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What Should You Know about Changes to Texas's Wrongful Death Laws?

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Although being in a situation in which you are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit is something you never want to experience, in some cases this type of lawsuit is necessary to help secure your family's future. If your relative has died due to the negligence, recklessness, or willful criminal conduct of an individual or corporation, you may be able to recover a significant sum when taking into account your relative's future earning potential and any other emotional damages your family has suffered due to the manner of death. However, the Texas legislature has recently made some changes that may affect the amount you're awarded or receive through settlement. Read on to learn more about what these changes could mean for your future case.

Who can sue for wrongful death in Texas?

The number of people who have standing for this type of lawsuit in Texas is larger than some other states; parents, spouses, and children (including adult and legally adopted children) may sue for wrongful death. If you believe your relative's death was the direct result of another's wrongful act, recklessness, or negligence, you'll want to speak to a personal injury attorney to get more information about what you can expect from a lawsuit.

What changes are coming to Texas's wrongful death laws?

In certain cases involving extreme negligence or a wrongful act, the judge may order the defendant to pay punitive damages (in addition to any compensatory damages to help pay medical bills, lost wages, and future wages). These damages are intended to punish the defendant by making a substantial financial impact. One way courts have accomplished this is by allowing a suing plaintiff to request the defendant's financial records, allowing the plaintiff to make arguments for higher punitive damages if the defendant happens to have a high net worth or substantial assets.

The new law will limit plaintiffs from requesting this evidence except in cases where the plaintiff has demonstrated a significant likelihood that the case will win on its merits at trial. If you find yourself in this situation, you'll need to file a motion with the court requesting that the judge allow you to seek (and require the defendant to provide) certain information on liquid assets and other holdings. However, once you've obtained this information, you'll be able to use it in the same manner others did before the change in law—to persuade the judge to hit the defendant where it hurts. Consider speaking with a lawyer from Dunnigan & Messier P.C. for more information about wrongful death cases.