What is a Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is when someone is killed due to the negligence, neglect, unlawful conduct, or misconduct of another person or entity. Very simply, negligence is a failure to exercise the level of care that an ordinary and reasonable person would under similar circumstances. All persons and entities have an obligation to exercise reasonable care in what they do. For answers to common questions about wrongful death lawsuits, please click here.
Handling Wrongful Death Claims in Texas, Louisiana, and New Mexico
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Wrongful Death Statistics
Wrongful death happens more often than you might realize. Acts of negligence, recklessness, and wanton disregard for the safety of others can result in fatal accidents in just a matter of seconds. Wrongful death law is about far more than just the numbers but taking a look at the statistics can help you understand why and how most fatal injuries occur. Here’s some of the latest data from Texas and around the country:
Fatal car accidents, homicides, falls, overdoses, and injury-related deaths can all result in wrongful death lawsuits. If you recently lost your loved one in any type of accident or act of violence, there is a good chance you have grounds to bring a wrongful death claim. The Texas courts see hundreds of these types of claims each year. You could be one of many families receiving compensation for your tragic loss – especially with help from a Houston wrongful death lawyer at Morrow & Sheppard LLP.
Wrongful Death vs. Survival Actions
When you take the first steps toward financial recovery after the loss of a loved one in Texas, you’ll hear two main terms describing the legal remedies available: wrongful death lawsuit and survival action. These are two separate processes for those left behind when a family member passes away unexpectedly. One family or plaintiff may be able to recover different types of damages under the provisions of both types of lawsuits.
The point of a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas is to reimburse family members of the deceased person for their damages, while a survival action serves to compensate the deceased person for his or her damages prior to death. In a wrongful death action, the claimant can seek recovery for damages the family suffered as a result of the untimely loss, such as:
- Funeral and burial costs
- Medical bills they paid for the decedent prior to death
- Mental anguish and emotional distress
- Loss of companionship, love, and support
- Loss of the loved one’s income or inheritance
- Loss of the decedent’s household duties
No Fee Unless We Win
At Morrow & Sheppard LLP, we understand the hardships of trying to heal and make sense of an accident. That is why we work on a contingency fee basis, which means no fee unless we win the case. Our fee is a percentage of the verdict or settlement we obtain for you.
A survival action, on the other hand, results in much the same damages as a personal injury claim would have, had the deceased person been able to file one for the accident. Recovery in survival actions can include the decedent’s hospital bills, physical pain and emotional suffering, property damage, lost quality of life, and lost wages relating to the fatal accident. The compensation received in a wrongful death lawsuit goes to dependents that survived the loss, such as a spouse, children, or parents. Compensation for survival actions goes directly to the decedent’s estate. The representative of the estate may then distribute it accordingly.
On top of different damages available, there are also different filing and legal processes for wrongful death lawsuits vs. survival actions in Texas. To file a wrongful death claim, a claimant must be a child, spouse, or parent of the decedent. To have grounds for a wrongful death claim, the claimant must show that the defendant’s breach of duty caused the victim’s death and that the victim would have been able to file an injury claim had he/she survived. The claimant must also prove that the family suffered actual damages because of the death.
A representative of the estate is the party that brings a survival action on behalf of the decedent, not a family member. To have grounds for a survival action, the claimant must show that the deceased person would have been able to bring a personal injury action before he or she died, as well as show that the defendant’s wrongful act caused the death. The claimant does not, however, have to prove that he or she personally suffered damages. The damages of the decedent are enough to prove this element. There are some cases where surviving family members can recover through both types of claims in Texas. Talk to our Houston wrongful death attorneys about your options.
Why Wrongful Death Lawsuits Are Necessary?
Our Houston wrongful death attorneys at Morrow & Sheppard LLP understand that the loss of a loved one due to wrongful death is one of the most tragic experiences that can occur in anyone’s life. When a family member is lost, the family needs to begin healing, and the last thing they want to worry about is the legal process.
Although nobody wants to file a lawsuit, it is important to ensure the guilty party is held responsible for several reasons. First, to make sure future incidents are prevented so that nobody else is injured. Second, to ensure the lost person’s family does not have to carry the heavy financial burden that comes with premature death. Finally, in many cases, a lawsuit must be filed to figure out what really happened.
Examples of Misconduct Leading to Wrongful Death
Misconduct that causes wrongful death might be a trucker’s failure to slow down in wet road conditions. Or it could be an airline’s failure to properly inspect and maintain its planes. Or it could be an oil refinery’s failure to properly train employees in charge of hazardous and explosive materials. Or it could be a product manufacturer’s failure to manufacture a safe product. There are many other examples so it is best to consult an experienced Houston wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to discuss the specifics of your case.
Corporations and entities are often liable for the wrongful acts of their employees or agents that result in the wrongful death of others.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Many states, including Texas, have statutes detailing who is entitled to bring a wrongful death claim. Oftentimes, spouses, children, parents of the deceased, and the executor of the will or estate of the deceased are entitled to bring such claims. Call our experienced wrongful death lawyers if you have any legal questions.
How to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
If you believe you have grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit, start the process by requesting a free consultation with a wrongful death lawyer. An attorney will make the filing process significantly easier on you and your family, taking care of the paperwork and meeting deadlines on your behalf. The first step of a wrongful death action is for the qualified party (a surviving spouse, child, or parent) to identify the party that caused the loved one’s death. This will typically require an investigation into the accident.
There might be more than one party liable, such as a distracted driver and a product manufacturer. You or a professional will then need to serve all defendants with a notice of your intent to file prior to bringing an actual lawsuit. The defendant(s) will have about 45 to 60 days to respond to your notice. You may receive a settlement offer in response, at which point you can accept the settlement or negotiate for a higher amount. If the defendant denies your claim, you can then take your case to court.
Your civil claim will need to include your name and contact information, an explanation of why you’re filing, and a description of damages you wish to recover. Submit this claim to the correct civil court in your county – for example, the small claims court of Harris County for cases asking less than $10,000. From there, the courts will let you know the time and place of your suit. The defendant can change his mind and offer a settlement at any time during pre-trial meetings. An attorney can take care of all document and evidence gathering, claims filing, pretrial motions, settlement negotiations, and more.
Time Limits for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas
Bring your potential wrongful death lawsuit to the attention of our attorneys as soon as possible after the passing of a loved one. Time is of the essence, as if you miss the state’s deadline, you will almost certainly lose your right to file. In Texas, you have two years from the date of the decedent’s death to file your claim. Claims against government entities typically have shorter deadlines – sometimes as short as just six months for your initial notice. The courts might “toll,” or extend, a deadline in certain circumstances. Talk to our Houston wrongful death lawyers right away to discuss the time limits for filing your specific claim.
Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Damages for wrongful death and/or survival actions are designed to fully compensate the victim and their loved ones for the harm caused. These damages can include:
Sometimes, if it is shown that the wrongful conduct was committed willfully, knowingly, or as a result of gross negligence, punitive and exemplary damages can be awarded.
Call a Qualified Wrongful Death Attorney
If you have lost a loved one due to the wrongful conduct of another person or entity, our wrongful death lawyers at Morrow & Sheppard LLP can help. Act now to protect your legal rights. Contact our office at (800) 489-2216 for a free, confidential consultation with an experienced wrongful death attorney.
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Our experienced Houston personal injury attorneys want to understand your unique situation so we can provide legal guidance that will help you obtain a favorable result. We have experience handling a wide variety of personal injury cases. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation, contact us today! You don’t pay us unless we win your case.