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The surviving family members of a wrongful death victim must overcome a number of obstacles following their loved one’s passing. In addition to battling the emotional aspect of the situation, surviving family members must also deal with financial issues, such as figuring out how future bills and expenses will be paid for. In these types of situations, a wrongful death cause of action may be available to help recover compensation for the death of their loved one.
If you have experienced the death of a loved one, or if you would like to learn more about filing a wrongful death lawsuit, call Zinda Law Group’s Lubbock wrongful death attorneys at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation.
WHAT IS A WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim brought by the surviving members of a deceased individual against another person or entity who can be held liable for the death. A wrongful death claim exists when a person dies due to someone else’s negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct. If successful, a wrongful death claim may provide financial compensation in the form of money damages to the party who filed the lawsuit.
COMMON WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIMS
A claim for wrongful death can arise in numerous cases. Listed below are some of the most common events giving rise to wrongful death claims.
Car accidents are among the most common causes of wrongful death cases. In a car crash between two or more vehicles, the negligence of a distracted driver may be sufficient to establish fault in a wrongful death suit. For example, if a driver had been looking at his cell phone before crashing his vehicle, the driver may be held legally responsible for the wrongful death of the victim. Single vehicle car accidents can also give rise to a wrongful death claim. For example, if a death occurs as a result of defective brakes, the manufacturer of the vehicle or the defective part may be held liable for wrongful death.
Mistakes in the medical profession can be costly. Doctors, nurses, physician assistants, and hospital staff have a legal duty to provide patients with safe and comprehensive care. When this duty is not upheld, there may be grounds for a wrongful death claim. Examples of medical malpractice events that may give rise to a wrongful death claim include prescription errors, misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, surgical error/injury, or medical equipment malfunction.
A wrongful death cause of action for a product liability case may exist if the manufacturer, designer, seller, or distributor of a product placed into the stream of commerce failed to follow its duty to provide the consumer with a safe product. Faulty design, defective manufacturing processes, or failure to warn consumers of possible injuries can subject these parties to wrongful death liability.
A death that occurs at the workplace or on the job can give rise to a wrongful death lawsuit. Common examples of workplace-related accidents leading to death may include explosions, illness from a hazardous work environment, and machine-related accidents. The party who may be held liable for a work-related death depends on the circumstances giving rise to the accident.
A wrongful death case may also arise after an aviation accident. These types of accidents typically involve airplanes or helicopters. Parties that may be held liable for wrongful death following an aviation accident include the airline company, the manufacturer(s) of the airplane or helicopter equipment, or the pilot.
WHO MAY FILE A WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM?
To have standing to file a wrongful death lawsuit, a party must first be authorized by the state’s wrongful death statute. In Texas, wrongful death claims may be filed by certain members of the decedent’s family, including:
- The surviving spouse;
- The children; and/or
- The parents of the decedent
In some cases, an adopted child may file a wrongful death claim if the adoption was legally and fully completed. Adoptive parents may also file a wrongful death claim for their adopted child. These claims may be filed as a single action or the members of the family can group together to file a claim. In contrast, the surviving siblings of a decedent — whether adopted or biological — cannot file a wrongful death claim.
HOW TO FILE A WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM
1. Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney
If you have standing to file a wrongful death claim, your first step should be to contact a wrongful death attorney. A Lubbock wrongful death attorney may wish to discuss the facts of the case with you either in person or over the phone. During this initial consultation, the attorney may ask several important questions, such as how the accident occurred, when the accident occurred, and what your relationship is to the victim.
After the initial meeting, the attorney may conduct a thorough investigation into the matter to produce evidence to strengthen your claim. In doing so, the attorney may interview several parties including the person who caused the accident, witnesses to the accident, and insurance companies who insure the at-fault party. The attorney may also review medical records and account for each form of damages that have been incurred as a result of the wrongful death.
3. Settlement and Lawsuit
After gathering as much information as possible, an attorney may then contact you to review and discuss your options moving forward. If the claim is strong, you may decide to file a lawsuit. If the insurance company offers you a settlement, the attorney may act on your behalf by reviewing and negotiating the terms of the settlement with the other party. If it is not in your best interest to accept a settlement offer, your case may proceed to trial.
The term “damages” refers to monetary compensation that may be awarded to the party who files and successfully establishes a wrongful death claim. The types of damages involved in wrongful death cases can be broken down into three general categories: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.
Economic damages reflect the value of the financial contributions the decedent would have made to his or her surviving family members had it not been for his or her death. Economic damages in a wrongful death case may include:
- Medical expenses related to the death
- Funeral expenses
- 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 are less concrete and more subjective than economic damages. Non-economic damages are subjectively evaluated by the jury. Types of non-economic damages in a wrongful death case may include:
- Damages for the survivors’ mental anguish or pain and suffering
- Loss of care and protection from the deceased
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium
Punitive damages are a type of damages awarded to punish the wrongdoer. Punitive damages are not allowed in many states for wrongful death cases. The states that do allow punitive damages, like Texas, may award them in instances where the actions of the defendant were particularly reckless or intentional.
LEGAL TIME LIMITS
States set a time limit, called a “statute of limitations,” on bringing a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death claim that is not brought within the statute of limitations may be effectively barred from being litigated in court.
In Texas, there is a two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death claims. This means that a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of the misconduct that caused the death of the decedent. For example, if a person was killed in a car crash on January 1, 2020, a wrongful death suit must be filed before January 1, 2022, or else the claim is barred from being litigated in court.
In certain situations, a statute of limitations may be paused or “tolled.” However, the tolling of a statute of limitations is an exception rather than the norm. Because the statute of limitations is a crucial factor in wrongful death cases, it is often a wise decision to seek the advice of an experienced wrongful death attorney, especially if you think the statute of limitations is nearing. An attorney may be able to provide you with legal advice regarding the status and viability of your claim.
WHY HIRE A WRONGFUL DEATH ATTORNEY
Handling and navigating a wrongful death claim by yourself can be a difficult and frustrating task. Seeking legal representation may provide several benefits, including:
Knowledge of the Law
Wrongful death cases require a keen knowledge of the law. A wrongful death attorney with experience handling wrongful death claims understands the legal complexities involved in these cases and may thus be able to strengthen the viability of your claim.
Access to Resources
An attorney may be able to strengthen your case by utilizing resources that typically are not available to the general public. For instance, an attorney may track down witnesses, conduct interviews, and obtain access to surveillance footage, traffic cameras, or safety logs.
Presenting a Lawsuit
If your case proceeds to trial, an attorney with trial experience may be able to advocate on your behalf. A wrongful death attorney has experience communicating client’s cases to judges and juries.
In addition to acting as an advocate for your position, an attorney may also be a source of support. Many clients feel an additional sense of comfort knowing that their case is being handled by a professional. Hiring a wrongful death attorney may thus provide you with the comfort and knowledge that your case is being handled efficiently and professionally.
ZINDA LAW GROUP’S LUBBOCK WRONGFUL DEATH ATTORNEYS MAY HELP YOU
Zinda Law Group’s team of Lubbock attorneys may provide quality legal representation following the death of a loved one. Our attorneys have years of experience handling wrongful death claims and may use this experience to fight on your behalf.
Our firm also believes that an injury victim should never have to worry about being able to afford high-quality legal representation. That is why we offer 100% free consultations, and why you pay nothing unless we win your case. That's our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
Meetings with attorneys are by appointment only.