Your Wrongful Death Questions Answered
The sudden loss of a loved one is a devastating experience that no one should ever have to go through. When a person you love dies because of someone else’s negligence, though, you have legal options to consider. You may be entitled to compensation if you lost a family member as a result of another party’s reckless, negligent, or wrongful actions.
The compassionate wrongful death attorneys at Ketterman Rowland & Westlund are here to help you understand your rights if you are facing this type of tragic loss. It is our goal to help your family demand a measure of justice and pursue the full compensation you are owed so that you do not struggle financially while you work to grieve, cope, and rebuild.
To help you understand how wrongful death actions work, we have provided the answers to some frequently asked questions below. If you have recently lost a loved one and have questions about a specific wrongful death action, contact us today to talk about your case in a free consultation.
What Qualifies for a Wrongful Death Claim?
If someone dies as a result of someone else’s negligence or an intentional act, then their surviving family members could be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. According to Texas law, an action for wrongful death may be taken if the “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default” of one party caused the death of another.
Whether that party was the driver at fault in a car accident, the manufacturer of a defective product, or a property owner who failed to address a known hazard, a wrongful death action is a civil claim that may be filed against the party who is liable for the victim’s death.
How Is the Value of a Wrongful Death Case Established?
There are a number of different variables and factors that can ultimately affect and establish the value of a wrongful death case. It is important that anyone pursuing a wrongful death claim understands the common factors that influence the amount of recovery available in wrongful death cases, including:
- The deceased’s age
- The deceased’s profession and earning potential
- Whether the deceased was partially at fault for the incident leading to his or her death
- The egregiousness of the conduct that resulted in the incident
Who Can Collect on a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit is regarded as a type of personal injury lawsuit, and as such, it can be brought against a person or organization whose inactions, actions, or negligence led to the death of another person.
Typically, the following survivors can collect wrongful death damages in Texas:
- The surviving spouse typically has a claim for the lost companionship arising from the death of the deceased. The surviving spouse may also recover damages for their personal emotional trauma caused by the death.
- Minor children may also be awarded damages for comfort, support, and other lost benefits of their relationship with the deceased parent. Adult children are not commonly awarded these specific damages, however.
- Parents of a minor child who died can also recover damages for their own emotional trauma and the lost relationship with the child. In the case of parents of adult children, these specific damages are not commonly awarded.
- Depending on the circumstances of the person’s death, courts can also award punitive damages to the surviving family members. If the defendant engaged in notably careless or reckless conduct resulting in the person’s death, then punitive damages may be awarded. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant and to prevent similar conduct from occurring in the future.
What Is the Legal Difference Between Medical Malpractice and Wrongful Death?
Medical malpractice may lead to death, and consequently a wrongful death lawsuit. Although some wrongful death cases arise from medical malpractice, medical negligence is far from the only cause of untimely and preventable deaths. Wrongful death actions can stem from a wide variety of accidents or intentional acts, including:
- Car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, or pedestrian accidents
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Defective pharmaceuticals
- Defective products
- Birth injuries
- Nursing home abuse or neglect
What Should I Ask a Wrongful Death Attorney?
When looking for an attorney to represent your family in a wrongful death action, there are some important questions that you should ask, including:
- Do you have experience handling wrongful death cases?
A crucial aspect of getting justice for your loved one is selecting a lawyer who has a proven record of successful verdicts and settlements, specifically for wrongful death claims. Do not be afraid to ask the lawyer about his or her previous cases and select an attorney who has demonstrated an ability to deliver results for families like yours.
- Who will be handling my case?
You should also ask who will be giving you updates on your case and how often. You may ask how long you should expect to wait for the lawyer to return your calls or messages when you have questions about your case.
- How will you be paid?
There are substantial expenses associated with pursuing a wrongful death claim. However, a wrongful death lawyer should take your case on a contingency basis. This means you only pay the lawyer if he or she wins compensation for you. Once a settlement or court award is collected, the attorney is paid an agreed-upon percentage. This means you should not have to pay anything upfront or out of pocket.
Can I Sue for Mental Anguish If My Loved One Has Died?
You must be an immediate relative of the deceased (children, parents, spouse) to file a wrongful death lawsuit in the state of Texas. (Siblings are only allowed to sue if they are the executors of the estate, and only if no other beneficiaries have filed suit.) If the loss of an immediate relative resulted in significant emotional trauma, you may be able to recover damages for the cost of your psychological treatment.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Texas has a specific statute of limitations requiring that a wrongful death lawsuit be filed within two years of the deceased person’s death. However, there are a few exceptions to the situation. You should talk to an experienced Texas wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible if an accident has resulted in the loss of a loved one. A lawyer will need time to go through your case and collect evidence to build a strong claim.
What Damages Can I Recover for a Wrongful Death?
Damages in a Texas wrongful death claim are paid to any surviving family members and the estate for their losses stemming from the untimely death. Damages in a Texas wrongful death case may compensate for losses such as:
- Lost care, maintenance, counsel, services, and support that the deceased would have provided his or her surviving family members
- Lost companionship, comfort, love, and society
- Lost earning capacity
- Lost inheritance, including what the deceased would likely have saved and left to surviving family members if he or she had lived an expected lifetime
- Mental and emotional distress, pain, and suffering
When damages are awarded in a Texas wrongful death claim, they are divided among the surviving family members in proportion to the damage they suffered as a result of the unexpected death.
Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer at Ketterman Rowland & Westlund Today
Texas wrongful death law is complicated, and individuals who represent themselves are at a distinct disadvantage against defendants and insurance companies who have retained aggressive legal representation.
A wrongful death attorney can help you navigate the legal process, including negotiating for a full and fair settlement and taking your case to trial if necessary. At Ketterman Rowland & Westlund, our wrongful death lawyers are committed to providing the experience and compassion that your case deserves.
The loss of a loved one takes an immense emotional toll on family members and can cause extreme financial hardship. That is why our law firm offers a free consultation to review your case and answer your questions. We can meet with you at our office, in your home, or anywhere else that is convenient for you. In addition, we will handle your case on a contingency basis, so you do not pay us unless we win for you.
A grieving family deserves justice. You deserve to see the at-fault party held responsible for their actions. For help getting answers and holding corporations and individuals liable for their negligence or carelessness, contact our powerful team of personal injury attorneys today. Contact us online or by phone now.