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The Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Texas

Losing a loved one is one of the most devastating things a person can go through. However, the pain and grief loved ones feel can be amplified if another person’s negligent actions caused the death. In such a situation, loved ones have the right to file a wrongful death claim. Hiring a wrongful death attorney is the first step, but do you know when you should hire one and the deadline for filing?

What is the Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Texas?

The Texas wrongful death statute of limitations is two years. Texas law describes the statute of limitations as starting from the day a person realizes they have the right to pursue legal action against the passing of a loved one.

In almost all cases, the date the statute of limitation starts is the day the loved one passes away. In cases where a loved one has a lengthy hospital stay before passing away, the period they were hospitalized does not count towards the statute of limitations. However, it starts immediately if a loved one passes in an accident.

Remember that while the legal cause or claim for a lawsuit may arise on the day of the accident, you cannot file until your loved one passes away. However, you can still consult with wrongful death lawyers in TX to see if what you have discovered meets the threshold of being a cause for lawful action in case your loved one passes. If they do not, at least you will know whether you have enough to start a personal injury investigation to get your loved one the compensation they deserve.

Tolling the Statute of Limitations

Apart from a lengthy hospital stay, specific circumstances can cause the statute of limitations to start later or pause. The most common example of the first situation is an affected minor. If a child under the age of 18 loses their parents, the statute of limitations does not start until they are of legal age – at least 18.  After that, they have two years following their 18th birthday to file a wrongful death suit.

However, an underage person does not have to wait to file, even if the option is available. Another parent or guardian can pursue the wrongful death suit on their behalf. If you would like to do this, ensure that the minor you represent is comfortable with the arrangement and is fully on board. Also, hire an experienced wrongful death attorney Texas to help you navigate the complexities of this arrangement.

The second situation is where the negligence was not obvious. If you were unaware that a business or another person’s actions or negligence led to the death of a loved one, the law assumes that the cause of action arose immediately after you knew. This means it can take years for the two-year statute of limitations period to start if a loved one does not know the actions that led to their loved one’s death.

The statute of limitations does not also start if someone covered up the death or negligent actions that caused it fraudulently. The clock starts when you discover the fraud, the people behind it, and the concealment.

Lastly, the statute of limitations does not start if you are incapacitated. This is common in cases where family members are injured in the same accidents that led to their loved one’s death. Once you are of sound mind and well enough, you can contact a wrongful death law firm to get help filing a lawsuit.

Texas Also Has a Statute of Repose

The statute of repose is similar to a statute of limitations. However, it is different because it extinguishes all legal recourse once it passes. Even though the situations discussed above could cause the statute of limitations to start more than two years after the passing of a loved one, the statute of repose places a hard limit on when you can file. In Texas, it is 10 years.

Because of how strict it is, you are advised to hire a wrongful death lawyer in Texas as soon as you have a legal reason. Even though you will start the statute of limitations clock, you will not risk falling outside the statute of repose where you can no longer file regardless of what you find out. However, this doesn’t mean that law enforcement cannot pursue the case if you bring forth enough evidence even after the statute of repose has passed.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas?

Under the governing laws of Texas, there is only a limited number of people who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. These include specific individuals close to the decedent who are their surviving children, spouse, and the parents of the deceased. Texas law also allows one eligible person to file one lawsuit on the whole family’s behalf. Alternatively, everyone can file individually.

If a parent, child, or spouse fails to file the lawsuit within three months of the loved one’s passing, their estate’s personal representative may file it instead. However, they can only do so if the family or the eligible survivors unanimously allow them.

Types of Compensation Following a Wrongful Death Suit

The best wrongful death lawyers can guide you on what type of compensation to pursue when filing a wrongful death lawsuit. The attorneys at our firm, Karns & Karns Personal Injury, and Accident Attorneys can help you pursue different types of compensation, including:

  • Lost income if the deceased was the breadwinner
  • Loss of advice support, services, maintenance, and care
  • Loss of society, comfort, companionship, and love
  • Costs related to their fatal injuries and related hospitalization
  • Psychological pain and anguish

What Happens If You File After the Statute Of Limitations Lapses?

Every lawsuit has exceptions, but in almost all cases the defendant will ask the court to dismiss the charges. If this happens, you lose the ability to hold them accountable or to seek an out-of-court settlement.

Filing a wrongful death suit is one of the last things family members can do to hold the person responsible for their loved one’s death liable and to get justice for them. You should understand the statute of limitations and the various laws and exceptions surrounding it in Texas. By doing so, you do not miss the deadline, you file correctly and can hold the other party liable. If you need advice, contact Karns & Karns Personal Injury and Accident Attorneys today.