A wrongful death claim arises when a family member is killed due to someone’s negligence or misconduct. The victim’s survivors demand monetary damages because of the negligent defendant’s improper conduct. Even if the death was unintentional, it is still the responsibility of the defendant to provide fair compensation to the victim’s survivors.
A wrongful death can happen in various types of accidents or due to improper defendant behavior. The most common of causes are motor vehicle accidents, on-the-job mishaps, defective products, and medical malpractice.
When a person dies after an accident, medical bills, funeral and burial costs, and other expenses must be paid to the victim’s estate and surviving family members (usually the spouse and children). Loss of the deceased’s income immediately puts families in financial peril. And the lost companionship and support to the family – especially if the decedent is a parent – can never be replaced.
Personal injury attorneys cannot relieve the emotional loss and sorrow experienced by surviving family members, but they can try to relieve the family’s financial stress. The seasoned attorneys with Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law can quickly begin helping by:
- Launching an immediate investigation of the accident to gather all evidence necessary to back-up the family’s insurance claim
- Taking over all communications with insurance companies that are responsible for paying legal damages to the family
- Gathering all necessary information, including police reports, medical records, insurance records, and other documentation vital to the claim
- Identifying and documenting all losses caused by the wrongful death, including pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and other non-economic damages
- Initiating insurance claims against all negligent parties, including third-party defendants if applicable
- Negotiating with insurance adjusters to obtain a full settlement
- Filing a lawsuit and arguing the claim in court if settlement negotiations fail
Recoverable Damages from a Texas Wrongful Death
According to Texas law, any, or all, of the following are legitimate damages that surviving family members can demand of the negligent defendant. But two different legal avenues are necessary: the actual Wrongful Death claim, and the Survival Action claim.
The Wrongful Death claim includes the following damages:
- All funeral expenses of the deceased family member
- Loss of consortium/relationship
- Emotional and mental damage over the loss of the survivors’ beloved family member
- Loss of companionship/consortium, inheritance, and other economic losses
- Punitive damages if the defendant acted with gross negligence or willful intent in causing the fatal accident
The Survival Action claim includes the following damages:
- All medical expenses arising from the accident
- Lost income
- Victim pain and suffering (both physical and emotional) prior to their death
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit after a Family Member’s Fatal Workplace Injury
Under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act, workers’ comp is the “exclusive remedy” for recovering the expenses arising from a workplace injury or death. This means that employers who subscribe to workers’ comp cannot be sued for an injury or wrongful death. There is, however, an exception. If the employee was killed by an employer’s gross negligence or from an intentional (“willful”) act or oversight by the employer, families can sue that employer for wrongful death – even if the employer’s insurer paid workers’ comp benefits. But if the lawsuit against the employer is successful, the medical bills and other benefits his or her insurance company paid to the deceased’s estate and surviving plaintiffs may be subject to subrogation – or repayment – out of the damage award they win from the employer.
If someone other than the employer was responsible for the wrongful death (such as a visitor or vendor to the workplace), a family, through its attorney, might wish to initiate a third-party claim. Third-party claims can be filed regardless of whether the employer is a workers’ comp subscriber. Common third-party injury claim defendants include manufacturers of defective machinery, distributers of tools and supplies used on the job, and at-fault drivers or subcontractors.
What if the Government or One of its Employees is Responsible?
The normal statute of limitations to file a Texas wrongful death claim is two years from the date of the accident, but if a government agency is at fault for your family member’s fatal injury, the window to place the government agency on notice of a claim against it is much shorter. You have only six months (180 days) to notify the government agency of an injury claim. ***To understand the applicable deadlines that apply to your claim, you must speak directly with a licensed attorney.***
No matter which government agency was at fault, you’ll have a much shorter timeframe to work with than you would for a normal personal injury claim. In addition to short time limits, the total amount of compensation you can recover from a government agency also has a firm damage cap on it, making it important to work with a seasoned injury attorney who can maximize the amount you may receive from the reimbursable amounts below, which are limited by law:
- State or Municipal Government – $250,000 per injured person and $500,000 per accident
- Emergency Services Organization – $100,000 per injured person and $300,000 per accident
The Need for a Seasoned Wrongful Death Attorney
In Texas, surviving family members, including spouse, parents, and children, may file a suit for the wrongful death of a loved one. But as you have learned, compensation is neither a given, nor is it an easy process. If you have any questions about how to protect your family in the wake of a tragic wrongful death of a loved one, don’t hesitate to contact our office. Our lawyers and entire support staff are here to help you at 1 (800) 444-5000. If you would rather, you may fill out a FREE initial consultation form today to discuss your situation – and your family’s options.