Texas Statute of Limitations in Wrongful Death Legal Actions
Time itself can also be a challenge to wrongful death lawsuits. For instance, the statute of limitations for a Texas wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the date of death. While this timeline can be extended in certain situations surrounding gross negligence, or if criminal charges have been filed against the liable party, a victim’s family most often only has two years to seek legal action against that defendant. While this may sound like a long time, it really isn’t, when a thorough investigation must be conducted. It is not unusual for a full investigation to take as long as a year in some circumstances, or if there is a large number of liable parties who must be investigated before determining which ones are truly liable. In addition, all defendants need to have their assets researched in order to assure that they can pay the damages they will owe you and your family once they have been judged to be guilty.
However, there are some exceptions to this statute. But they all involve unusual circumstances. Below is a brief explanation of some of them.
A wrongful death claim on behalf of a minor child can not begin until the child is of legal age. The two-year statute of limitations, therefore, does not start to count down until the child’s 18th birthday. For example, if a 15-year-old child lost their father in a work-related accident, that child’s claim would be extended until two years after they are of legal age (their 30th birthday). Generally, a minor child has no legal standing to file any civil suit in Texas until they turn 18. There are is an exception where a minor child’s case can be heard before he or she is of legal age. A parent can file a civil case on behalf of the child. But the court will appoint an ad litem (a non-biased, third-party attorney) who will review the terms of the settlement or jury verdict to determine that the resolution was fair and in the best interest of the child. This keeps family members and other parties from appropriating the child’s damage award for their own interests. More on this website @ https://www.carabinshaw.com/dallas-wrongful-death.html
Texas wrongful death cases are subject to the “discovery rule” which states that the two years do not begin a reasonably prudent person would have known that they had a cause of action. A perfect example if such differences would be to compare a fatal construction accident injury and a fatal injury in a pharmaceutical case. Liability in a construction accident usually doesn’t take very long to determine if someone’s negligence leads to the death of a loved one since the discovery process (investigation) begins relatively quickly.
However, imagine that someone takes a prescription drug for a long period of time and dies due to complications from that drug. Then, a few years after this death, it is determined that the drug was defective and caused that loved one’s death. One of the decedent’s family members – typically the spouse – would more than likely be able to file a claim even though the standard two-year statute of limitations window had closed. The idea behind this is that the plaintiff did not know that they had a case until years later: which rightfully extends the statute. Find some helpful information on this website
In cases where the defendant deliberately concealed involvement in wrongful death, the statute may be extended to allow the family of the deceased to pursue civil action against the defendant once this concealment comes to light. In some situations, concealment may be criminal. Or the concealment may have been part of a larger conspiracy among two or more defendants. And when a defendant must answer criminal charges for wrongful death, it regularly strengthens your wrongful death civil case, even if the defendant is ultimately exonerated in criminal court.
If a plaintiff has suffered some physical or mental incapacity that keeps them from responding within the standard two-year statute of limitations, the statute may be extended to accommodate the defendant if there is a prognosis for future recovery. For example, if a man and his wife are involved in a car accident and the man dies but the wife goes into a coma for three years, her statute of limitations would likely be extended due to the fact that she was mentally or physically incapacitated and unable to participate in her wrongful death claim on behalf of her husband.
There are a few even more obscure exceptions to our state’s wrongful death statutes. So when you are in the process of interviewing potential attorneys to represent you, reserve a few moments to visit with each lawyer and ask them to help you understand how the statute of limitations might apply to your specific wrongful death claim or case, and if any exceptions might apply.
Contact our wrongful death attorneys at our toll-free number 1(800) 862-1260 for a complimentary, confidential legal consultation. We can answer all your questions surrounding the possible pursuit of a wrongful death civil suit in Texas. Our goal is to help you come through this difficult time and strongly assert your family’s legal right to be fully compensated for your loss from all liable parties who are fully accountable for their negligent behavior. And with that peace of mind, you and your family can move forward with your lives, and you allow your deceased loved one to finally rest in peace.