Texas' wrongful death lawsuits are derived from two sources: the Texas wrongful death statute and interpretations of the statute by Texas courts. As its name implies, a wrongful death lawsuit is predicated on claims that someone's loved one was killed due to another's wrongful conduct. Texas law requires wrongful death victims to prove the following things (usually referred to as "elements") in a lawful death lawsuit:
The defendant was responsible for the wrongful death victim's death;
The person filing the lawsuit is the spouse, child, or parent of the deceased; and
As a result of their loved one's death, they've suffered monetary losses and/or emotional harm.
The first thing a plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit must prove is that the defendant's negligent or reckless conduct was responsible for their loved one's death. How your attorney will be able to establish liability depends on the unique facts of your case. For example, different elements apply to accident victims who are killed by a negligent truck driver than those killed by a defective product. With that in mind, it's important that you retain a wrongful death lawyer in who has not only successfully represented wrongful death victims, but who has also established a successful track record of representing injury victims across the spectrum of injury law.
Next, you'll need to prove that you are a member of the limited class of people Texas law allows to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Texas law places strict limitations on the eligibility of parties who can file a wrongful death claim, and specifically only allows the spouse, children, and parents of the deceased to file suit. Importantly, common law spouses and adopted children and parents are included, but step-parents and distant relatives (such as cousins, aunts, and uncles) are excluded.
Finally, you'll have to prove that you've suffered monetary and/or emotional harm as a result of your loved one's death. As you've likely encountered financial and emotional hardships as a result of your loved one's death (for example, unexpected funeral expenses and the loss of their love and support), and odds are that you'll continue to be negatively affected by these losses for the rest of your life, it's important that you retain an attorney with a history of successfully representing wrongful death victims. In other words, because you only have one shot to recover compensation for your injuries, you'll need to make it count, and the best way to ensure that you're fully compensated for your injuries is to retain an experienced wrongful death attorney.
As you have likely concluded, wrongful death cases are complex, as a party asserting a claim will need to successfully prove several elements before they are able to recover the compensation they deserve. If you are considering filing a wrongful death claim, give me a call for a free consultation to determine if I can help you recover the compensation you deserve.