Losing a loved one is never easy. Depending on the circumstances surrounding their passing, you may be wondering, how long does it usually take to settle a wrongful death suit? While there is no simple, definitive answer to that question, the more you know about your rights going forward and the potential results of your wrongful death claim or lawsuit, the less daunting that experience can be.
In Texas, if your loved one dies as a result of the carelessness, negligence, or wrongful act of another, their death may be deemed as a wrongful death. Once it has been determined as such, you may then be able to go through the process of filing a wrongful death lawsuit (and possibly, a survival action) with the help and guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney. How long this will take to settle depends on the various circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death.
While filing a wrongful death lawsuit won’t bring a loved one back or make up for their absence in your life, it can help you overcome any financial difficulties and also hold the wrongful party accountable.
How Long Does It Usually Take to Settle a Wrongful Death Suit?
While lawsuits vary depending on the circumstances surrounding them, the answer to the question of how long does it usually take to settle a wrongful death suit is not a simple one.
Every wrongful death suit is different, and each will have its own unique circumstances. Therefore, there can be no common or average expected timeframe for settlement of a wrongful death lawsuit across the country, including here in Texas. This type of lawsuit could settle in as little as two months or, if it involves more complicated circumstances and legal issues, it could take several years to settle.
A thorough review by your experienced wrongful death lawyer can guide you through the process of filing a suit and keep you informed of potential delays along the way.
In Texas, only the following are legally eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit:
- Surviving spouse
- Biological children of the deceased
- Legally adopted children of the deceased
- Parents of the deceased
- Deceased’s executor or personal representative (if lawsuit not filed by any of those above within three months of the deceased’s date of death).
Of course, there are times when a settlement fails to happen or happens too quickly.
On average, insurance companies settle within three to four months. However, they often start with a settlement too low for what you deserve. You’ll want to avoid accepting this offer and wait for additional negotiations and settlement offers to ensure that your full rights are protected and that you receive fair and just compensation for your loved one’s death.
Without an acceptable settlement offer, you must then be willing to continue to trial at the advice of your legal team.
However, if your claim does indeed go to trial it could take even longer to settle – usually up to a year or more to conclude. Crowded court dockets often delay scheduling, and the wait can be unbearably long at times.
Why Is My Wrongful Death Lawsuit Taking So Long?
Understandably, so, anxiety and stress can get the better of you, and you may wonder why your wrongful death lawsuit taking so long.
It’s not always bad news if your claim is taking longer than you think it should. What can be holding it up? There are several considerations, issues, and negotiations to be made before filing, and then settling, your lawsuit.
Knowing what to expect throughout your lawsuit is helpful, because you will be aware of the many actions that must be taken and what happens when negotiations stall or fail altogether.
A few of these necessary actions that may prolong your lawsuit and potential settlement include the identifying of the type of claim, collecting of adequate evidence, calculating damages, entering negotiations, and following legal procedures.
Type of Claim
The length of time required in settling a wrongful death lawsuit will depend in part upon the type of death claim and surrounding circumstances. For example, death may occur due to any of the following, each with its own set of circumstances and legal requirements.
- Motor Vehicle, Motorcycle, or Bicycle Accident
- Pedestrian Accident
- Workplace Accident
- Intentional Acts (e.g., criminal assault)
- Medical Malpractice
- Defective Products.
There are also particular factors that can delay your type of claim, including:
- Identifying liability, especially in certain types of accidents, and when more than one negligent party is involved. (e.g., truck driver and employer)
- Responsible party is also facing criminal charges.
Your wrongful death lawsuit will revolve around proving your loved one’s death occurred due to negligence or a wrongful act, whether it happened during an accident, minor surgery, or other circumstance.
Your legal team, then, needs adequate time to collect and review evidence to prove your case. This process may involve:
- Reviewing medical records
- Conducting and documenting witness interviews
- Collecting and reviewing accident reports or driving records
- Obtaining personnel files and employer records (including previous workplace violations)
- Reviewing medical examiner reports and consulting with medical professionals
- Obtaining surveillance videos
- Identifying expert witnesses, including accident reconstruction specialists in some cases.
Lengthy investigations to uncover adequate evidence are necessary most often when the other party adamantly denies fault.
Allowing enough time for your attorney to research and obtain all the relevant information may be time-consuming, but it will be highly beneficial to your claim.
In addition to identifying your type of claim and gathering evidence, your wrongful death lawsuit will include damages that must be calculated and, most often, negotiated between insurance companies, individuals, and your attorney. These damages may include:
- Deceased’s lost earning capacity
- Loss of care, support, maintenance, service, and advice of deceased to surviving family members
- Mental pain and suffering, and mental anguish by surviving family members
- Loss of inheritance of the amount the deceased may have set aside and accumulated over a normal lifetime
- Loss of companionship, love, comfort, and more.
Certain Texas wrongful death claims also may include exemplary or punitive damages, meant to punish wrongdoers and serve as an example to the public that such willful negligence and wrongful acts are not accepted.
An experienced personal injury attorney specializing in wrongful death claims can negotiate with the insurance company while representing your best interests.
While understandably, you and your family will want to move past this as quickly as possible, do your best to remain patient. Avoid accepting the first settlement offer by an insurance company, as these are often much lower than you deserve. Insurance companies are there to protect their bottom line and close claims as quickly as possible.
In some instances, negotiations at this stage may take even longer due to:
- Insurance company refusal to accept full or partial fault for their client or claim shared negligence
- Insurance company handling your case in bad faith.
Legal representation at this stage is imperative to ensure you, and your family, are not taken advantage of and receive a fair settlement.
Legal procedures are put in place to guide lawsuits and must be followed in every state. From the filing to settlement or trial, your attorneys are already experienced in how to go about following these procedures, which will save you time overall.
Answering the question of how long does a wrongful death settlement take, then, begins with your filing of a claim.
It’s important to be aware of the legal timeframe for filing your wrongful death lawsuit. Generally, the Texas statute of limitations is two years, and this timeframe begins on the date of death, with very few exceptions. *Always speak directly to an attorney for the exact statute of limitations or other deadlines that apply to your potential claim(s).
Once filed, your claim will need to adhere to various legal procedures, including the timeline for post-filing, mediation, and, if no settlement is reached, trial scheduling. Courts are often backlogged with cases to hear, and scheduling may delay the conclusion of your lawsuit even further.
As you can see, there are many required steps involved in your potential claim for a loved one. A wrongful death lawsuit takes considerable time, whether you agree to a final settlement or proceed to trial. Working with a compassionate legal team can make all the difference, guiding you along the way and fighting for your rights and justifiable compensation.
Get Started by Contacting Your Houston Wrongful Death Lawyer Today
With the devastating loss of your loved one, the days that follow can be dark and overwhelming. When you are ready to find out if a wrongful death lawsuit is the best direction for your family to take, call Houston’s Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law now at (713) 973-8888 or toll-free 1 (800) 444-5000 for a free consultation.
Although there is no one, quick, definite answer to how long does it usually take to settle a wrongful death suit, we will work diligently to file and defend your claim and obtain the compensation you rightfully deserve.