What Makes A Death “Wrongful?”

“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so…”

In John Donne’s famous sonnet that begins with the words above he argues that death is not as powerful as we might imagine. It must bend to the will of “fate, chance, kings, and desperate men.” Nowhere is this more clear than when a death is a wrongful death.

Although every death of a loved one feels wrong, “wrongful death” is a legal term. Under Texas law, a wrongful death is a death caused by the “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default” of another. The loved ones of someone who has suffered a wrongful death can seek compensation.

Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?

In Texas, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by the spouse, children, or parents of the person who has died. Each of these people may file their own lawsuit, or they may file in groups.

To be successful, one or more of these people must have suffered a financial loss as a result of their loved one’s death. This is harsh, but our lawmakers have decided that allowing people to file a lawsuit just because they are grieving is not the best use of the court system.

If a lawsuit is not filed by one of the people above within 3 months of the date of death, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate may file a lawsuit so long as the family members above do not object.

Why file a wrongful death lawsuit?

A lot of families struggle to decide whether or not to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Filing a lawsuit is never going to bring your loved one back from the grave. And it can be traumatic to relive the circumstances of his or her death, particularly in a wrongful death situation. So why bother?

In our experience, the biggest benefit of filing a wrongful death lawsuit is that it provides closure. When your loved one’s life has been cut short, you want answers. You want someone to be held responsible. You want your loved one’s death to have meaning. A lawsuit may give you these things.

You may also need financial assistance to help your family recover from your loved one’s passing. By filing a lawsuit, you may be able to get money to compensate you for:

  • You loved one’s lost earning capacity
  • The value of support, services, and guidance your loved one would have provided to surviving family members
  • Lost love, companionship and comfort
  • Your loved one’s pain and suffering
  • Any inheritance surviving family members may have lost
  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral and burial expenses

Depending on the circumstances, “exemplary” or “punitive” damages may also be available if the wrongful death was caused by a willful act or omission or by gross negligence. Such damages are intended to punish the responsible party and to deter others from engaging in similar conduct.

You Don’t Have To Grieve Alone

If you are grieving the death of a loved one who was suddenly taken from you, our heart goes out to you. When you are ready, pick up the phone and schedule an appointment with our experienced Houston-based team. Our attorneys may be able to help you process what has happened and determine if a filing a wrongful death lawsuit would be an appropriate next step.