People who have suffered the wrongful death of a loved one are often confused about their legal rights—and it’s no wonder. These kinds of cases can be very complicated, and it can be very difficult to get clear answers about the legal process that follows a wrongful death. In cases involving the death of a person, generally there are two types of claims: wrongful death claims and survival actions. While both types of claims are sometimes brought in the same lawsuit, they are completely different legal actions for different reasons. Here’s what surviving family members should know.
Wrongful Death Claims
A wrongful death claim is a claim that belongs to the family of the deceased. This claim can be asserted by the close family members of a deceased person. For example, under Texas law, only spouses, children and parents may assert a claim for wrongful death. These victims seek to recover money to compensate them for the wrongful loss of their loved one. Wrongful death claimants seek monetary damages for the loss of the deceased’s income, the deceased’s potential earnings and benefits, and the loss of having the deceased person in their lives.
A survival action is a personal injury claim for the injuries and pain the deceased person suffered prior to his or her death. It is basically as though the person’s personal injury lawsuit “survived” the person’s death. A survival action belongs to the "estate" of the deceased person. Under Texas law, a deceased person’s legal heir or estate representative can assert a survival action. If there is no legal beneficiary, relatives may jointly file the claim.
A survival action might seek financial compensation for:
- Any pain and suffering experienced by the person before their death
- Medical bills incurred by the person prior to death
- Burial expenses
- Unnecessary pain and suffering of family members between the time of the accident and the death of the family member
What You Need to Know When Pursuing a Wrongful Death Claim or Survival Action in Texas
Depending on the circumstances of the death, surviving family members may be able to file both a wrongful death claim AND a survival action. To do so successfully, it is important that families speak with an experienced attorney about their rights and what to expect from their cases. A personal injury attorney who has prior experience with these kinds of cases will be able to explain in detail how the law might apply to a specific situation, as well as help to protect surviving family members’ rights. In many cases, the attorney handling a death case will also engage the services of a qualified probate attorney. The probate attorney will "open an estate," typically in probate court. This will ensure that any and all wrongful death and survival claims are properly before the Court.
Confused About Your Family’s Rights After a Wrongful Death?
Our experienced injury attorneys are based in Houston, and we have handled many of these kinds of cases on behalf of families across the nation. We make sure that our clients have all of the information they need before filing a claim for a wrongful death, and we offer a completely free, no-obligation case review to help them start investigating their rights. If you have any additional questions about wrongful death and survival actions, call us today at 1-877-724-7800.