Exceptions to the Two Year Statute of Limitations
There are, however, exceptions to the two-year statute of limitations:
When the Plaintiff is a Minor, Child.
A wrongful death claim on behalf of a minor child can not expire 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 20th birthday). Generally, a minor child has no legal standing to file any civil suit in Texas until they turn 18.
Even so, a minor child is not restricted to waiting until they turn 18 to pursue a wrongful death claim. A parent or guardian can pursue the claim on behalf of the minor child. This is usually a better idea than waiting because the evidence necessary to win a wrongful death case will usually vanish long before the child becomes of legal age.
When a parent or guardian pursues a wrongful death case on behalf of a minor child, 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 helping themselves to the child’s claim. Once the case is resolved, the money is put into the court’s registry and is made available for the child when they come of legal age. The ad litem legal representative is also allowed to invest this child’s money, under certain clear circumstances and only with the supervision (and at the discretion) of the court.
When the Defendants or Their Negligence Were Unknown
Wrongful death cases in Texas are subject to the “discovery rule” which states that the two years do not begin to run until the time that a reasonably prudent person would have known that they had a cause of action. A perfect example if the differences in this discovery rule would be to compare a fatal construction accident injury and a fatal injury in a pharmaceutical case. Wrongful death from a construction accident usually doesn’t take very long to determine if someone’s negligence lead to the death of your loved one. So the discovery process usually begins relatively quickly.
But on the other hand, imagine that a person takes a pharmaceutical drug and dies due to complications from taking that drug. Then, ten years after this death it is determined that the drug was defective and that this defect was a direct cause of 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 window had expired. The idea behind this is that the plaintiff did not know that they had a case until years later: which would, therefore, extend the statute of limitations.
Put our experience to work for you, today! If you want to know what your rights are, and how Texas Statute of Limitations laws affect you and your surviving family members after the accidental death of a loved one, even if the events or time-frame for filing your lawsuit are unclear, we can help you understand the best way to proceed with your claim, how much compensation you can reasonably expect to secure, and the right time to spring into action against the negligent defendants and their well-funded insurers and attorneys.
We can answer every one of your questions and share the likely strategy to produce the rightful compensation you have a right to claim, in addition to “hanging back” and waiting for the right moment. In the words of Sun Tsu, “Make no battle until the outcome is foregone and favorable.” Because sometimes, waiting and preparing is the best strategy.
Contact our wrongful death attorneys at our Texas Law Firm now at 1(800) 862-1260 (toll-free) for a free consultation and find out how we can help you and your family during your time of grief and doubt.