Wrongful Death Lawyers understand that there is nothing more difficult than dealing with the death of a loved one. It is even more difficult when the death of your loved one was caused by someone else’s careless or negligent conduct.
When you turn to us for help, our wrongful death lawyers will take great care to help you with everything we can. Before we move forward to address the legal issues involved in an accidental death case, we will see that all of your other needs are addressed. From funeral arrangements to getting your family together, we will do what we can to help get things in order before we begin taking action against those whose negligence caused the fatal accident.
When handling a wrongful death case, we have two goals in mind:
First, we want to provide financial relief for you and your family. While we know that no sum of money can truly compensate you for your loss, we also know that you have the right to seek compensation to cover the loss of financial support and other expenses.
We will carefully analyze the financial losses you have suffered. We will fight to recover every bit of compensation the law entitles you to.
Our second goal is to see that those who caused the wrongful death are prevented from doing the same thing to anyone else. We know that you do not want any other families to go through what you have had to go through.
Table of Contents
What Is A Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death occurs when a person dies due to the negligence, misconduct, or wrongful act of another individual or entity. Essentially, it’s a death that could have been avoided if not for the wrongful actions of another party. Here’s a more detailed explanation:
- Legal Definition: Wrongful death is a legal term used to describe a situation where a person’s death is directly attributed to the fault of another person or entity. This can include intentional acts, negligence, or strict liability.
- Examples: Common scenarios leading to wrongful death claims include:
- Car, truck, or motorcycle accidents caused by a negligent driver.
- Medical malpractice where a healthcare professional’s negligence results in a patient’s death.
- Workplace accidents due to unsafe conditions or lack of proper safety measures.
- Criminal acts, such as assault or murder.
- Defective products that lead to fatal injuries.
- Wrongful Death Claims: These are legal actions brought by the survivors or the estate of the deceased person against the responsible party. The purpose is to seek compensation for the financial and emotional losses resulting from the loved one’s untimely death.
- Damages: Compensation in a wrongful death claim can cover various damages, including:
- Medical and funeral expenses.
- Loss of income and potential future earnings of the deceased.
- Loss of companionship, love, and support.
- Pain and suffering experienced by the survivors.
- Who Can File: The eligibility to file a wrongful death claim varies by jurisdiction. Typically, immediate family members, such as spouses, children, or parents, can initiate a claim. In some places, extended family or dependents might also be eligible.
- Statute of Limitations: There’s a limited time frame within which survivors can file a wrongful death claim, known as the statute of limitations. This period varies by state and the specifics of the case.
In essence, a wrongful death claim provides a legal avenue for the survivors to seek justice and compensation for the preventable loss of their loved one. If you believe you have a wrongful death claim, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced attorney to understand your rights and the legal process.
Who Can Sue For A Wrongful Death In Texas?
In Texas, the Wrongful Death Act governs who can bring a wrongful death claim when a loved one dies due to the negligence or misconduct of another party. Here’s a breakdown of who is eligible to sue for wrongful death in Texas:
- Immediate Family Members:
- Spouse: A surviving husband or wife can file a wrongful death claim, whether they were legally married or recognized as common-law spouses.
- Children: Biological and legally adopted children can bring a wrongful death action for the loss of a parent. This includes adult children; there’s no age limit.
- Parents: Both biological and adoptive parents can sue for the wrongful death of their child, whether the child was a minor or an adult.
- Estate: If none of the immediate family members bring a wrongful death claim within three months of the death, the personal representative or executor of the deceased’s estate can file the claim unless a family member specifically requests that no claim be filed.
- Siblings: In Texas, brothers and sisters, whether full, half, or step-siblings, cannot file a wrongful death claim for the loss of their sibling.
- Grandparents: Grandparents are not eligible to bring a wrongful death claim for the loss of a grandchild.
- Multiple Claimants: If more than one eligible family member wishes to file a wrongful death claim, they can choose to file jointly.
- Damages: Eligible family members can seek compensation for various damages, including loss of companionship, mental anguish, lost earning capacity, lost inheritance, and any medical or funeral expenses they personally incurred.
It’s essential to note that the specifics of each case can vary, and the eligibility to file a wrongful death claim might be influenced by various factors. If you believe you have a wrongful death claim in Texas, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced attorney to understand your rights, the legal process, and any potential challenges.
Common Types of Wrongful Death Cases in Texas?
Wrongful death cases arise when a person’s death is caused by the negligence, carelessness, or intentional actions of another individual or entity. In Texas, as in many other states, certain types of incidents tend to be more commonly associated with wrongful death claims. Here are some of the most common types of wrongful death cases in Texas:
- Motor Vehicle Accidents:
- Car Accidents: Collisions involving passenger cars due to reckless driving, DUI, distracted driving, or other negligent behaviors.
- Truck Accidents: Large commercial trucks can cause devastating accidents, especially if the truck driver or trucking company fails to adhere to safety regulations.
- Motorcycle Accidents: Due to their vulnerability, motorcyclists often suffer severe injuries in collisions, which can sometimes be fatal.
- Workplace Accidents:
- Construction Sites: Falls from heights, equipment malfunctions, and other hazards can lead to fatal injuries.
- Oil and Gas Industry: Texas has a significant oil and gas industry, and accidents like explosions or equipment malfunctions can be deadly.
- Industrial and Manufacturing: Accidents involving heavy machinery, chemical exposures, or other workplace hazards.
- Medical Malpractice:
- Surgical Errors: Mistakes made during surgery that lead to fatal complications.
- Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis: Failing to diagnose a condition in time or misdiagnosing it can lead to preventable deaths.
- Medication Errors: Administering the wrong medication or dosage.
- Defective Products:
- Faulty Medical Devices: Devices that malfunction or have design flaws.
- Dangerous Pharmaceuticals: Medications with severe side effects that weren’t adequately disclosed.
- Defective Vehicles or Parts: Such as faulty brakes or airbags that don’t deploy.
- Premises Liability:
- Slip and Fall Accidents: Especially if they occur in places like construction sites or involve elderly individuals.
- Negligent Security: Leading to assaults or other violent incidents.
- Swimming Pool Accidents: Such as drownings due to lack of proper safety measures.
- Intentional Acts of Violence:
- Assault and Battery: Physical attacks leading to death.
- Homicide: Deliberate acts intended to cause death.
- Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect: Elderly residents can suffer fatal injuries or health complications due to neglect or intentional abuse.
It’s essential to understand that each wrongful death case is unique, and the circumstances surrounding the death will determine the potential for legal action. If you believe a loved one’s death was caused by another’s negligence or intentional act in Texas, consulting with an experienced wrongful death attorney can provide clarity and guidance on potential legal recourse.
How To Prove Negligence in a Houston Wrongful Death Claim?
Proving negligence is a fundamental aspect of a wrongful death claim. In Houston, as in the rest of Texas, the legal system operates under the principles of comparative negligence. To successfully prove negligence in a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must establish certain elements. Here’s a breakdown of the process and the key elements involved:
- Duty of Care:
- The first step is to demonstrate that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased. This means that the defendant had a legal responsibility to act in a certain way to avoid causing harm.
- For instance, drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles safely and follow traffic laws to prevent accidents.
- Breach of Duty:
- Once the duty of care is established, the next step is to prove that the defendant breached that duty. This means showing that the defendant’s actions (or lack thereof) did not meet the expected standard of care.
- An example would be a doctor who fails to diagnose a condition that a reasonably competent doctor would have identified.
- It’s not enough to show that the defendant breached their duty of care; the plaintiff must also prove that this breach directly caused the death in question.
- This involves demonstrating a clear link between the defendant’s negligent actions and the fatal incident. For instance, if a driver ran a red light and hit a pedestrian, causing their death, the causation would be evident.
- Finally, the plaintiff must show that actual damages resulted from the death. This can include medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of income, loss of companionship, and more.
- The goal is to quantify the financial and emotional impact of the death on the surviving family members.
- Gathering Evidence:
- To prove these elements, it’s crucial to gather comprehensive evidence. This can include:
- Police or accident reports.
- Medical records detailing the cause of death.
- Eyewitness testimonies.
- Expert testimonies, such as from accident reconstruction specialists or medical experts.
- Photos or videos of the accident scene.
- Any other relevant documentation or evidence that supports the claim.
- To prove these elements, it’s crucial to gather comprehensive evidence. This can include:
- Comparative Negligence:
- Texas operates under a modified comparative negligence system. This means that if the deceased was partially at fault for the incident that led to their death, any compensation awarded would be reduced by their percentage of fault. If they were more than 50% at fault, the surviving family members might not be able to recover any damages.
Successfully proving negligence in a wrongful death claim can be complex and requires a thorough understanding of the law and the facts of the case. If you’re considering filing a wrongful death claim in Houston, it’s highly recommended to consult with an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process and help build a strong case.
Houston Wrongful Death Attorney Near Me
Choosing the right wrongful death attorney can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. When seeking representation for such a sensitive and complex matter, it’s essential to ensure that the attorney you choose is well-equipped to handle the intricacies of your claim. Here are some key factors to consider when hiring a wrongful death attorney in Houston:
- Experience and Specialization:
- Relevant Experience: Ensure the attorney has specific experience in handling wrongful death cases, as these claims can be more intricate than other personal injury cases.
- Track Record: Look for an attorney with a proven track record of successful settlements and verdicts in wrongful death cases.
- Client Testimonials: Check online reviews and testimonials from previous clients to gauge the attorney’s reputation and client satisfaction.
- Peer Recognition: Awards, recognitions, or endorsements from other attorneys or legal organizations can be indicative of the lawyer’s standing in the legal community.
- Resources and Network:
- Wrongful death cases often require expert testimonies, accident reconstruction, and other specialized resources. Ensure the attorney has access to a network of experts and the necessary resources to build a strong case.
- Communication and Accessibility:
- Open Communication: The attorney should be approachable and maintain open communication, keeping you informed about the progress of your case.
- Availability: Ensure that the attorney or their staff is readily available to answer any questions or concerns you might have.
- Legal Fees and Costs:
- Contingency Fee Basis: Many wrongful death attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you only pay if they win your case. Understand the fee structure and any additional costs that might arise.
- Transparency: The attorney should be upfront about all fees and potential costs associated with your case.
- Personal Connection:
- Given the sensitive nature of wrongful death cases, it’s essential to feel comfortable with and trust the attorney you choose. A personal connection can make the legal process smoother and less stressful.
- Case Evaluation:
- Initial Consultation: Most attorneys offer a free initial consultation. Use this opportunity to evaluate the attorney’s approach, understand the potential strengths and weaknesses of your case, and gauge if they’re the right fit for you.
- Local Knowledge:
- An attorney familiar with Houston’s legal landscape, local courts, and judges can offer insights and strategies tailored to the local legal environment.
- Professionalism and Ethics:
- Ensure the attorney maintains high ethical standards, is honest about the potential outcomes of your case, and doesn’t make unrealistic promises.
- The attorney should be dedicated to your case, willing to invest the necessary time and effort, and prioritize your best interests.
Remember, the attorney you choose will be your advocate during a challenging time, so take the time to research, ask questions, and ensure you’re making an informed decision.
Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
In a wrongful death lawsuit, “damages” refer to the monetary compensation awarded to the survivors or the estate of the deceased. These damages aim to compensate for the financial and emotional losses resulting from the untimely death. Here’s a breakdown of the types of damages that can be pursued in a wrongful death case:
- Economic Damages:
- Medical Expenses: Covers the cost of medical care the deceased received as a result of the injury leading to their death.
- Funeral and Burial Costs: Compensation for the expenses associated with funeral services, burial, or cremation.
- Loss of Income: Covers the earnings the deceased would have provided had they lived, including future earnings.
- Loss of Benefits: Compensation for lost benefits like health insurance, retirement benefits, and other perks the deceased would have received.
- Loss of Inheritance: Covers what the beneficiaries might have inherited had the deceased lived a natural lifespan.
- Non-Economic Damages:
- Loss of Consortium: Compensation for the loss of companionship, love, care, and affection that the deceased provided.
- Loss of Parental Guidance: If the deceased had minor children, this compensates for the loss of guidance, care, and nurturing the children will miss.
- Mental Anguish: Compensation for the emotional pain, grief, anxiety, and depression survivors suffer due to the loss of their loved one.
- Loss of Household Services: Compensation for the value of services the deceased provided, such as childcare, home maintenance, and other domestic tasks.
- Punitive Damages:
- Unlike other damages that aim to compensate the survivors, punitive damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar negligent or intentional behavior in the future. These are awarded in cases where the defendant’s actions were particularly reckless or malicious.
- Survival Damages:
- In Texas, the estate of the deceased can also bring a “survival claim,” which seeks damages for the pain and suffering the deceased endured from the time of injury until their death. This is separate from the wrongful death claim and compensates for the deceased’s personal losses.
- Loss of Companionship and Society:
- Compensation for the loss of the deceased’s love, companionship, comfort, and society.
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life:
- Compensation for the survivors’ loss of enjoyment and quality of life due to the untimely death of their loved one.
It’s essential to understand that the specific damages available and their amounts can vary based on the facts of the case, the relationship between the claimant and the deceased, and other factors. Consulting with an experienced wrongful death attorney can provide clarity on the potential damages applicable to a specific case.
Negligence In Wrongful Death Claims
In the realm of personal injury law, negligence is a foundational concept. For a wrongful death claim to be successful, the plaintiff typically needs to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the death of their loved one. Here’s a detailed look at the concept of negligence in wrongful death claims:
- Definition of Negligence:
- Negligence is defined as the failure to exercise the level of care that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised in a similar situation. In simpler terms, it’s the failure to act with the care and caution that a typical person would use, leading to harm or death.
- Elements of Negligence: To establish negligence in a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must prove the following four elements:
- Duty of Care: The defendant had a legal obligation or duty to act in a certain way towards the deceased. For example, drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles safely to prevent harm to others on the road.
- Breach of Duty: The defendant failed to uphold their duty of care. This breach can be an action (like driving recklessly) or a failure to act (like not fixing a known hazard).
- Causation: The defendant’s breach of duty directly caused the death in question. This means there must be a direct link between the defendant’s negligent actions and the death.
- Damages: The death resulted in actual damages, such as medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of income, and more.
- Comparative Negligence:
- Texas operates under a modified comparative negligence system. This means that if the deceased was partially at fault for the incident leading to their death, any compensation awarded would be reduced by their percentage of fault. If they were more than 50% at fault, the surviving family members might not be able to recover any damages.
- Proving Negligence:
- To prove negligence, the plaintiff will need to gather and present evidence. This can include eyewitness testimonies, expert opinions, accident reports, medical records, and any other relevant documentation or evidence.
- Gross Negligence:
- In some cases, the defendant’s actions may be so reckless or egregious that they are deemed grossly negligent. Gross negligence goes beyond ordinary carelessness or failure to act—it’s a conscious, voluntary act or omission in reckless disregard of the consequences. In Texas, proving gross negligence can lead to the awarding of punitive damages, which are meant to punish the defendant and deter similar behavior in the future.
- Negligence Per Se:
- In certain situations, a defendant’s violation of a statute or regulation can be considered “negligence per se.” This means that the act itself is inherently negligent because it broke a law designed to protect the public. For instance, if a truck driver violated a federal trucking regulation leading to a fatal accident, that violation could be considered negligence per se.
Understanding and proving negligence is crucial in a wrongful death claim. Given the complexities involved, it’s highly recommended to consult with an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process, gather the necessary evidence, and build a compelling case.
Call Wronful Death Attorney David Salazar If You Need Help
Our wrongful death lawyers can stand by your side in any wrongful death case, including those involving:
- Automobile and Car Accidents
- Drunk Driving Accidents
- 18 Wheeler and Commercial Truck Accidents
- Defective Products
- Automobile Defects
- Premises Liability
We can also take on accidental deaths that result from workplace accidents, such as:
Call us toll-free to set up a free telephone consultation, or fill out the Free Case Evaluation form on this website.