Accidents can happen at any time, and when they do, those involved either survive or die. Therefore, when a person dies from an accidental occurrence, it is essential to check if negligence played a role. If there's negligence, and it wasn't the victim's fault, it is a ground for a wrongful death claim.
Generally, a surviving family member or representative of the deceased's estate can file this lawsuit against the negligent party. However, it is best and more prudent to do this with the assistance of a wrongful death law firm. At Glenn Law Firm, we have a team of experienced wrongful death lawyers in Grapevine TX who are well-versed in both personal injury and wrongful death laws.
What Types of Accidents Result in a Wrongful Death Action?
Under Texas law, wrongful death claims are applicable in several cases. The only common denominator between these cases is that the careless act, neglect, or unlawful act of someone caused the death. Below are the different types of accidents where claims of this nature apply.
In Texas, the leading cause of wrongful death lawsuits or survival actions is an automobile accident. It encompasses:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Truck accidents
- Bus accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
In2019, 3,623 people died in motor vehicle traffic accidents in Texas. Several factors cause fatal car accidents, with speeding and drunk driving being top of the list. In addition, if you lose someone due to a motor vehicle accident, you'll become a wrongful death beneficiary and be entitled to financial compensation.
In2019, the Texas private and public/governmental sectors recorded 608 fatal occupational injuries, a 25% increase from 488 in 2018. The incident rate of fatal occupational injuries was 4.7 per 100,000 full-time employees. These figures show that tragic accidents are unavoidable no matter where you work.
Some common work-related wrongful death claims in several industries include the following:
- Railroad workers injuries
- Construction accidents
- Manufacturing accidents
- Transportation industry accidents
- Barge and towboats accidents
It is common to buy a product and find out that it is defective. Such a product can cause personal injuries, and in extreme cases, death. Some common deficient product examples are defective automobiles, toxic foods, and pharmaceutical products. You will have a valid claim if you can prove that the manufacturer knew of the defect, failed to fix it, and chose not to warn the public.
In the United States, medical errors account for as many as 251,000 deaths annually. This makes it the third leading cause of death in the U.S. The most popular medical negligence cases are misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose, and surgical errors.
Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse is quite common, and they are primarily against the elderly. In the United States, an estimated five million elders get abused yearly. When the abuse results in death, the party accountable would be liable to pay damages to the deceased person's dependents.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Texas?
In Texas, only three groups of people can file a wrongful death claim. They are:
The deceased's surviving spouse can file this action if the marriage was formal or conducted under common law. Note that the spouse can bring the claim even if they were separated when the victim died or they had married after the death happened.
Here, a biological adult child and legally adopted children can commence this legal process. However, the law bars adopted children from bringing a claim for their biological parents. Also, minor children, that is those below 18, cannot file a lawsuit. This is because they lack legal capacity; so, their surviving parent is the one to file the action.
Surviving parents and those who legally adopted a child can sue the liable party for wrongful death. Texas law also makes provision for divorced parents.
Who Cannot File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas?
Under Texas wrongful death statute, certain classes of people related to the deceased person cannot take this legal action. They include siblings, grandparents, and any other relative. In addition, a romantic partner of the victim who they were not married to under common law cannot commence a claim.
Furthermore, stepparents and foster parents are exempted from making a compensation claim. Similarly, step children and children not legally adopted cannot ask for monetary compensation. Find out more about those exempted from our accidental death lawyers.
What Damages Can You Get in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Generally, no amount of financial compensation can bring back a loved one or quantify their life. But the law still permits it as a form of consolation to the grieving family. Monetary compensation is broadly grouped into compensatory damages and punitive damages. The former is divided into economic damages and non-economic damages.
- Funeral expenses and burial expenses
- Cost of medical treatment
- Loss of income (that of the deceased)
- Loss of companionship and love
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of values of the services provided by the deceased person
- Loss of care, guidance, and nurturing
- Loss of consortium
- The decedent's pre-death pain and suffering
A court of law would award punitive damages if the grossly negligent conduct led to the victim's death. The reason for this compensation is not to cover financial losses but to deter future similar behavior. Find out more about this compensation type from our experienced attorneys.
How Long Do You Have To File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas?
When filing an accidental death claim or lawsuit, time is of the essence. Like personal injury claims, you have two years from the date of death to commence the action. It means that the time starts counting from when the deceased's person passed away.
This rule comes under the Texas Statute of Limitations, and there are consequences for breaking it. For instance, if you do not file within the stipulated time, your action would become statute-barred. In addition, it means you'll not be able to get a settlement from the responsible party.
Furthermore, a surviving spouse, parent, or child must commence a wrongful death action within three months from the date of death. If they fail to start the lawsuit within that time, the executor or personal representative of the decedent's estate can file the claim. Thus, the only possible roadblock to the preceding is if the surviving beneficiaries block the filing of the action.
How Hard Is It To Prove Wrongful Death?
To prove that another person's negligent action caused the death of your loved one, you need to establish the four elements of negligence. They are a duty of care, breach, causation, and damages.
Duty of Care
The duty of care is the responsibility to act reasonably and responsibly. For instance, drivers owe a care duty to other drivers and road users. In this situation, if a driver drinks and drives and gets into an accident, they will be liable if the victim dies. Also, in such cases, the person might face a criminal charge.
Breach of Duty
A breached duty occurs when a person does something that causes harm to another person. In the example above, the fact that the driver drank and drove amounts to a breached duty. In a product liability case, a breached duty would be the manufacturer's failure to warn the public of any underlying defect.
Here, the law applies the "reasonable man" test. Thus, the question would be whether a prudent person would act the same way in the same circumstances. If the answer comes back negative, then the at-fault party would be answerable for their action.
The next thing you need to prove is causation. Here, you must link the victim's death to the accident or event that amounted to a breached duty. For instance, if an underlying medical condition caused the victim's demise, you cannot claim it was the misdiagnosis by the doctor. The only way the misdiagnosis would lead to a wrongful death claim is if it aggravated the medical condition and ultimately caused the death.
Lastly, you must show that you suffered damages (losses) from the victim's death. A lost inheritance is an example of financial losses you can suffer in this case.
You need an accidental death lawyer to help you prove these elements. An attorney has the required experience and can piece everything together to make a winning argument.
Contact Texas Wrongful Death Lawyers Today!
Losing a loved one is one of the most challenging things anyone can experience. It is worse when you know the person could have lived longer if not for another person's negligence. Therefore, it is only fair you get a fair settlement for your loss.
Our wrongful death attorneys at Glenn Law Firm are ready to commence your claim and get you compensation. We work on a contingency fee basis, so you don't pay us until we win. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.