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What to Know About Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Texas

What to Know About Wrongful Death Lawsuits in TexasWhat to Know About Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Texas

If a loved one dies as the result of another person’s negligent actions, you may have grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit. To obtain a favorable outcome in your case, you will need to prove that negligence occurred and that you have standing to file a lawsuit. A wrongful death lawyer in Texas may be able to evaluate your case and determine if your case is worth pursuing.

Events that Might Give Rise to a Wrongful Death Claim

There are several scenarios in which a loved one’s passing may have risen to the level of wrongful death. For example, if your loved one was killed in a motor vehicle accident caused by another person or entity, there may be grounds for a wrongful death case.

The same might be true if a death occurred as the result of medical malpractice. For instance, it may be possible to claim that your father would have lived if his doctor ran an additional test or elected to perform a procedure right away instead of waiting for several hours.

If your spouse or child died as the result of a workplace accident, it may be possible to file a claim for wrongful death. Under Texas law, employers are required to take reasonable steps to protect workers against injury or death. Failing to do so can leave a company vulnerable to financial or other penalties.

Who Is Eligible to Pursue Wrongful Death Claims in Texas?

The spouse, parents or children of deceased individuals are allowed to file wrongful death lawsuits in Texas. This means that if your spouse, child or parent die suddenly, you can pursue a claim. However, you would not be able to do so on behalf of a sibling or other family member regardless of how strong you think your claim is.

It’s worth noting that you only have 90 days from the date of the death to file a claim on your own. After that, your deceased loved one’s executor or personal representative would need to file a claim on the estate’s behalf.

Proving Negligence in a Wrongful Death Case

One of the important steps that a wrongful death attorney in Texas will need to take is determining whether another party acted in a negligent manner. Let’s take a closer look at the key elements of negligence.

There Was a Violation of the Duty of Care Toward Others

Generally speaking, a negligent act is one that a reasonable person knew or should have known could result in another person’s injury or death. For example, if a motorist is driving at 80 miles per hour on the highway, that motorist should know that they’re at an increased risk of causing an accident.

They should also know that any accident that occurs will likely cause significant bodily injury, death or both. Ultimately, if that motorist crashed into another object or vehicle while traveling too fast for road conditions, they’re guilty of negligence even if there was no intention to hurt anyone.

The Breach Caused a Wrongful Death to Occur

After proving that a breach occurred, an attorney would then need to prove that the breach was the proximate cause of your loved one’s death. For instance, you might use medical records to prove that a botched surgery was the reason for your mother or father’s death.

It might also be possible to use witness statements to show that the defendant was traveling at a high rate of speed prior to a car accident. Records might also be used to indicate that the defendant was impaired or otherwise not capable of driving the vehicle that caused the accident that took your family member’s life.

The Breach Caused a Financial Loss

This final step may be the most important part in proving that you have a valid wrongful death claim. However, it may also be the easiest element for your wrongful death attorney in Huntsville to prove.

Typically, you would use medical bills to prove that your loved one incurred a financial loss that you or the deceased’s estate are entitled to recover. Typically, an individual is subject to a copay or other fees as part of receiving care, and it’s likely that there are charges that aren’t covered by insurance that would be left outstanding.

Of course, there are other losses that might qualify such as a loss of future earnings. If you relied on those earnings to support yourself or your family, you may be entitled to a payout in a wrongful death case.

Exceptions That Might Apply in Your Case

There are exceptions that might complicate your ability to earn a settlement in your case. For instance, medical malpractice only occurs if a doctor has the tools and experience necessary to do the job correctly. If your loved one’s doctor was relatively new and had few tools to work with, it may be tough to claim that malpractice occurred. At best, the error would likely be seen as made during a good faith effort to help your loved one.

It’s also possible that your loved one will be held at least partially responsible for his or her own actions. For example, if your spouse was drunk at the time of the accident that took their life, a jury might take that as an opportunity to reduce any award that you might be entitled to.

If your loved one was killed in a workplace accident, damages might be awarded through a workers’ compensation proceeding. This may be true if the accident wasn’t the result of gross negligence. Your attorney will likely be able to provide more information regarding the legal process after a workplace death.

Damages You Might Be Entitled to Receive

The types of damages that you’re entitled to receive will depend largely on the facts of your case. A wrongful death lawyer in Huntsville will likely ask for bank statements, tax returns and other information to determine the extent of the victim’s lost wages or future earnings due to wrongful death. Hospital records might also be used to determine the extent of actual medical bills incurred.

Actual Damages

Actual damages are amounts that were already paid out in your case or amounts that you can prove were actually lost as a result of a defendant’s actions. For instance, if your loved one was charged $10,000 by a local hospital for medical services, you could try to recover that $10,000.

Lost Wages or Future Earnings

A person who is injured through no fault of their own is generally entitled to lost wages and future earnings. However, when a person dies, a family member might have a claim to those damages on the deceased person’s behalf. Depending on your current circumstances, you may also have a claim for loss of income or support in addition to lost wages or future earnings.

Mental Anguish

The cost of seeing a therapist, anxiety medication or anything related to mental health issues due to the wrongful death of a loved one might be included in a settlement or jury award. You might also receive compensation for being unable to work or other quality of life issues related to mental health issues caused by the defendant’s actions.

Loss of a Relationship

Often, the loss of a relationship can have a devastating impact on a person’s life. It might also have a negative impact on a young child’s life or on others who the deceased person cared for. Although it won’t bring your loved one back, you might be given a cash award to make up for your suffering or the suffering of others now solely in your care.

Punitive Damages Might Be Available

As you might imagine, punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for their behavior. It is also designed to send a message to others who may try to engage in such behavior in the future. For example, a car company might have $1 million in punitive damages added to a jury award to make it clear that the cost of a lawsuit will not be cheaper than the cost of avoiding future mistakes. Of course, in Texas, punitive damages are capped at $200,000, which means that the effect might not be as severe as you might hope.

Legal Fees Might Be Included

Wrongful death suits are typically associated with personal injury cases. In a personal injury case, legal fees are typically included in your settlement or jury award on top of what you have already received. It’s also possible that the defendants will receive a bill from your lawyer and will need to pay your costs directly.

Should You Settle or Go to Trial?

There are a number of variables that you’ll need to consider before choosing to settle or go to trial. A settlement may be ideal if you want to resolve the matter quickly and with as much control over the process as possible. However, one of the key drawbacks of a settlement is that the defendant or defendants in your case don’t have to admit guilt. Your wrongful death lawyer in Hunstville will evaluate your case to determine whether a trial or settlement is best in your case. Of course, you have the final say as to how you want the case to be resolved.

When Should You See an Attorney?

Ideally, you will schedule an appointment with a wrongful death law firm in Texas as quickly as possible after your loved one has passed. Although a lawsuit or settlement is likely the last thing on your mind, you only have a few weeks to take action on your own.

Consulting with an attorney also gives you an opportunity to learn about your options and how the legal system works. This can help you navigate your case with greater confidence whether you want to file a suit directly or wait until the estate executor files a survival action.

If you are thinking about filing a wrongful death case in Texas, you don’t have much time to make a decision. A wrongful death case must be filed within two years whether you file it yourself or wait for the estate executor to do so on your loved one’s behalf. An attorney may be able to review or gather evidence, hire expert witnesses or take other steps to help you obtain the compensation you may be entitled to under state law.