In the real world, many personal injuries result in death. At that point, the victim is obviously no longer around to bring claims of any kind. Yet the deceased’s family remains deprived of support, companionship, etc. How does the law keep the death of the victim from somehow working to the benefit of the person responsible for causing the death?
With the idea of a “wrongful death” claim that can be brought by the victim’s survivors.
Get Help Now
Wrongful death cases can be very complex. Recovery depends on establishing that the defendant—the person being sued—is legally responsible for the death. Since any number of different accidents may have caused the death—vehicle accidents, gunshots, falls, and countless other mechanisms—you need a Texas lawyer with wide experience in personal injury cases of all types, in addition to specific experience with the technical requirements of the wrongful death laws.
Dallas personal injury lawyer Aaron Herbert has that experience. He is Board Certified as a Personal Injury Trial Specialist, is a life member of the Million Dollar Advocates, and is highly rated by Avvo. Aaron knows the value of settling the case when possible and taking it all the way to a court verdict if required to fight for the compensation you deserve for your personal injury damages.
What Can a Dallas Wrongful Death Attorney Do?
Contacting a wrongful death law firm can put you in touch with attorneys, investigators, and other professionals who can handle these claims. The lawyers at our firm can provide the support and guidance you need during this difficult time. We will put our resources to good use on your behalf.
- We can help identify the legally responsible party after a fatal accident. This is the party whose negligence caused the death of another person.
- We can fight for grieving families to obtain justice. Our lawyers can help plaintiffs seek compensation for medical bills, funeral costs, and noneconomic damages.
- We can represent a plaintiff during insurance settlement negotiations or a court trial at no cost unless we win. Our firm operates on a contingency fee basis.
Choosing the right attorney can make all the difference during your wrongful death claim. Your lawyer should be sensitive to your plight and passionate about holding the at-fault party accountable. The law firm should treat you like family, and your claim like its own. The Law Firm of Aaron A. Herbert, PC has everything you are looking for and more.
What Are the Leading Causes of Wrongful Death in Texas?
Learning more about the causes of wrongful death could help families in Texas understand whether they have grounds for civil lawsuits. The leading causes of wrongful death in the state shed light on common risks citizens face, including the negligence of others. Finding out your loved one passed away because of a common type of negligence, such as drunk driving, could help you comprehend your rights as a surviving family member. You are not alone if you lost a loved one in a tragic accident. Sadly, wrongful death incidents occur daily in Texas.
- Car accidents. Motor vehicle collisions took 3,727 lives in Texas in 2017. Drunk, distracted, negligent and reckless drivers cause most fatal crashes in the state.
- Workplace accidents. Accidents at work such as falls or transportation incidents could cause fatal worker injuries. Construction is the deadliest industry for workers in America.
- Medical malpractice. The negligent misdiagnosis of common causes of death such as heart attack, cancer and stroke contribute to fatalities in Texas. Other forms of medical malpractice can also be deadly.
- Unintentional drowning. Drowning is a main cause of death in Texas, especially for children. It is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury fatalities in the country.
- Defective products. Defective and dangerous car parts, appliances, children’s toys, medications, medical devices and other products could inflict mortal wounds on consumers.
Identifying what caused your family member’s death is one of the first steps toward bringing a wrongful death claim. One of our attorneys can help you investigate the recent fatal accident for its root cause. One or more parties could be liable for your loved one’s death if it negligently failed to prevent the deadly accident. Our attorneys can spot negligence, collect evidence and help your family build a case against the defendant(s). No matter what you believe killed your loved one, contact our attorneys for counsel.
Is There a Time Limit for a Wrongful Death Claim?
In the state of Texas the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is normally 2 years after the event had occurred. You must file a lawsuit with the court within this two year time frame. If you do not, there is a chance your claim will be dismissed. Two years may seem like plenty of time. However, we strongly recommend to act as fast as possible. It often becomes more difficult to collect strong evidence for your claim as time goes by. If victims are unsure about their time and need assistance with gathering the right evidence, they can get the help they need from our attorneys.
When to Contact a Lawyer
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit could be the only way you and your family can receive the financial compensation you need to move forward. Without a civil award, your family may not be able to afford financially devastating medical bills, funeral/burial costs, and lost wages. A criminal claim against the defendant may bring justice for your loved one, but it will not compensate you for your losses. Hire an attorney to deal with insurance companies on your family’s behalf. A lawyer can improve your odds of a fair settlement or verdict.
Nature of Wrongful Death Actions
Wrongful death claims are based on what the deceased’s heirs have lost as a result of the death. In Texas, these losses can generally be described as:
- Loss of the support, services, care, etc. that the deceased would have provided
- Loss of the deceased’s companionship
- Mental anguish
- Diminished inheritance (value of the property the deceased would probably have added to the estate during a normal life span)
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
A statute specifically names those people entitled to bring a wrongful death claim. In Texas, the statute (Section 71.004 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code) allows wrongful death claims by the deceased’s surviving:
That sounds deceptively simple. Divorces, adoptions, and similar events frequently call the status of a claimant into question.
In most cases, there is more than one person entitled to bring a wrongful death action. The statute allows the action to be brought by all of the named survivors, or any combination of them can bring the action for the benefit of every person in the class. And, if no one in the class of eligible plaintiffs starts an action within three months of the deceased’s death, the deceased’s executor (or administrator) is required to bring the action unless all the named survivors request that an action not be brought.
Texas Wrongful Death Laws
Texas’ wrongful death statutes outline who may file a wrongful death claim, how long they have to file one, and the damages recoverable through a wrongful death claim. There are also separate laws concerning survival actions. While wrongful death claims seek to repay a decedent’s estate and compensate the victim’s family for their suffering, survival actions allow the claimants to receive compensation the decedent could have collected had he or she survived. This generally includes lost earnings and compensation for the pain and suffering the deceased experienced during his or her fatal illness or injury.
In Texas, a surviving spouse, parent, or child of a deceased individual may file a wrongful death claim, individually or as a group. Claimants have three months to file following the date of the death in question. After three months, a personal representative of the deceased’s estate may file a wrongful death claim, unless a surviving member of the deceased’s family specifically requests the representative not to do so. Legally adopted children and parents can also file wrongful death claims for the negligent death of an adopted child or parent. Siblings, whether biological or adopted, may not file wrongful death claims.
Claimants may file a wrongful death claim if the subject of the claim also faces criminal charges related to the death. For example, if a driver kills a person while driving under the influence, he or she will face criminal prosecution from the state as well as liability for civil actions from the victim’s family.
Yes, it is complicated, and yes the three month requirement creates some time pressure. It’s best to get the help of an experienced Texas wrongful death attorney as early in the process as possible.
What Damages Can You Recover?
The main purpose of a wrongful death action is to compensate surviving family members for their losses. Although nothing will bring the deceased victim back, a successful wrongful death claim could help your family by providing justice, closure and financial stability for your ongoing expenses. In the aftermath of a tragic loss, your family may have expensive hospital bills, funeral costs and other obligations. A civil lawsuit in Texas could yield a settlement or judgment award that repays your family for many different economic and noneconomic losses you may suffer, now and in the future.
- All accident-related medical expenses
- Lost wages from missed work
- Lost future earnings over the victim’s lifetime
- Lost inheritance the victim would have passed on to descendants
- Lost love, companionship, care and parental guidance
- Lost household contributions
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Legal and courtroom fees
- Mental anguish and emotional stress
Some wrongful death cases in Texas will also receive exemplary, or punitive, damages. A judge may award exemplary damages since the victim suffered the ultimate injury – wrongful death. Exemplary damages help make up for extreme losses when compensatory damages are not enough. A judge may also give exemplary damages in cases where the defendants are guilty of exceptional recklessness, carelessness, negligence, wanton disregard or malicious intent. Exemplary damages send the message that the county courts will not tolerate serious torts.
The value of your wrongful death claim will depend on the specifics of your loved one’s death. Many families in Texas have received six- and seven-figure settlements and verdicts for their irreversible losses. Catastrophic injury and wrongful death claims are often worth more than minor injury claims in Texas. Your family could recover compensation to carry you through the next several years or a lifetime. A damage award could help your family get back on its feet after an unexpected loss.
“Survival Actions” are Different
Wrongful death claims aren’t the only cases that look to recover damages based on the death of someone. There are also “survival actions,” which can be confusing—after all, it is the “survivors” of the deceased who bring wrongful death claims. So who brings “wrongful death” actions, and who brings “survival actions” and what is the difference?
Survival actions are claims for the damages that the deceased suffered, and that the deceased would have been entitled to recover had the person not died. The deceased’s estate brings the action and any damages recovered become part of the estate, to be distributes according to the deceased’s will.
Typical damages in a survival action include:
- Funeral and burial costs with respect to the decedent’s wishes
- Lost earning capacity
- Lost value of personal and household services provided by the deceased
- Mental anguish and emotional suffering resulting from the death
- Lost inheritance, including lost value on retirement plans, savings accounts, or other financial assets that would have accrued additional value had the deceased survived
- Exemplary damages, which function like punitive damages in personal injury cases and seek to punish the at-fault party instead of compensating the victims
Survival actions allow claimants to receive compensation for damages that occurred between the moment of injury and the victim’s death. For example, if a decedent contracted a fatal illness due to negligence, the survival action would apply to the damages accrued from the time of first exposure until the victim’s death. This can include the victim’s pain and suffering during the final illness or injury, lost income from the moment of injury until death, and medical expenses related to the treatment of his or her final illness or injury.
Dallas Wrongful Death Case Evaluation
At The Law Firm of Aaron A. Herbert, PC, we understand the extremely difficult time your family is facing after an unexpected loss. We want to make the legal experience as hassle-free as possible. Our firm can answer your questions and walk you through the first steps of the legal process during a free consultation at our local Dallas office. Initial consultations are always confidential and zero obligation. Let us help you determine whether you have a case. Get legal counsel at (855) 655-HURT or request a callback.
“I first hired an attorney that is frequently on t.v. that sat on my case for almost two years and then not only dropped my case close to the statute of limitations by simply sending me a letter, but got the date of the accident wrong even though he had a copy of the accident report. I then contacted attorney Aaron Herbert and he met with me the same day, realized the statute of limitations ran that day, drafted and filed a lawsuit thirty minutes later and eventually he successfully resolved the case in litigation.” – Eric Smith