You can start a marriage one of two ways. A couple can get engaged and then either have a wedding or get married by a civil officiant. Other times, a couple effectively acts like a married couple and treats one another like spouses despite not formally getting married.
Those who fall into the second category have a common-law marriage. Their decision to cohabitate, share resources and hold themselves out to the community like a married couple means that they effectively have a legal marriage despite never filing paperwork with the state of Texas.
If you are in a common-law marriage and your spouse dies in a tragic situation, can you file a wrongful death claim?
Spouses do you have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit
Only those with close relationships to the deceased party can typically file a wrongful death lawsuit. Texas gives the closest dependent family members the strongest claim when it comes to wrongful death claims.
As a spouse, your position supersedes that of other, more distant family members like parents or siblings. If you have not already gone to court to establish your common-law marriage, that may be an important step in the process of bringing a wrongful death claim. A spouse has a right to a claim, but an unmarried romantic partner usually will not. Once you have validated your marriage according to Texas law, you can then potentially proceed with a wrongful death claim.
Does your situation meet the state standard or a wrongful death lawsuit?
Sometimes, the tragedies that claim the lives of loved ones are truly accidents. Issues outside of the control of the parties involved lead to someone dying. Other times, an individual or business will have direct responsibility for a fatality.
If you can show that negligence, law-breaking, omissions, defaults, unskillfullness or carelessness contributed to your spouse dying, then you may have valid grounds for a wrongful death claim under Texas law. If the other party broke the law or did something obviously unsafe, you may have a strong claim for compensation.
Learning more about your rights when a loved one tragically dies can help you stand up for those rights and seek justice for your loss.