Texas wrongful death laws are leftovers from a different time and fail to address modern day family relationships. Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code Chapter 71 limits the right to make a claim for the loss of a loved one to the parents, spouse and children of the deceased accident victim. Although this type of statutory construction may have covered all of the aggrieved family members a hundred years ago it doesn’t come close today.
Take for example the typical blended family created when a mother of two young children who have had little or no contact with their biological father marries. The new husband is the only real father that the children have ever known yet as stepchildren when he is tragically killed by a drunk driver the children have no right to make a claim for wrongful death damages. Or consider the situation of two people who have both been through vicious divorces and having been burned decide to live together, permanently, while maintaining their separate identities. While for all practical purposes they are married, because they do not intend to be married and do not hold themselves out to the general public as married their relationship does not constitute a common law marriage. Twenty years later when one of them gets run over by an 18 wheeler the other has absolutely no right to make a claim under the Texas Wrongful Death statutes.
The statutory definition of Wrongful Death claimants should be expanded to include stepchildren and other persons who can establish a direct economic dependence upon the deceased accident victim.
For more information contact a Tyler Wrongful Death Attorney today.