What Kinds Of Damages Are Paid To Surviving Family Members? 

In wrongful death cases, damages are paid to compensate for a variety of kinds of loss, including: 

  • Loss of love, companionship and comfort
  • Emotional pain, suffering and anguish
  • Loss of support, care, advice and services the deceased person would have provided to family members
  • Loss of inheritance, including money that the deceased person would have likely earned and left to family members
  • Lost earning capacity 

In Texas, when a wrongful death is the result of someone else’s willful act or omission, or if the wrongful death is the result of someone else’s gross negligence, exemplary damages may be available in addition to other damages. Exemplary damages are also known as “punitive damages” because they are meant to punish the wrongdoer who caused the death and to send a message that society will not tolerate such wrongdoing. 

Damages in wrongful death cases are divided among the surviving family members, and the amount each family member receives is determined by the court. It is up to the attorney for the family to show the extent of personal and financial loss suffered by each family member, and the judge or jury will then determine the proportions of compensation.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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