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Wrongful Death Attorney

Wrongful Death Attorney

Few situations are more emotionally difficult than the premature death of a loved one. The passing of somebody close to you can present financial and legal difficulties as well.

When a loved one’s death is caused by the actions of another person, a wrongful death claim allows family members of the deceased to seek compensation for damages resulting from their death. Legal action can be a way to seek closure and obtain justice. It’s also a way to cope with the sudden loss of somebody you depend on.

Wrongful death claims are often complex, and having skilled representation can greatly increase the likelihood of a successful outcome. For help understanding your rights and initiating a wrongful death claim, it’s crucial to consult with an attorney who can provide personalized guidance based on the circumstances of your case.

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Types of Wrongful Death Cases and Wrongful Death Causes

Preventable injuries cause more than 227,000 deaths in the United States each year, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). Some of the top causes of accidental deaths are:

Accidents rank as the fourth-leading cause of death in Texas. Not all accidental deaths meet the standards necessary for a wrongful death lawsuit, but many do.

The horrifying death of an 8-year-old girl who drowned in a swimming pool at a Hilton hotel in Houston is a reminder that tragedy can strike at any moment. However, her drowning may not simply be an “accident.” Her family says it was avoidable, and they have filed a wrongful death lawsuit that seeks justice for the incident.

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How a Texas Wrongful Death Lawsuit Works

While causing a death may result in a criminal case, it can also lead to a wrongful death lawsuit—a civil action brought on behalf of the person who died by members of their family. Criminal cases related to a fatality are brought by the state, whereas a wrongful death lawsuit is filed by an injury attorney.

A wrongful death suit is similar to a personal injury claim in that, had the decedent survived the accident, he or she would have been able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the party who injured them. After their death, the right to pursue an injury lawsuit passes to surviving family members.

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What Is Considered "Wrongful Death" in Texas?

“Wrongful death” in Texas refers to a legal cause of action that arises when a person’s death is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, carelessness, or misconduct of another person or entity (such as a business or the government).

Wrongful death claims allow statutorily defined family members or representatives of the deceased person’s estate to seek compensation for losses incurred due to the death. Under Texas state law, a death may be considered “wrongful” if it occurs due to:

  • Negligence: This involves the failure to exercise reasonable care that results in harm to another person. For example, if a driver speeds or operates their vehicle while drunk/drugged or distracted and causes a fatal car accidenttruck accident, motorcycle accident, or pedestrian accident, the victim’s family can potentially sue for wrongful death caused by negligence.
  • Intentional Act: If a person’s death is caused by the deliberate actions of another individual with the intent to cause harm, it may constitute wrongful death. This can include acts such as assault, homicide, or other intentional wrongdoing.
  • Product Liability: In cases where a defective or dangerous product leads to a fatal injury, the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer of the product may be held liable for wrongful death. Defective automobiles, medical devices and pharmaceutical drugs, and consumer products are frequently the subject of product liability claims.
  • Medical Malpractice: When a healthcare provider’s substandard care leads to a patient dying, it may constitute wrongful death. Medical negligence can include errors during surgery, misdiagnosis, medication errors, failure to provide appropriate treatment, and birth injuries.
  • Workplace Accidents: Surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death claim against a third party, like a subcontractor, if a worker suffers a fatal on-the-job injury or illness.
  • Premises Liability: Businesses, landlords, homeowners, and other property owners have a legal duty to keep their premises free of hazards that can harm visitors. Owners who don’t mitigate potential risks may be held liable for injuries and deaths that occur on their property. Slip and fall accidents, swimming pool accidents, dog bites, fires, and inadequate security are among the incidents that can give rise to a deadly premises liability accident.
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Types of Compensation in a Wrongful Death Claim

The types of compensation available in a wrongful death lawsuit are comparable to those that can be recovered in a personal injury lawsuit and include:

  • Financial support and wages that would have been provided by the deceased, including the value of any lost savings or inheritance
  • Property damage that was incurred in the fatal accident
  • Pain and suffering of the deceased prior to death
  • Pain and suffering of surviving family members due to the death
  • Loss of care/companionship
  • Loss of household services (i.e. childcare, cleaning, and chauffeuring)
  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral and burial expenses

Damages recoverable in a Texas wrongful death claim are generally divisible into economic damages (such as medical bills, funeral costs, loss of income, and loss of future earnings) and non-economic damages (e.g., pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and emotional distress). Punitive damages, designed to punish the defendant for particularly egregious conduct, can also be awarded in wrongful death cases.

As part of your free case evaluation, a wrongful death lawyer can help you understand what kinds of damages may be available, the types of proof needed to substantiate your claim, and how the claims process is likely to play out.

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Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?

The right to file a Texas wrongful death case is typically limited to certain family members of the decedent. If the deceased person had a will or estate plan, this may also impact who has the authority to bring a wrongful death claim.

Texas wrongful death law states that the following parties have legal standing to file a wrongful death suit:

  • Spouse: The surviving spouse of the individual killed usually has the primary right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
  • Children: Children of the deceased person may also have the right to file a wrongful death claim. This includes both biological and adopted children.
  • Parents: If the deceased person was unmarried and had no children, their parents may have the right to file a wrongful death claim.
  • Executor or Administrator of the Estate: The executor, personal representative, or administrator of the deceased person’s estate may have the right to file on behalf of the estate and its beneficiaries if none of the above parties file a wrongful death claim within three months of the death.

Consulting with a wrongful death lawyer can provide clarity on who has legal standing to file a claim.

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What Do You Need to Prove to Win a Wrongful Death Suit?

In a wrongful death claim, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff (the party bringing the claim). The plaintiff must establish that the defendant’s negligence or intentional actions caused the death of their loved one and additionally show demonstrable losses tied to the death.

A person with standing, or the legal right to file a wrongful death claim, needs to prove these elements to prevail in a wrongful death dispute:

  1. Duty of Care: The plaintiff must establish that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased person. For example, all drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles safely and follow traffic laws, and medical practitioners must follow established professional standards.
  2. Breach of Duty: The plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant breached the duty of care owed to the deceased person. This involves showing that the defendant’s actions or failure to act fell below the standard of care expected in the given situation, such as a driver running a red light or a doctor making a surgical error.
  3. Causation: The plaintiff must prove a causal connection between the defendant’s breach of duty and the decedent’s fatal injury.
  4. Damages: The victim’s death must have resulted in demonstrable and quantifiable damages (i.e., losses). These losses can include economic damages such as medical expenses, funeral costs, and loss of financial support, as well as non-economic damages like loss of companionship, mental anguish, and emotional distress.
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Comparative Negligence and Wrongful Death Damages

Texas uses a modified comparative negligence rule, which means that, if the decedent was partially at fault for their own death, any damages awarded for wrongful death may be reduced by their percentage of fault. However, if they are determined to be more than 50% responsible, their family may be barred from recovering damages altogether.

Comparative negligence is intended to make the legal system fairer, but insurance companies and defense lawyers sometimes use the rule to shift blame and pay fewer damages in a wrongful death claim.

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What Is the Deadline to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The statute of limitations, or filing deadline, for a Texas wrongful death claim is typically two years from the decedent’s death. Failure to initiate a wrongful death action within this timeframe could result in the loss of your right to seek compensation.

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Reasons to Work with a Wrongful Death Lawyer

Legal considerations may not be your top priority after the death of a loved one—and understandably so. But for the future well-being of your estate and your family, it is crucial to engage a wrongful death lawyer sooner rather than later.

  • The issue of liability, or who is responsible for the unexpected death of a loved one, is among the first matters that should be explored. This can be more complex than it might seem. More than one party may bear liability. And questions about comparative negligence may further muddy the legal waters.
  • There is also the matter of calculating future damages, such as future lost income and future loss of household services. Such damages must be meticulously documented. Not getting the numbers right can set the family up for years of economic hardship when a primary provider is killed. Financial, vocational, and other experts are often utilized to provide a full accounting.

There are many ways a wrongful death attorney can help you through this difficult time. The main thing to keep in mind is that these cases can become very complicated, very quickly, and that an attorney can keep legal worries from adding to your grief.

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Our Wrongful Death Settlements and Verdicts

Jim Adler & Associates has recovered more than $1 billion for our injury clients. Some of the firm’s largest settlements resulted from wrongful death lawsuits and settlements, including recoveries of $26 million, $16 million, $4.85 million, $3.5 million, and $2.5 million.

The money that we recover in these types of cases goes towards helping grieving families put the broken pieces of their lives back together and ensuring that at-fault parties are made to pay for their irresponsible actions.

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Get Legal Help for a Texas Wrongful Death

As you seek closure, you might want to discuss what happened with a lawyer. There are financial and legal considerations to keep in mind, and limited time to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.

The wrongful death attorneys at Jim Adler & Associates, home of The Texas Hammer, are available to answer your questions with sympathy, tact, competence, and experience.

Call 1-800-505-1414 or send us a message to schedule your 100% free consultation.

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