Technically speaking, Texas law does not allow siblings to file a wrongful death lawsuit when their brother or sister is killed by a defendant’s negligence. However, a wrongful death claim is NOT the only type of death-related claim sanctioned by Texas law, and the decedent’s siblings can and often do file another type of death-related claim known as a survival claim.
A survival claim is essentially a claim filed against the defendant for the pain and suffering, etc. that the deceased person endured prior to succumbing to their injuries. Again, under the right circumstances, a sibling can file a survival claim.
This article, by Houston wrongful death attorney Michael Grossman, will explain the distinction between a survival claim and a wrongful death claim, and we’ll also discuss the circumstances by which a sibling can bring such a claim.
The heirs of an estate or the estate’s appointed legal representative can bring a survival claim. Unlike a wrongful death claim, a survival claim is intended to compensate the heirs of an estate for their immeasurable damages such as pain and suffering or mental anguish. A survival claim is brought on behalf of the estate while a wrongful death claim is filed by the immediate relatives of the decedent.
Who can bring a wrongful death claim in Texas? The deceased person’s surviving children, spouse and parents. These three groups of people are the only ones who can sue a defendant for wrongful death damages. This group is known as the “wrongful death heirs.” If an adult man is killed in a traffic accident in Houston, his wife, children and surviving parents, if any, can be plaintiffs in the wrongful death claim based on his death. Minor children (kids under 18 years old) are incapable of bringing legal claims on their own and must be represented by someone in court: normally their living parent or another representative chosen by the court.
The decedent’s Estate brings a survival claim. If there is a wrongful death heir, they can be the executor of the estate. A sibling of the deceased does not meet the statutory definition of a wrongful death beneficiary. Hence, a sibling cannot file a wrongful death action for their brother or sister’s death.
When a sibling-executor files a survival claim and a wrongful death claim, those claims do not necessarily benefit the sibling. The proceeds from a wrongful death claim will benefit the wrongful death heirs, even if the executor brings the claim. And the survival claim benefits whoever the decedent selects in his or her will; with no will, the laws of Texas intestate succession govern who gets what from the decedent’s estate, possibly the siblings and possibly not. Intestate succession describes a method of dividing the deceased property among his or her heirs.
Grossman Law Offices can help you and your family make sense of these complicated issues regarding wrongful death cases. Each case is different: trust a lawyer with skill in this area to advise and represent you for Houston-area accidents and wrongful deaths. Trust Grossman Law Offices and our team: you can reach us at toll-free 1-855-392-0000.