Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Texas?
Losing a loved one too soon is a tragedy. Sometimes, the tragedy is even worse because the death was preventable. In those cases, wrongful death suits are common. A wrongful death suit is used to compensate the surviving family members of the deceased. Money can never replace a loved one, but it can help ease the effects of their passing. Things like lost wages may be important to a family who lost their primary bread-winner. The cost of a funeral and burial may be crucial to families who would otherwise be unable to afford them. Compensation for other things like grief counseling, lost investments, and the deceased’s pain and suffering prior to death can also be recovered.
This sparks the question, though: who is allowed to start a wrongful death suit in Texas? The Dallas wrongful death attorneys of The Queenan Law Firm explain:
Only Close Family Can Sue for Death
Families come in so many shapes and sizes, and everyone has their own idea of who they consider their “family.” Sure, many people have extended family, but they might not truly consider their third cousins part of their “family.” Texas’ law has its own definition of who it considers the core of a family.
Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. § 71.004 says that the only family members that are allowed to sue for wrongful death are:
- children, and
This list is extremely limited. Nothing in the statute requires that these family members be in touch, nothing requires that they live together, and nothing requires that they even like each other. Additionally, these family members do not need to be included in the deceased’s will in any form – simply having this level of familial relationship is enough to qualify them to sue for wrongful death.
Though there are no requirements beyond this family connection, failing to show certain things may reduce the potential award from the court. For instance, though a parent can sue for the wrongful death of a child, if the child is an adult that supported him or herself financially, the parents may be entitled to very different damages than the deceased’s children. While a deceased’s child might be entitled to continue receiving their deceased parent’s wages, the deceased’s parents may not depend on the deceased’s wages and would not be entitled to recover them.
The Executor of a Will Can Also Sue
In the case that these close family members do not bring a lawsuit within three months, § 71.004 alternatively allows the executor of the deceased’s estate to sue. An executor is a person designated by the deceased’s will to manage their estate and distribute their money and belongings to their heirs. If someone died without a will, don’t worry; the law will still appoint an executor to manage and distribute their estate according to the terms of Texas’ “intestacy statute.”
If the parents, spouse, or children do not want a wrongful death suit, they may block the executor from suing. This requires a unanimous decision not to sue from all parents, all children, and the deceased’s spouse. If only some of them object, then the executor is still allowed to proceed with the lawsuit over their objections.
Speak with an Experienced Dallas, Texas Wrongful Death Attorney
Certainly, it makes sense that a random stranger would not be able to sue for someone’s death, but there are plenty of people who maybe should be allowed to sue that cannot under Texas’ law. Recall that the law only allows parents, children, and spouses to sue. Families come in so many shapes and sizes that this may not always make sense.
Often, people are responsible for the care of others in their family. Whether it be caring for a younger sibling, an aunt or uncle, nieces and nephews, grandparents, or grandchildren, families are sometimes set up in a way that the law would not predict. Because of this, it seems somewhat random to draw the line at parents, children, and spouses.
Regardless, that is where the law does draw the line, and lawyers need to figure out a way to work around it. Certainly, if there are people in your household that you care for financially, you could always adopt them. If you live with a partner, but are not married, getting married could protect each other from being out of luck in case someone dies suddenly. Regardless, if you ever have anyone close to you die a wrongful death, an attorney might still be able to find a way for you to get compensated through other means, such as life insurance, workers’ compensation, wills, and other forms of lawsuits.
If you have lost a loved one to an accident, surgery, negligent action, or crime, you may be entitled to compensation for the loss. If you are a parent, child, or spouse of the deceased, Texas law gives you the power to redress your loss in court. Call an experienced Dallas personal injury lawyer at The Queenan Law Firm today to talk to experienced wrongful death lawyers about your case at (817) 476-1797.