The Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death and Malpractice in Texas
The statute of limitations for a Texas wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the date of death. While this period can be extended in certain situations if gross negligence can be proven, or if criminal charges have been filed against a liable party, a victim’s family most often only has two years to seek legal action against a liable negligent defendant. While this may sound like a long time, it really isn’t all that long when a thorough investigation must be conducted. Deaths surrounding people in assisted care facilities historically take longer than normal because sometimes the forensic evidence or the document that produces the “smoking gun” against the defendant may be very deeply hidden. One consistent problem we find in such situations is altered documents, usually excellent Xerox copies of original forms that have been “doctored.” It takes a very clever forensic document expert to spot the one or two pieces of paper buried under a mountain of forms; just like you see on CSI. But the truth of the matter is that the document expert spent hours for his fifteen seconds on the show. Detecting altered documents is very difficult, extremely tedious and time-consuming; with a lot of dead-end trails leading to nowhere.
Some assisted care center abuse investigations can take more than a year, depending on the circumstances surrounding the death, the number of liable parties, and determining which liable defendants will be able to pay their share of the damages. Plus, once we find the “smoking gun document” we have to convince the county medical examiner to reopen a closed case (which they loathe to do) and perform an autopsy. This is why we respectfully suggest that if you have any inkling your elderly loved one died suspiciously at a nursing home or assisted living center, and you have no religious convictions that preclude preservation, take steps to preserve the body prior to burial so that the medical examiner can conduct a fruitful examination. If our investigation convinces the M-E’s office to reopen the case, and the cause of death is ruled as not being from natural causes or specifically matches the forensic or documented evidence we uncover, you will suddenly have a very strong case.
And if medical records have been “doctored,” that is a felony in Texas which brings criminal charges against the employee who is charged for the offense, as well as the facility in-general through the legal notion of “respondent superior,” which is Latin for “the employer is just as liable for the offenses of his employee, especially if the employee confesses that he was told to alter medical records. And then it becomes quite possible that a negotiated settlement may be reached as none of the defendants want to end up in court against our overwhelming evidence of neglect, especially if they’re also facing felony charges. More here @ https://www.carabinshaw.com/el-paso-medical-malpractice.html
The longer you wait to contact a Texas wrongful death attorney, the more harm you may unintentionally be doing to your case. Evidence can disappear, or can even be removed by those who wish to avoid being held accountable for their actions, or covertly altered. Witnesses become increasingly difficult to track down. Or they may forget critical details in connection to the wrongful death. Or they may have been “encouraged” by defendants to “take a long vacation;” even take a job with their employer in another state. This is why it is critical for investigators to begin their work as soon as possible so your Texas wrongful death lawyer can build a strong legal case toward fair compensation for your loved ones untimely and wrongful death.
All personal injury cases in Texas are subject to the “discovery rule” which states that the two-year “window” does not begin until the time that a reasonably prudent person would have known they had a cause of legal action. A perfect example if the differences in this discovery rule would be to compare a fatal auto accident and a wrongful death at an assisted care center. Wrongful death from an auto accident usually doesn’t take very long to determine if someone’s negligence led to the death of your loved one. So the discovery process usually begins relatively quickly.
But on the other hand, imagine that your loved one dies due to complications from taking the wrong drug (or dosage) administered by a nurse at the assisted living center. Then, ten years after this death it is determined that the drug was defective and that this defect was a direct cause of your loved one’s death. There might have even been medical bulletins released during the time your elderly loved one was being administered this drug that was disregarded by the attending physician or the center’s pharmacist. If this was the case, your family could likely file a wrongful death claim (in this case, not only against the nursing home but the manufacturer of the drug) even though the standard two-year window had expired. The idea behind this is that the plaintiff-surviving family did not know that they had a case until years later: which would extend the statute of limitations.
All plaintiffs have the right to a reasonable period of “discovery,” which means a good investigation into the causes of such deaths. Keep this in mind, especially if someone with the assisted care facility tries to shuffle you off quickly after the sad event of your elderly family members passing. They may want to close things out quickly to avoid suspicion.
In cases where the defendant deliberately concealed their involvement or culpability in a death, the statute may be extended to allow the family of the deceased to pursue civil action against the defendant. In some situations, as we have mentioned, this concealment may be criminal. Or the concealment may have been part of a larger criminal enterprise. When this happens, the defendant may also be subject to criminal charges in addition to civil charges. And when a defendant must answer criminal charges as well, it invariably strengthens your civil case, even if the defendant is ultimately exonerated in criminal court.
There are a few other exceptions to the two-year statute of limitations law. And we find that they can apply to a higher percentage of wrongful death assisted care center claims and cases than other personal injury civil actions. So when you are interviewing prospective Texas assisted care injury or wrongful death attorneys, be certain to save a few minutes to visit about this matter and find out if any of these exceptions might apply to your insurance claim or legal case.
We can tell you this. If you have a just cause in which – upon investigation – proves negligence contributed to the injury or sad demise of your beloved family member at an assisted care center, contact our Law Firm to arrange a free legal consultation. We work on contingency and can apprise you of all your practical legal options. With experience in bringing cases against every major insurer in the state, and with a strong reputation among many defense attorneys, our Law Firm is well-positioned, highly-respected, and a firm that assisted care centers, their insurers and lawyers strongly wish to avoid.
We’ll use our reputation and experience to force these defendants to give you the justice you deserve for your loved one’s injury or untimely passing. Your beloved relatives, grandparents or parents, elderly aunts or uncles lived rich lives. Don’t allow them to be victimized in their last days by negligent people who injured them or took them from you too-soon.