When you lose a loved one due to the negligence or intentional act of another person, you are entitled to receive compensation for the damages caused to you and the deceased. Dealing with the legal process in the midst of such a tragic situation can be stressful and overwhelming, so we’ve compiled the most important information about pursuing a wrongful death claim so that you can be better informed on how to win your case and get justice. You should verify how the process works in the state in which the events occurred as every state has its own statute for wrongful death claims.
What Is Wrongful Death?
First, it is essential to know what exactly constitutes a wrongful death. In general terms, wrongful death is a death caused by another’s wrongful acts. In the statute of Texas, it is defined as a death resulting from a “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default” of another person. In this event, surviving family members can file a wrongful death civil lawsuit.
When Can You File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Similarly to a personal injury claim, a wrongful death lawsuit seeks redress for the damages suffered. In this case, compensation is sought both for the medical expenses that the victim may have incurred before death and for their pain and suffering, as well as for funeral and burial expenses, the loss of care and nurturing that could have been given by the deceased, the loss of companionship, loss of inheritance, and the loss of economic contribution made by the deceased to their family.
Types of Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful death is a wide term that can include many different situations. To get a better idea of what can constitute a wrongful death, think of it as a personal injury claim, but in this case, the event resulted in the death of the victim. There are two main categories: intentional wrongdoing and death as a result of someone else’s negligence.
- An assault and battery case that resulted in the death of the victim
- Animal bite or attack: The owner of the animal can be held accountable.
- Car accidents: Drivers who violate traffic regulations, or drivers with risky behaviors such as driving under the influence of alcohol.
- Slip and fall: When a property owner failed to warn or correct something that could cause a fall, such as a wet or uneven floor.
- Product liability: When someone dies as a result of a defective product. It can involve design defects, manufacturing defects, and marketing defects.
- Medical malpractice: failure to diagnose a potentially fatal condition, surgical errors, etc.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
Who can sue varies from state to state. Normally, family members or a personal representative of the deceased person’s estate can sue. In Texas, the statute declares that “the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased may bring the action.” Additionally, it states that an executor or administrator can make the claim when none of the aforementioned individuals file the lawsuit within three months after the date of the death. This, however, can’t be done if all the surviving family members specifically ask for the lawsuit not to be filed. In this sense, it is important to point out that no other family members can sue, be it siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.
Who Can Be Sued for Wrongful Death?
Individuals, companies, and government agencies can be sued in a wrongful death lawsuit. You should know that more than one person or entity can be sued in a single case if different parties were involved. Generally speaking, you can sue the person directly involved, such as the at-fault driver or the physician in charge of a procedure; a company at fault for the design, production, distribution, or sale of a defective item; a clinic that failed to guarantee safe conditions and adequate care; designers or builders of a faulty roadway; government agencies that failed to put road signs; and other third-parties that are liable for negligence.
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The first thing to keep in mind is that you should start the process as soon as possible. There are time limits to present a lawsuit for wrongful death that vary from state to state. In Texas, there is a two-year limitation period. This means the lawsuit must be filed not later than two years after the person’s death. You should hire a lawyer specialized in wrongful death lawsuits from the beginning to successfully fight the case. You will need to gather some documents like the death certificate and the will of the deceased if they left one.
How Do You Prove Wrongful Death?
The death of your loved one needs to be investigated to prove that the person died as a result of negligence or intentional wrongdoing by the defendant. It also needs to demonstrate the damage and financial impact that their death caused on the family members. Medical exam results, witnesses, and experts’ opinions are among the elements that can help you prove your case. It is worth noting that most wrongful death cases can be settled out of court. However, it can go to court in certain situations if a settlement is not reached. For example, if the defendant’s insurance company denies redress to the victim’s family.
Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The person or entity at fault or the insurance company will pay for the amount assigned when a settlement is reached. The money will go to the surviving family members entitled to compensation under the statute of the state. If the one pursuing is the deceased’s estate, any compensation will go to the previously established family members. If the deceased does not have any children, spouse, or parents, the money will go to the deceased’s estate.
Human life cannot be measured in money. However, there are some circumstances that need and deserve financial compensation in the event of a situation as tragic as wrongful death. It is not fair that you have to worry about bills piling up at the same time you are grieving the death of your loved one. At AMS Law Group, we understand the anguish you are going through and want to be there for you throughout the entire process. Our team is compassionate and respectful of the difficult time you are experiencing and can accommodate your needs. That is why you can contact us at any moment; we are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We know this is a stressful situation, but remember that there is a time limit for filing a claim. You can ask for a free consultation and we will solve any doubts you may have to start the process.