Houston Texas Lawyer Blog

What Does “Wrongful Death” Mean?

October 19, 2020 Wrongful Death

In the personal injury context, wrongful death refers to a victim’s death caused by someone else’s negligent or reckless act or behavior. Although the deceased victim can no longer pursue a personal injury claim and seek compensation for his or her injuries in a manner the victim would have been able to had he or she lived, the victim’s estate can file a survival claim against the negligent party.

The recovery from the survival claim will be added to the victim’s estates assets. Once all debts of the deceased victim’s debts are disposed of, the remaining assets will be distributed in a manner laid out in the victim’s will, or if a will wasn’t created, the distribution will be based on a scheme found in Texas probate law.

When a wrongful death occurs, the victim’s spouse, children, and parents are also entitled to compensation for losing their loved one through a wrongful death claim. This claim, as opposed to the survival claim, belongs solely to the statutory beneficiaries, i.e., the victim’s spouse, children, and parents. A victim’s fiancé, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, or any other distant family member would not have the right sue for or recover damages for the victim’s wrongful death.

Navigating through a Texas wrongful death lawsuit without an attorney can be difficult. And while a lawsuit for your loss may be the last thing on your mind during emotionally challenging times, successfully proving a wrongful death claim will become harder the longer you wait because evidence tends to disappear with time.

If you or a loved one have recently lost a parent, spouse, or a son or daughter due to someone else’s negligence, talk to one of our attorneys at Terry Bryant to learn more about your legal options. For a free consultation, call the Terry Bryant law firm at 713-973-8888 or toll-free 1 (800) 444-5000. We look forward to assisting you and answering any questions you may have about wrongful death claims here in Texas.

What can I recover through a wrongful death claim?

When you file a wrongful death suit for a loved one’s wrongful death, you are suing for your loss. You may be entitled to receive compensatory damages, which may include the following:

  • Loss of household income
  • Loss of services that your loved one performed
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of benefits (e.g. health insurance)
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Mental anguish.

Some wrongful death claims in Texas allow for the recovery of “exemplary” damages, also known as “punitive” damages. These are awarded in cases where it is found that the responsible party acted with extreme negligence or inflicted intentional harm.

Deadlines to be aware of when bringing a wrongful death claim?

A deceased victim’s spouse, parents, and children would generally have two years from the date of the victim’s death to file a wrongful death claim, unless they could prove an exception. Some of the possible exceptions include:

  • The family member bringing the wrongful death claim is a minor child at the time of the victim’s death.
  • A mental impairment of the person bringing a wrongful death claim prevented him or her from filing the lawsuit during the two years from the date of the victim’s death.

Although two years may seem like a considerable amount of time to bring a lawsuit against the negligent party, a wrongful death case may be one that becomes time-sensitive due to the evidence that may be preserved early on and the investigation efforts that will need to be undertaken at the outset. Since every wrongful death case is different, it’s important that you speak directly to an attorney to learn about the exact deadlines that apply to your potential claim. Missing a deadline may risk your ability to bring your wrongful death claim.

Talk to our attorneys at Terry Bryant about a wrongful death claim by calling 713-973-8888. We are available to help 24/7.

How hard is it to sue for wrongful death?

Wrongful death lawsuits can get complicated and tricky. Similar to a personal injury lawsuit, the party bringing a wrongful death lawsuit must prove all elements of the case to be successful. If you cannot establish an element or do not have strong and convincing evidence, it will be difficult to prove your case.

In every wrongful death suit, you must prove that the victim’s death case was caused by the negligence, carelessness, or recklessness of the responsible party. If the victim’s death was caused by an unfortunate coincidental reason, the family member will not have a claim for wrongful death. To prove negligence, you must prove:

Duty. The first requirement that you would need to prove is that the responsible party owed a duty of care to the deceased victim. For example, in a wrongful death caused by a motor vehicle accident, the responsible party would have a duty to operate a vehicle in a safe manner to prevent injuries to others on the road.

Breach of Duty. The second requirement needed to prove a wrongful death case is to show that the responsible party failed to uphold his or her duty of care. In the previous example, let’s say the maximum limit speed on the highway where the motor vehicle accident occurred was 60mph. If the responsible party was reaching speeds of 110mph, which was the reason for causing the wreck, you would assert that the responsible party breached his duty to operate his vehicle safely.

Causation. Third, with proven evidence, you will need to show that the responsible party’s breach of duty was what resulted in the injuries leading to the victim’s death. The need for strong and convincing evidence is key here. When bringing a wrongful death claim, you may be met with a situation where the victim was partially at fault for his injuries. Under these circumstances, a jury will assess each party’s percentage at fault. If it is found that the victim was more than 50% at fault for his injuries, the person bringing the wrongful death claim will recover nothing. If the victim contributed to his incident to a lesser degree, that percentage of fault would carry over to the wrongful death claim, and the judgment awarded will be reduced.

Damages. Lastly, you will need to prove quantifiable damages such as medical expenses, funeral and burial expenses if paid for by a surviving family member, loss of household income, lost inheritance, lost support and care, loss of comfort and companionship, and mental and emotional pain and suffering.

If your loved has recently died from someone’s negligent acts, contact our attorneys at the Terry Bryant law firm to discuss your options.

Losing a family member because of another person’s negligent acts is devastating. While filing a wrongful death lawsuit is never going to bring a loved one back to life, it can help bring some financial stability to your family. Contact our compassionate and sympathetic lawyers to discuss your legal options. For a free, no-obligation consultation, call our Houston law firm at 713-973-8888 or toll-free 1 (800) 444-5000.

Disclaimer: This information is for general information only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice or be interpreted as specific advice on your particular case.

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