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 wrongful deaths can occur:
- 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.
Depending on the circumstances of the death, surviving family members may be able to file both a wrongful death claim AND a survival action.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.
Our experienced injury attorneys are based in Houston, and we have handled many of these kinds of cases on behalf of families across the nation. We make sure that our clients have all of the information they need before filing a claim for a wrongful death, and we offer a completely free, no-obligation case review to help them start investigating their rights.
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas
Filing a wrongful death claim could help you and your family recover from a tragic 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 compensation 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 surviving family members’ psychological burden.
- 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. 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.
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. 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, surviving family members are usually able to recover:
- Funeral and burial costs. If you have a valid wrongful death claim in Texas and most states, your family can be reimbursed for the money you spent paying for the funeral and burial of your family member. There is no limit to how much you can recover for funeral and burial costs. To preserve your family’s claim for these costs, 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 compensation may include 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 during his or her career. 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 to 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 on 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 lives of loved ones. 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 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.
Surviving family members can make a claim for the pain and suffering of the person who died
When there is an accident that causes death, it is common that the person suffers some amount of pain and suffering before dying.
The wrongful death laws of Texas and most states allow a claim by the surviving family members to receive compensation for the pain and suffering of the family member prior to death.
This claim is part of what’s called a “survival” claim in wrongful death cases. In addition to pain and suffering, survival claims include a claim for reimbursement of medical expenses the person incurred before death, as well as funeral and burial expenses
You have rights if your unborn child died in an accident
Can you sue for wrongful death if your unborn child was killed in an accident, medical malpractice incident, or other circumstances involving negligence?
While some states don’t recognize fetuses of any state as individuals with rights, some only recognize viable unborn babies (babies that could potentially live outside the womb) as such. Other states have decided that a baby is an individual at any time after conception.
The law in Texas regarding the wrongful death of a fetus has changed in a few key ways over the last two decades. Before 1999, you couldn’t sue for the wrongful death of your unborn baby. That changed in 1996, when John and Dori Dean of Keller, Texas, lost their unborn baby in a car accident they believed was caused by uncut grass obscuring their view of the road. The fetus was 36 weeks along when it died in the crash. The Texas Court of Appeals ruled that the baby was in fact a viable individual and allowed the couple to collect $300,000 in damages from Fort Worth and Tarrant County for the loss of their child.
In 2003, the Texas Wrongful Death Act was specifically amended to include that unborn babies are considered individuals with rights. However, there is one exception to the rule: Texas parents may not sue medical professionals for wrongful death.
Why hiring an experienced attorney matters for your wrongful death claim
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 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.