When someone you love passes away, there are a lot of arrangements to be made and costs that must be accounted before you are able to move on. Unfortunately, with all the confusion and pain of the grieving process, it can be easy to forget about your potential rights to file a suit against the person responsible for your loved one’s fatal injuries. This is often a mistake, since these suits both bring the at-fault person to justice and can also provide funds for much of your loved one’s end-of-life costs. Here are some important things you should know about the legal process that follows a wrongful death.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
“Wrongful death” is a legal term that is applied when the death of a person was a direct result of someone else’s negligence. The “someone else” responsible can be a person, an employer, a company, or other entity, such as a nursing home or hospital. There are many different ways another person or company can cause wrongful death, including:
- Car accidents
- 18-wheeler and commercial truck accidents
- Train and bus accidents
- Workplace accidents
- Accidents on offshore rigs and vessels
- Defective and dangerous products
- Medical injuries
A wrongful death case can arise from virtually any type of accident which results in one or more deaths. If your loved one died because of another person's or another entity's negligence, recklessness, intentional act, or failure to act, you may have rights under the law to file a lawsuit for financial compensation. Find out who can file a wrongful death claim in Texas.
In practice, wrongful death cases often involve two different types of specific legal claims: "wrongful death" claims and "survival" claims. A wrongful death claim belongs to any surviving spouse, children, and parents of the decedent based on that person’s loss of a loved one. A survival claim is a claim on behalf of the estate of the decedent, based on the person's pain, suffering, and other losses before death. A personal injury attorney and probate attorney are usually both involved in these kinds of claims because they require skill in two very different areas of the law. Learn more about the difference between wrongful death claims and survival actions.
Why, When, and How to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas
Filing a wrongful death claim could help you and your family recover from a tragic loss and provide for future needs caused by the loss of your loved one. A successful wrongful death claim can provide:
- Recovery from financial losses. When you hold a person or entity responsible for your loved one’s death, that entity may also be held liable for costs relating to the accident. This can provide much-needed financial relief for grieving families who are faced with extensive and unexpected costs.
- Emotional closure. There is no right or wrong way to cope with the death of a family member. However, getting justice for a senseless accident and obtaining damages for your family's suffering can ease the psychological burden on the survivors.
- Peace of mind. Juries will often make defendants pay punitive damages after a fatal accident, ensuring that the offender will take steps to avoid making the same mistake again. In this way, families can comfort themselves with the knowledge that the same accident is less likely to happen to someone else.
However, you should be aware that you have a limited amount of time to file a wrongful death lawsuit and it is important to take action as soon as possible. There is a lot that goes into building a successful case. Proving liability in a wrongful death case can be difficult, and it often requires intimate knowledge of industry-specific regulations and wrongful death laws. If you want to get started with a wrongful death claim, your first step should be speaking with an experienced attorney who can investigate what happened, help you get answers, file your claim, and fight for your best interests in the legal process.
Types of Compensation Available to Surviving Family Members in Wrongful Death Cases
The surviving family members in a wrongful death case can recover compensation for obvious financial losses, like the costs of medical treatment, as well as less obvious losses, like the loss of a loved one’s companionship. However, depending on where and how the accident happened, there can be some major differences in recovery. For example, surviving family members of offshore workers can learn more about the major differences in maritime death claims here. For wrongful death cases on land, however, surviving family members are usually able to recover:
- Funeral and burial costs. If you have a valid wrongful death claim, your family can be reimbursed for the money you spent paying for the funeral and burial of your family member. These costs are reimbursable under the wrongful death laws of Texas and most states. There is no limit to how much you can recover for funeral and burial costs. In order to preserve your family's claim for these costs, you should save any invoices and paperwork given to you by the funeral and burial service providers.
- Medical bills. If your loved one was hospitalized and received medical treatment after the accident, a wrongful death suit may cover the costs of that treatment. This may include compensation for hospital bills, office visits, necessary therapy and rehab, mental health treatment, in-home care, and more.
- Loss of wages and future income. If you have a valid wrongful death claim, you may be entitled to seek compensation for the wages your loved one would have earned over his or her work life. You must show that your loved one was employed, would have continued to work, and would have likely made increasing wages over time. For our clients in wrongful death cases, we collect the employment documentation and consult with an expert economist who can help calculate and estimate the financial losses.
- Loss of inheritance. "Loss of inheritance" is a recognized claim in death cases under the laws of Texas and most states. There is no cap to the amount you may claim for lost inheritance, nor is there any limit to what kinds of assets can be included in this claim. This claim can include interest in investment portfolios, business interests, expected future earnings, and more.
- Loss of consortium. “Loss of consortium” claims are meant to compensate the surviving family members for the loss of a living person and their unique contributions to the family. For example, spouses may sue for a loss of consortium because they have lost the rights and privileges of an intimate relationship, or children may sue because they have lost the care and guidance of a parent.
- Pain and suffering. In some cases, it is possible to recover compensation for the suffering and pain that your loved one experienced as a result of the accident, as well as the different ways a tragic loss has changed the life of loved ones. If you need help, an attorney can help you build a strong case that carefully accounts for all the allowed recovery under the law.
In some cases, the at-fault parties must also pay an additional amount as punishment for causing the accident in order to dissuade them from making the same mistake in the future. If you have any questions about the worth of your case or what costs can be recovered through a wrongful death claim, you can contact us directly at 1-877-724-7800.
Why Hiring an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney Matters
Even if you already have a probate lawyer working with your loved one’s estate, it is still important to talk with an attorney who has specific experience with wrongful death claims from surviving family members. An experienced wrongful death attorney will know exactly what to look for when reviewing your case, and he or she can:
- Investigate what happened to cause your loved one’s death.
- Discover who was to blame for the accident.
- Determine if that person or entity is directly liable.
- Determine if you are able to file a wrongful death claim under Texas law.
- Represent you throughout the legal process and help you protect your rights.
- Prove that someone was directly to blame for your loved one’s death in a way that a jury would understand.
At VB Attorneys, our board-certified injury attorneys have vast experience with wrongful death claims and serious accident cases, which you can learn more about in our case results. Ultimately, we know that you are probably overwhelmed and have many questions. We encourage you to take advantage of a free case review by calling our law firm at 1-877-724-7800. We can tell you if your loved one’s death may have been prevented, what your case might be worth, and what your options are for holding the responsible party liable for a tragedy.