When your loved one has died because of a negligent accident or wrongful act, you may wonder who is entitled to wrongful death benefits. The question of who gets wrongful death benefits can be especially important if the person was also a breadwinner. In Texas, spouses, children, and parents can file claims to receive wrongful death benefits.
Spouses who can sue to receive benefits include those in both formal and common law marriages. They can sue even if the couple was separated when death occurred. Parents of adopted children can file claims. And adopted children can file wrongful death claims for adoptive parents, but not for biological parents.
Family members may choose to file separately or as a group. If eligible family members don’t file a claim within three months of the death, the estate’s executor or administrator can file, unless asked not to by a family member.
Now That You Know Who Gets Wrongful Death Benefits, Learn Who Does Not
As you can see, who is entitled to wrongful death benefits here in Texas has limits. While grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins and other more distant relatives of the deceased may have loved that person and greatly feel their loss, they cannot file claims or get benefits. The same is true for step-parents and foster parents. Also, people who are engaged to be married or who are living together but are not in a common law marriage cannot sue for wrongful death.
What Kind of Wrongful Death Benefits Can I Get?
The benefits you may be able to get in a wrongful death claim depends on the specific facts of your case. These are examples of the types of benefits you might get in a successful lawsuit:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral and burial costs
- Lost earning capacity
- Lost inheritance
- Lost love and companionship
- Lost care, support, and advice
- Emotional pain and suffering.
In cases of gross negligence or intentional acts, you might also receive exemplary damages. Exemplary damages, which are also called punitive damages, are intended to punish the party who caused the wrongful death. Exactly how much in benefits you might receive in a wrongful death claim will depend on all the intricacies of your unique case. But with the help of Houston wrongful death attorneys who are skilled at navigating the legal complexities of these matters, many people are able to receive fair compensation.
Who Can Be Sued for Wrongful Death in Texas?
A variety of parties can be sued for wrongful death in Texas. Individuals, employers, manufacturers, healthcare providers, government institutions, and others can all be sued if there is evidence that death occurred due to their negligent or wrongful actions. There are a wide variety of ways a wrongful death can occur. They can be caused by:
- Motor vehicle crashes. Fatal motor vehicle accidents are caused by distracted drivers, drunk drivers, aggressive drivers and others. Poor road conditions can also cause fatal accidents. According to the Texas Department of Transportation there are over 3,700 traffic deaths annually on the state’s roadways.
- On-the-job accidents. More people die on the job in Texas than in any other state. Employers have a duty to keep employees safe and can be liable when they fail to do so. In some cases, deaths at work are caused by contractors or other third parties.
- Medical malpractice. If a doctor or other healthcare provider makes a negligent error and the patient dies, they may be liable for wrongful death. Misdiagnoses, surgical mistakes, drug errors, failing to recognize symptoms of serious conditions, and delayed or improper treatment are some common causes of wrongful death.
- Defective products. Product designers and manufacturers can be held liable if their defective products cause deaths. For example, when cars, toys, household appliances, food, medical devices, and other products are defectively designed or manufactured and injury and death occurs, the companies responsible for them may be at fault.
- Slip and fall accidents. When someone slips and falls on an unsafe property and death occurs, the property owner may be liable under premises liability laws.
While any wrongful death benefits you might receive in a lawsuit can never make up for what you have lost, they can help relieve your stress financially, especially if your family member was a breadwinner.
How Is Wrongful Death Proven?
Proving that a wrongful act or negligent action caused a death is a difficult and complex process. It must be shown that a legal duty was owed and that breaching of that duty directly led to the death. For instance, drivers have a legal duty to drive their vehicles without being drunk, but they breach that duty if they get behind the wheel while intoxicated. If their breach of duty by driving drunk causes a death, they may be found liable for wrongful death.
To prove breach of duty, attorneys will carefully examine all of the evidence. They will often bring in expert witnesses to testify. As an example, in a drunk driving case, a toxicologist might be brought in as an expert witness. Wrongful death attorneys know how to identify the right experts to bring in, which can greatly help your case.
Time Limits for Bringing Wrongful Death Claims
There is a time limit for bringing wrongful death claims. In Texas, generally, you must file suit within two years of the date of death. If you miss this deadline, you will probably be unable to file a lawsuit and receive benefits. There are some very specific exceptions to this deadline, though, that our experienced attorneys can advise you about. ***Always speak directly to an attorney for the statute of limitations and any other critical deadlines that apply to your claim(s).***
Our Compassionate Wrongful Death Attorneys Can Help You
Losing a loved one is one of the most devastating experiences a person can ever have. When the death was caused by negligent or intentional acts, your emotional trauma can be compounded. At the accident and injury law office of Terry Bryant we will work compassionately with you toward getting you the benefits you deserve for the loss of your family member. Call our wrongful death attorneys at (713) 973-8888 or toll-free 1 (800) 444-5000 for a free consultation.