Wrongful Death Lawyer in Dallas
The goal of a wrongful death claim is for a survivor's family to receive compensation for the death of their loved one. When a family member passes away, not only are individuals subject to emotional loss, they are subject to financial loss as well, especially if the individual's wages supported the rest of the family.
Negligence means a person failed to act in a reasonable manner given their situation. Our wrongful death attorneys can help you determine if another party acted negligently and if you have a claim.
Call Zinda Law Group today at (800) 863-5312 to get started with a free consultation with one of our Dallas wrongful death lawyers.
Wrongful Death Defined
In Texas, a wrongful death occurs when a death is caused by a person’s wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default. This means that a wrongful death claim exists when the death was caused by the negligent acts or omissions of another person.
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim that can be brought by certain surviving relatives of a deceased individual against another person or entity who can be held liable for the death. In Texas, wrongful death claims may be filed by the surviving spouse, the surviving children, and the surviving parents. Surviving siblings are not allowed to file a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death lawsuit, if successful, can provide financial compensation in the form of money damages to the party who brought the lawsuit.
It is important to keep in mind that although the circumstances of some of these cases may cause law enforcement to criminally charge a defendant, a civil wrongful death action may still be pursued in civil court. However, things can get complicated when a criminal case and a civil case proceed simultaneously. In these situations, you may want to consider discussing your options with an experienced wrongful death attorney.
Common Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful deaths can and do occur in many ways on a daily basis. This section describes some of the most common cases of wrongful death, as well as the party that could be held liable in each case.
Car crashes are one of the most common causes of wrongful death. A wrongful death can occur in a multi-vehicle collision, or even a single-car accident.
In situations where there is a crash involving two or more vehicles, the negligence of one of the drivers may be sufficient to establish fault in a wrongful death suit. For example, a distracted driver who had been texting prior to the crash may be held liable for the death of the decedent. Other common scenarios involve drunk drivers, motorcyclists, speeding motorists, or bicyclists. If it can be established that the negligence of these parties caused the death of the decedent, a wrongful death claim may be pursued.
A wrongful death cause of action may also exist for single-vehicle car accidents. Common scenarios involve a car that is equipped with defective parts. For instance, if a vehicle’s brakes fail to work, a driver may end up in a fatal car accident. If this is the case, it is possible that the manufacturer of the vehicle or the defective car part may be liable for the death.
A death that occurs while on-the-job may give rise to a wrongful death cause of action. Common examples of workplace-related accidents leading to death include: fires, explosions, illness from toxic substances, and machine-related accidents.
Depending on the circumstances giving rise to the accident that led to death, liability for work-related incidents can hold against the employer, the manager or supervisor on duty, or the manufacturer of defective equipment.
Fatal accidents involving big-rigs or 18-wheelers are common source of wrongful death litigation. One common scenario involves an overworked and under-slept truck driver who falls asleep at the wheel and crashes his rig into another vehicle. Another scenario involves a trailer that has a defective piece of equipment which somehow causes an auto accident.
In these cases, a wrongful death suit may be initiated against the driver as an individual, or against the company that employed the driver. Failure to maintain proper driver’s logs, failure to adhere to strict federal regulations, and other forms of negligence may give rise to liability in a wrongful death case involving a truck accident.
Products liability occurs when the manufacturer, designer, seller, or distributor of a consumer product fails to adhere to its duty to provide the customer with a safe product. A common example of a products liability wrongful death case is when a child dies from choking on a small toy that did not come with a warning label. Faulty design, defective manufacturing process, or failure to warn of possible injuries or death can make certain parties liable for a wrongful death.
Doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff members have a duty to provide their patients with safe and comprehensive care. If this duty is not carried out, a wrongful death cause of action may exist.
Medical malpractice can lead to death in several ways. Examples include: prescriptions errors, misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, surgical error, or medical equipment malfunction. In these cases, the medical professional, the entity that treated the patient, or the manufacturer of the defective medical equipment may be held liable.
A wrongful death cause of action may also arise after an aviation accident. These types of accidents typically involve airplane or helicopter crashes. Parties that can be held liable for wrongful death include the airline company, the manufacturer of the airplane or helicopter equipment, or the pilot.
What To Do After an Accidental Death
1.) Call 911
When an accident resulting in unexpected death occurs, your first step should be to call 911. This is true even if the accident led to a serious, but non-deadly injury. In this scenario, alerting emergency responders as soon as possible can help preserve a life.
2.) File a Report
Your next step should be to file a report with the proper authorities. The report will describe the circumstances that led to and caused the incident. When making the report, describe in as much detail the events that occurred leading up to the accident. A clear and comprehensive report may be helpful if a wrongful death lawsuit is later pursued.
3.) Contact an Attorney
If you are interested in pursuing a wrongful death claim, or if you would like to learn more about what you can do to seek compensation for your family, contact a wrongful death attorney. An attorney will listen to you and discuss the facts of your case. The attorney will then be able to guide you through the process of filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim
The primary element of a wrongful death claim is a death of a human being. The other key elements of a wrongful death claim include:
1.) A Duty of Care
The party bringing the wrongful death claim (Plaintiff) must establish that the person or entity that caused the death (Defendant) owed a duty of care to the deceased person. Although the precise definition of a duty of care depends on the nature of the relationship between the parties, a duty of care generally refers to a duty to keep someone safe, or to refrain from doing something that would harm someone.
For example, consider the case of a fatal car accident. In such a scenario, the Plaintiff will need to establish that the Defendant had a duty to act reasonably, by doing things such as obeying traffic laws and driving carefully.
2.) Breach of Duty of Care
After establishing that a duty of care existed, the Plaintiff must then show that the Defendant breached his or her duty. Typically, this means that the Plaintiff must show that the Defendant did not act carefully or responsibly. This can be accomplished by providing evidence that the Defendant engaged in an act that led to the death in question. In the case of a fatal car crash, the Plaintiff may offer evidence that the Defendant was drunk, speeding or texting while driving.
The Plaintiff must be able to show that the Defendant’s breach of duty caused the decedent’s harm. This means that the Plaintiff must be able to establish that the actions of the Defendant directly caused the wrongful death. This may be accomplished by use of evidence such as expert testimony or witness statements.
Proving damages means proving that the injured party suffered some sort of harm. In cases of wrongful death, if the elements of duty, breach, and causation are established, damages will be presumed.
Determining Who is at Fault
Determining fault in a wrongful death case involves establishing the four elements listed above. In order to establish these elements, it will be necessary to thoroughly comb through the facts of your case. For instance, an investigation into witnesses, accident reports, autopsy reports, medical records, and consultation with experts will all likely be necessary in order to establish a good case that a party is liable for wrongful death.
Who Can File?
When a person meets an untimely death that could have been prevented, many people are impacted. These people include family members, life partners, friends, and financial dependents. Our Dallas wrongful death lawyers can help you through this difficult time by handling the legal process and bringing justice on behalf of your family member.
A wrongful death lawsuit can be pressed if someone dies as a result of another person or company's negligence. There are many types of wrongful death claims, including medical malpractice, car accidents, product liability, or a construction accident.
Typically the only individuals who are eligible to request a wrongful death lawsuit are a victim's surviving spouse, children of the victim, and dependent parents. If none of these survived a victim, parents who were not dependent on the victim can request a lawsuit as well as a victim's siblings, grandparents of the victim, or any next of kin.
Factors To Consider Before Filing
Before a claim can be filed, a wrongful death attorney can help you evaluate who was at fault: A driver? An employer? A manufacturer? An installer? The owner of the premises? There are many individuals who could have been responsible and held liable. It is often a complex and difficult process establishing fault, which is why it is encouraged that you get the necessary legal assistance of a firm knowledgeable about wrongful death cases.
A wrongful death claim can be filed whether the accident was intentional or unintentional. When you file this claim, it is important to decide a number of factors:
- Who could provide expert testimony regarding a victim's life expectancy
- What the lost financial support amounts to
- What the monetary value of loss of companionship amounts to
- Who was at fault
How To File a Wrongful Death Claim
1.) Contact a Dallas Wrongful Death Attorney
If you are an authorized party and wish to file a wrongful death claim, your first step should be to contact a wrongful death attorney. A wrongful death attorney will meet with you to review the facts and circumstances of your case. During this meeting, the attorney will ask questions in order to obtain important bits of information such as when the death occurred, how it occurred, and whether there were any witnesses or police reports filed.
After the initial meeting, the wrongful death attorney will conduct a thorough investigation into the matter. In doing so, the attorney may interview several parties including the person who caused the accident, witnesses to the accident, and insurance companies who cover the accused party. The attorney will also review important and relevant documents such as medical records, police reports, work-logs, and surveillance video.
3.) Settlement and Lawsuit
After gathering as much information as possible, the wrongful death attorney will contact you to review your legal options. If the case is strong enough, a lawsuit may be filed. This process begins by filing the necessary documents which alerts the court and the defendant that a lawsuit is being initiated.
The remainder of the process consists of more investigation into the facts of the case. Investigations and depositions may be conducted up until the time of trial, unless the parties reach a settlement.
Wrongful Death Settlement
Damages awarded in wrongful death lawsuits are meant to compensate the family members for their losses experienced when losing a loved. In Texas, the types of damages can be separated into three general categories: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.
Economic damages reflect the financial contributions the decedent would have made to his or her surviving relatives had it not been for the untimely death. Economic damages may include:
- Medical expenses related to the death
- Loss of expected earnings
- Loss of benefits (e.g., pension plans and/or medical coverage)
- Loss of inheritance
- The value of goods and services that the decedent would have provided
Non-economic damages cannot be objectively quantified. Rather, these types of damages are subjectively evaluated by a jury in a wrongful death case. Types of non-economic damages may include:
- Mental anguish or pain and suffering
- Loss of care, support, and protection from the deceased
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium
Punitive damages may be awarded in order to punish the wrongdoer. Although uncommon in wrongful death cases, punitive damages may be awarded in instances where the actions of the defendant were particularly reckless or intentional.
Calculating damages is not an easy task, especially in wrongful death cases. The damages phase of a trial often involves taking the testimony of expert witnesses who present opinions on the proper amount of damages. Economic damages may be calculated by examining the financial statements of the deceased up until the time of death and projecting his or her future income up until the time of retirement. Non-economic damages are much more difficult to calculate, and often require the jury to make subjective decisions based on many factors.
Legal Time Limits
A “statute of limitations” is a legal time limit in which a lawsuit must be initiated. If a person does not bring a claim within the statute of limitations time period, that person is barred from litigating the claim in court.
In Texas, the surviving family members must file the wrongful death lawsuit within two years of the decedent’s death. Thus, for example, if a person was killed in a car crash on July 1, 2019, a wrongful death suit must be filed before July 1, 2021. If the suit is not filed before July 1, 2021, the claim is barred from being heard in court.
In certain situations, a statute of limitations may be paused or “tolled.” In these cases, the statute of limitations clock does not begin ticking until the harm is discovered. However, it is safest to assume that the two-year statute of limitations is always in effect.
Because the statute of limitations is a critical factor that can break a wrongful death case, it may be helpful to seek the advice of an experienced wrongful death attorney. An attorney can provide you with legal advice regarding the status and viability of your claim.
Child Wrongful Death
In Texas, the parents of a child who was killed in a wrongful death case may bring a claim to recover damages. Adoptive parents may also file a wrongful death claim for their adopted child.
Damages in wrongful death cases involving a child typically include monetary payment for the loss of the child’s contribution to the family, loss of the relationship with the child, the grief that is experienced because of the loss of the child, and possibly damages for future earnings. If the child survived for some time following the accident, but eventually passed away, damages may also include medical expenses incurred as a result of treating the child.
In cases involving adult children, parents will typically not be allowed to seek compensation in the form of damages unless the parents depended on the adult child for support. This means the parents must have received financial support from the adult child. One example is payments received for living expenses.
Get a Dallas Wrongful Death Attorney on your Side
The most important step you can take before filing a wrongful death claim is to secure the help of a competent Dallas wrongful death lawyer. There are many things to consider when filing a claim that an attorney can advise you about. Most importantly, our Dallas wrongful death attorneys know the time limitations and wrongful death laws that impact your case.
Zinda Law Group is a wrongful death and injury law firm that genuinely cares about the best interests of its clients and that has qualifications you can trust. The firm is BBB accredited, has received a SuperLawyers® rating, and is a part of The Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Zinda Law Group's attorneys have also received a 10.0 rating on AVVO and been recognized as "Top 40 Under 40" by the National Trial Lawyers.
We truly desire to help our clients achieve a successful outcome, no matter what the details of the case. Seek compensation and justice today by calling Zinda Law Group at 800-863-5312. We offer free consultations with an attorney and there are no fees unless we win your case.