If you lost a parent, spouse, or child in a catastrophic accident, you may be entitled to file a lawsuit against those responsible. However, even though a wrongful death lawsuit might be the most important type of civil suit under the law, there are statutes that limit the amount of time that you have to file your case. These “statutes of limitations” act as a time limit on wrongful death cases. If you’ve lost a loved one, talk to an attorney as soon as you can to ensure that there is time to build your case and file it before the deadline. The Dallas wrongful death lawyers at The Queenan Law Firm explain the statute of limitations on wrongful death lawsuits in Texas.
How Long do I Have to Sue for the Death of a Loved One in Texas?
Texas’ statutes of limitations are designed to prevent old cases from entering the court. In many cases, wrongful death cases are serious enough that you will file them almost immediately. However, it is important to keep the statute of limitations in mind when considering whether to file your case. People may hesitate to file if they do not have faith in their claim or if they are afraid to get the at-fault party in trouble. Instead of waiting, talk to an attorney about your case right away. Filing your case too late could mean losing your claim.
In Texas, there are actually two distinct claims that survivors usually file for the death of a family member. The first is a wrongful death suit, where the survivors sue for damages for their loss. There is a second claim called a “survival claim” where the loved ones file the personal injury case that the deceased would have been able to file had they survived the accident. For example, if a loved one is killed in a car crash, the survival claim would be a car accident lawsuit for their medical bills and pain and suffering while the wrongful death claim would cover their loss.
The survival claim has the same statute of limitations as the normal personal injury case. In Texas, that means you have 2 years from the injury. In addition, the wrongful death claim has a 2-year statute of limitations. While both time limits are the same, their rules come from different statutes. Moreover, it is important to consider the separate time limits if your loved one died from their injuries days or weeks after they learned of the injury since the survival claim’s 2-year period runs from the date of injury and the wrongful death suit’s time limit runs from the date of death.
Extending the Deadline for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in TX
If you file your case too late, the law typically prevents your case from moving forward. The defendant can raise the statute of limitations as a complete defense to your case. The judge can also raise the statute of limitations of their own accord to prevent the court from wasting time and money on an expired claim.
If you suffer from some legal “disability” when the claim arises, you might have the ability to extend your deadline to file. This typically applies if you are under 18 when the claim arises or if you have a mental handicap that prevents you from understanding the right to file a claim. This legal disability rule gives you the right to wait until your disability ends to start the statute of limitations clock. However, the wrongful death case may be brought by the executor of the deceased’s estate instead of a minor child or mentally handicapped family member. That means that someone may be able to file the case on your behalf and the clock will continue to tick.
Texas also has a “discovery rule” which might extend your case. Under Texas law, the statute of limitations may be extended so that it starts from the date you discover the injury, not the day it occurred. This can be especially helpful in cases where you do not know that a loved one’s death was caused by negligence, such as cases of medical malpractice, exposure to dangerous chemicals, pharmaceutical injury, or medical device defects.
Dallas, TX Wrongful Death Attorneys
If a loved one was killed in an accident, do not risk delaying your case. Contact The Queenan Law firm today at (817) 476-1797 to schedule a free, confidential consultation on your case. Our Dallas personal injury lawyers have decades of experience representing injury victims and the families of those killed in accidents, and we may be able to represent you in your claims.