Wrongful Death Attorney Located in Dallas, TX
The loss of a loved one is always difficult, but especially so when death results from another person’s negligent actions. You and your family’s life are turned upside down. Not only do you mourn the loss of your loved one, but you may have lost your primary provider. An experienced Dallas-Fort Worth-area wrongful death attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve to get your life back on track.
Loss of a Loved One Due to a Fatal Accident
If you lose a close loved one because of a fatal accident, you may have grounds to file a wrongful claim against the individual or entities responsible. Wrongful deaths result from someone else’s intentional or negligent act.
Wrongful Death Causes in Texas
The majority of wrongful deaths in Texas result from motor vehicle accidents, but deaths occur from many other causes besides car, truck or motorcycle crashes. Other common accidents resulting in wrongful death lawsuits include those occurring at construction and other work sites.
Not all wrongful death cases involve accidents. People die from defective drugs or products. Perhaps a family member was prescribed a treatment or drug for one condition that ending up causing death. The death didn’t necessarily have to occur soon after using the medication. A drug may turn out to be carcinogenic, or cancer-causing. If the person develops cancer after using the drug and dies, the family can file a wrongful death suit against the drug manufacturer.
Medical malpractice may cause a wrongful death, but under Texas law damages for pain and suffering in almost all cases is capped at $250,000. Medical expenses and lost wages are not included in the cap. Because of this law, medical malpractice claims are extremely difficult to pursue.
Under Texas law, an unborn child may be the deceased named in a wrongful death claim, if an accident or defective product caused the unborn child’s death. If the wrongful death arises from a medical malpractice situation, the baby must have been born alive and then died.
Personal injury claims can become wrongful death claims if the deceased dies from the injury, under the Texas Survival Statute.
Texas uses what is colloquially known as the “51” percent rule for assessing negligence. If the plaintiff shares more than 50 percent of the responsibility for the incident resulting in negligence, they cannot sue for damages.
Insurance companies count on family members becoming too distraught and emotional after a tragic death that they will not remember or misremember details of the accident. Do not give insurance company representatives more than basic information confirming the relative’s death and its date. A wrongful death attorney can help you navigate the insurance and other legal mazes during this difficult time. If the liability is obvious, an insurance company might make a decent settlement offer. If that is not the case, the wrongful death suit goes to trial. It is possible that a settlement satisfactory to both parties is reached before the trial begins.
An attorney will collect evidence and interview witnesses. The case may require the hiring of accident reconstructionists. Preparation for a wrongful death case can take a considerable amount of time, but it is necessary to gather as much evidence and information as possible to successfully prove fault.
Damages for Wrongful Death
Nothing can bring back your loved one, but damages from a wrongful death suit can help you return to some economic normality. In Texas, you may receive damages in a wrongful death lawsuit for:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost wages
- Medical bills
- Mental anguish
- Loss of companionship.
There’s also “loss of inheritance,” which means loss of the current value of the assets that the deceased would likely have added to his or her estate and left at natural death to the spouse. Not all the deceased’s beneficiaries could claim loss of inheritance, as parents would not expect to inherit from their child.
In some cases, punitive damages are awarded. “Punitive” means punish, and a jury may award such damages when the defendant’s actions were particularly egregious. The monetary damages are meant to punish the defendant and also serve as a warning that society does not tolerate such behavior.
If the defendant in the wrongful death case dies while the lawsuit is still pending, or if a potential defendant dies before a suit is filed, the executor or administrator of the late or potential defendant’s estate may be named as the defendant instead. This situation often happens if the wrongful death resulted from a bad car crash, and the person responsible for the accident – the defendant – ends up dying from crash-related injuries.
Wrongful Death Under Texas Law
Texas Wrongful Death Act
Prior to the passage of the Wrongful Death Act, Texas family members could not sue for damages suffered because of the death of their loved one. With the Wrongful Death Act – also known as Chapter 71 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code – that is no longer the case, but there are some limitations. Under Texas law, only the surviving spouse, children or parents of the deceased individual – known as statutory beneficiaries – may file a wrongful death lawsuit. A surviving spouse is married to the deceased at the time of the accident – a divorced spouse has no standing to sue. The statute does not permit grandchildren or siblings to file wrongful death suits, even if the deceased took financial responsibility for these relatives. Children of a biological parent who had his or her parental rights terminated cannot sue for wrongful death. Stepparents and stepchildren cannot sue if there was never a legal adoption. Children born out of wedlock do have grounds to sue, but most provide “clear and convincing” evidence that the deceased was their biological father.
Statute of Limitations
If none of these parties files a wrongful death lawsuit within three months from the date of the person’s death, the individual’s estate may file a wrongful death lawsuit. The estate may sue for any pain and suffering the deceased endured prior to death, under the Texas Survival Statute. If the deceased was killed instantly, the survival statute is not applicable. However, eligible family members retain the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit for up to two years after the deceased individual’s death date. There are exceptions to this two-year limitation. A minor child may file suit for a parent’s wrongful death once he or she reaches age 18. If the wrongful death case results from a defective product, the statute of limitations may last up to four years after the death date.
If a personal injury lawsuit becomes a wrongful death lawsuit, the statute of limitations is just one year from the death date.
Once the statute of limitations has passed, the family cannot file a wrongful death claim. In legal terms, they are “forever barred.” That is just one reason a family should seek legal counsel from an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.
Bonneau Law Firm – Texas Wrongful Death Lawyers
If a family member has suffered a wrongful death through the negligence of another, contact The Bonneau Law Firm at (972) 325-1100 for a free consultation.