How to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

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The death of a loved one is one of the most difficult experiences a family can endure, especially if it is unexpected or sudden. The loss of a loved one can be even more challenging to recover from when wrongful death issues are involved.

Wrongful death cases involve a death caused by the negligence of another person or entity. In such instances, it may be necessary to file a wrongful death lawsuit to hold the responsible parties accountable for the losses they caused. This page will help you understand how to file a wrongful death lawsuit as well as various issues that may arise in the process.

At Pierce Skrabanek, we understand the deeply emotional nature of wrongful death cases. We understand that you may be feeling overwhelmed and confused after such a loss. We believe seeking legal help can provide families with justice and closure during trying times.

Over the decades, we have helped numerous families who have been affected by wrongful death. Contact us today at (832) 690-7000 if you need legal representation for a lawsuit. We will assign you an experienced Houston wrongful death attorney who will guide you through the trial process.

 

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What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A “wrongful death” may be defined as any death that is caused by another’s “wrongful act, omission, or negligence.” This is a unique type of personal injury claim in that the injured victim has passed away and is no longer able to seek compensation from the party that caused them harm.

Because of this, Texas’s wrongful death statute allows a representative of the deceased person to file the suit. The negligent party pays damages for the losses to the victim’s family members.

These damages cover various costs related to the death, including any medical costs, mental anguish, burial expenses, and other losses which are discussed in more detail below. If you would like to view Texas’ wrongful death statute, you can read it in Chapter 71 of Texas’ Civil Practice and Remedies Code.

Wrongful death can occur in various contexts, including those involving:

How Do You Prove Wrongful Death?

If you and your family decide to proceed with a wrongful death claim, it can be of tremendous help to understand how wrongful death is proven. Knowing how these elements of proof work can greatly help you cooperate with your wrongful death attorney as they ask you questions about your case.

In a wrongful death lawsuit, your lawyer will need to provide the court with evidence to support the following points:

  • The other party owed a duty of care toward your loved one: For instance, a doctor has a duty to follow medical standards when providing patient care.
  • The other party breached their duty of care: If the doctor fails to follow proper medical protocol, it could be considered a breach of their duty of care.
  • The other party’s conduct caused your loved one’s death: If by failing to follow their duty of care, the doctor’s actions directly caused the death, you may have a case for wrongful death based on negligence.

A wrongful death lawyer will be able to gather and present evidence that helps prove these elements in court. Such evidence may include:

  • Medical records and documents
  • Police reports
  • Witness statements and testimony
  • Pictures and video footage
  • Input from medical experts

Proving wrongful death is especially difficult without the assistance of an attorney because the victim is not there to testify about what happened to them. However, an experienced attorney will be able to use the available evidence to build a strong case proving the other party’s negligence.

The wrongful death lawyers at Pierce Skrabanek have decades of experience crafting strong legal cases based on the evidence and Texas laws. Get in touch with us today at (832) 690-7000 to speak with a wrongful death lawyer who can inform you of your legal rights under the law.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Understanding who can sue for wrongful death can help prevent disputes or conflicts related to the claim.

Under Texas personal injury laws, certain members of the deceased person’s family can file a wrongful death claim. This includes the victim’s surviving spouse, their children, and their parents.

In certain cases, adopted children and adoptive parents may file a wrongful death claim as well if their adoption was legal and fully completed.

Wrongful death claims can be filed as a separate action for each family member. Alternatively, the members of the family can group together to file a single claim.

Lastly, siblings of the deceased person are not allowed to file a wrongful death claim and cannot participate in a group filing. The claim can only be filed by one of the persons listed above.

Damages In a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit are intended to compensate the surviving family members for their losses connected with the death of their loved one. The amount of damages varies from case to case, but usually provides compensation for:

  • Mental and emotional anguish
  • Loss of earning capacity for a household
  • Lost inheritance (what would have been inherited if the decedent had lived their life fully)
  • Loss of consortium or companionship
  • Lost care, support, or counsel
  • Funeral and burial expenses

In cases where the wrongful death is caused intentionally or through gross negligence, the family may also be entitled to punitive damages. These are additional damage amounts that are intended to punish the liable party for their conduct.

Lastly, “survival” damages may be available in specific cases under Texas law. These are damages that the deceased person would have been able to recover if they were alive to file a lawsuit. Examples of this include costs of medical treatment, and pain and suffering the person experienced while still alive.

 

Woman holds another woman’s hands and comforts her

Hire a Lawyer for Your Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The grief and emotional trauma from losing a loved one can be overwhelming for surviving family members to deal with. On top of that, dealing with legal issues creates added stress for the deceased person’s loved ones.

At Pierce Skrabanek, we know how challenging and exhausting it can be to undergo such situations. We have extensive experience litigating wrongful death cases and can help your family obtain the recovery and justice they deserve.

Contact us today at (832) 690-7000 for a free consultation where you can speak with us confidentially and learn about your legal rights. Our attorneys are available to represent you in court and recover the highest damages award possible for your claim.

Wrongful Death FAQs

Wrongful death claims in Texas typically involve a two-year statute of limitations. This means that a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within two years after the person’s death. Once that time period closes, the case can no longer be pursued.

For this reason, it’s crucial to get in touch with a lawyer right away if you believe you have a claim, so you don’t miss your opportunity to file your case.

Approaching the complex system of Texas wrongful death laws will be difficult without the help of a lawyer. Various procedural conflicts can arise, and there may also be overlap with criminal issues. It’s important to get guidance from an experienced Houston wrongful death lawyer who can help handle such claims.

There is no average length of time for wrongful death claims. Each case is different and may focus on different aspects of Texas’ wrongful death laws. Wrongful death claims can take anywhere from several months to a year or even longer to complete.

Compared to more standard cases involving only injuries, wrongful death cases may involve longer time frames since the victim is not there to testify.

Since Texas wrongful death laws allow for both compensatory and punitive damages, part of your wrongful death settlement may be classified as taxable income by the IRS. This may depend on each individual case, as well as the size and nature of the settlement award.

Wrongful death settlements and tax issues are best handled by a competent wrongful death lawyer who can sort out the different elements involved. Contact us at (832) 690-7000 for help with any wrongful death settlement questions you may have.

Preparing for a wrongful death lawsuit can be mentally and emotionally draining. A qualified lawyer can help relieve much of these burdens by gathering statements, documents, records, and other items that will be needed to support your claim.

Wrongful death attorneys can also explain how Texas statutes may affect your case, and what your options are under those provisions. Your attorney can help you obtain the most favorable outcome for your family in a court of law.

If your family has been affected by a wrongful death, contact us at Pierce Skrabanek at (832) 690-7000. We will handle all legal matters for you, so you can attend to your family and focus on your loved ones when they need you the most.