As we all know, death is a part of life. However, some deaths happen prematurely and could have been avoided. In instances like these, it's sometimes the case that negligence plays a role. And where negligence plays a role, there is often grounds for a wrongful death claim. It is typically the surviving family members or representatives of the deceased's estate who are eligible to file a wrongful death claim. And as these matters can be extremely complex, it is best to file them with the assistance of an experienced wrongful death lawyer. Here at Glenn Law Firm, there are Fort Worth wrongful death lawyers ready to take on your case and fight for you during this difficult time.
The Different Kinds of Wrongful Death Actions
Wrongful death claims are applicable in several types of cases. However, the one characteristic that all of these claims share is that they all involve negligence, and that negligence is the cause of the death.
The number one category of incidents that lead to a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas is car wrecks. This includes cars, motorcycles, big truck or 18-wheeler wrecks, bus accidents, pedestrian collisions, and others. When negligence is the cause of a death in these contexts, wrongful death or “survival actions” can become viable. If you have experienced a wrongful death in the family because of a car crash, it's best practice to contact a wrongful death lawyer to help you understand where to go next.
Accidents in the Workplace
In recent years, there have been hundreds of fatal occupational injuries per year in the state of Texas. Unfortunately, what statistics like these show us is that workplace injuries and deaths are an inevitability. However, that does not mean that allworkplace injuries are inevitable. Further, some of those may be because of negligent instructions, negligent maintenance of workplace facilities and equipment, or other similar causes. There are many inherently dangerous industries—like railroads, construction, and transportation—where rules and regulations are of the utmost importance. If a loved one lost their life in a workplace related incident, a Fort Worth wrongful death attorney can help you understand the legal implications of that loss.
Defective products are also unfortunately all too common. Generally, this merely results in buying a product that doesn't work properly. Sometimes, however, defective products can result in serious injury—even death. Among the more common defective product types that cause the most serious consequences are improperly functioning cars, trucks, or motorcycles—especially faulty safety systems—foods with toxic elements, and pharmaceuticals (like drugs). When these types of products fail to adhere to safety regulations and expectations, people can be killed.
Medical malpractice is another type of wrongful death scenario that is not uncommon. When procedures as significant as surgeries are undergone, it is important that protocols be followed to the letter. Nonetheless, we frequently receive calls from individuals whose family members have seriously suffered because of medical negligence.
In Texas, Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The three categories of people who can bring a Texas wrongful death claim are (1) the surviving spouse; (2) the surviving children; and (3) the surviving parents. Depending on which category you may fall into, there are different types of damages you may request.
While these above-listed persons may bring causes of action of these types, other family members may not. Those who may not bring survival actions under Texas law include siblings, grandparents, and other more distant relatives. Also, romantic partners who were not spouses cannot bring these types of actions—even though the impact the loss has on them can be just as severe.
Types of Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Obviously, no amount of money can satisfy the loss of a loved one; but, with that said, money is the justice our system of civil law makes available. The categories of damages under which monetary amounts can be awarded are as follows: funeral costs; medical expenses; loss of the deceased's income; loss of inheritance; loss of consortium (or the marital relationship); loss of companionship and love; the decedent's pain and suffering (pre-death).
Punitive damages are a category of damages that are allowed when the court or jury is trying to send a message. These are available when the grossly negligent conduct caused a victim's death. Unlike the damage types listed above, the purpose of these damages is not to compensate for losses suffered, but to discourage future conduct either by the defendant or others—so that the type of incident that occurred does not happen again.
Statute of Limitations in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
The majority of personal injury claims in the State of Texas have two-year statute of limitations. This means that a claimant has two years from the date of the harm to commence an action. In wrongful death actions, this typically means that a claimant has two years from the date of the deceased's passing to pursue an action. These statutes are very serious; if you do not file your lawsuit by the time your statutory period runs, you will lose your right to file a lawsuit and never be able to prosecute your case. Accordingly, it is important to speak with a Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer to make sure you understand exactly when you need to file your lawsuit, and it is equally crucial that you ensure all of your ducks are in a row when you do file.
Elements of a Wrongful Death Action
Like other negligence cases, you will need to prove the four elements that comprise a negligence case: (1) Duty of Care; (2) Breach of that duty; (3) Causation; and (4) Damages.
(1) Duty of Care & (2) Breach of Duty
This first element—the Duty of Care—refers to the duty another party owes you to ensure your safety and wellbeing. For example, a doctor owes you the duty of taking the care of a reasonably prudent doctor in the same procedure or treatment (as a general matter). An employer generally owes you a duty to maintain a reasonably safe workplace. Other drivers on the road owe you the duty of reasonable motorists. When these duties are not met, then the breach of duty—the second element is present. These are basic definitions. In reality, proving these can be a complex matter—a matter about which you owe it to yourself to speak to an experienced Fort Worth personal injury lawyer.
(3) Causation & (4) Damages
Causation is probably the most difficult part to prove in a wrongful death case. What causation means is that you have to prove that the breach of the duty of care—the first two elements—was what the law calls the “proximate cause” of the wrongful death. This is because the courts want to be sure that the wrongful action is what actually caused the death. The law wants to make sure this is the case before it allows the awarding of the types of damages listed above.
Call Glenn Law Firm for a Free Wrongful Death Case Analysis
Glenn Law Firm is experienced in dealing with wrongful death lawsuits. A Fort Worth personal injury attorney can be an invaluable asset as you decide whether or not to pursue such a claim. An initial case analysis is completely free. Further, we work on a contingency fee basis, so you do not pay us until and unless we win for you. Please give us a call at (817) 424-5999 or fill out the online submission form on this website.