Wrongful Death Lawyers in San Antonio, Texas
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The death of a loved one is never an easy experience; even if you expected and prepared for such an event, the loss is still evident. But when a loved one passes because of someone else’s actions, you may feel a particular lack of closure. This article will explain how San Antonio wrongful death lawyers can help resolve the unfinished business you have with the person who caused your loved one’s death.
We will discuss how wrongful death can occur in the various areas of personal injury. We will also discuss how a San Antonio personal injury attorney can help by investigating your claim and negotiating a settlement with the other parties involved.
What is a wrongful death?
Wrongful death claims are a type of personal injury claim. A wrongful death occurs when someone’s actions cause another person to die.
Wrongful death claims are much like other personal injury claims because of the legal theories that the plaintiff can bring, but wrongful death claims cannot be brought by the deceased person who suffered the fatal injury. Instead, they are brought by the family of the victim for the losses that the family members experience as a result of their loved one’s death.
Who can sue for a loved one’s fatal accident in san antonio?
Texas has its own statutory scheme for who can file a wrongful death claim for the decedent. The surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased may bring the wrongful death action independently of one another, or one or more of those individuals can file the action for the benefit of all of them. Notably, siblings are not among those who can bring a wrongful death claim, and any of the deceased person’s children who sue on behalf of the deceased must be legal adults and must be the deceased’s legal children.
The surviving spouse, children, and parents of the decedent have three calendar months after the death of their loved one to file a claim. Once those three months have passed, only the personal representative of the decedent’s estate can file the claim. Either the family member or personal representative may file a survival action to recover for the damages that the deceased person suffered.
Categories of wrongful death cases
Wrongful death cases can fall under a variety of different personal injury laws. The three basic kinds of personal injury laws include negligence, intentional torts, and strict liability. An accident in San Antonio can arise in any of these three areas of law.
In cases of negligence and intentional torts, the plaintiff generally must show how someone caused him or her harm, establishing the fault of that person. Negligence falls under a “reasonable person” standard, which we will discuss more later, while intentional torts involve the intentional (though non-criminal) actions of others. Strict liability, on the other hand, removes the question of fault and automatically assigns liability to some person or entity whose product or activity caused you harm.
The following parts of this article describe these varieties of law in more depth so that you can see where your wrongful death case fits. We also include examples of the causes of injuries under each of the categories of law.
Negligence cases are consistent in which elements must be shown in order to recover against the defendant for your injury, but the kinds of cases that fit under law of negligence are highly variable, as you will see with the examples below.
In a negligence claim for wrongful death, a victim’s surviving family member or personal representative must show that the defendant owed the victim a duty of care, that the defendant breached that duty by failing to provide the victim with the appropriate standard of care, that the victim’s death was a result of that breach of the standard of care, and that the victim’s death caused the injuries for which you are suing.
Duty to the Deceased
This is where the “reasonable person” standard comes in. The duty of care that the victim’s employer, shopkeeper, or fellow motorist owed him or her was that of the “reasonable person.” That is, the amount of care that drivers owe each other on the road is that of a reasonable person: following the rules of the road and taking extra precautions in inclement weather. Reasonable care is also often described as “preventing foreseeable harm.”
Sometimes the standard of the duty of care is raised for professionals. Doctors owe patients a higher standard of care than the reasonable person; they owe patients the standard of care that the average doctor working in the same field and same geographical region would give. If someone owed your loved one a duty of care and breached that duty by failing to meet the standard of care of a reasonable person or of an average professional, then that person might be liable to both you and the decedent for his or her negligent acts.
Your Injury from Losing the Deceased
Additionally, the defendant’s breach of the duty of care must have either directly or proximately caused the death of your loved one. Finally, the injuries you suffered must have been caused by the death of your loved one.
Examples of wrongful death caused by negligence
Wrongful death cases caused by negligence come in countless forms, though there are a few broad categories that describe the type of negligence. None of the following lists of examples are exhaustive. They are meant to give you an idea of whether your loved one’s wrongful death was caused by negligence.
- Failure to diagnose a serious condition
- Errors during surgery
- Pharmacy errors
- Mistakes while medicating
- Errors during the birth of a child
- Accidents caused by a drunk driver
- Accidents caused by a distracted or reckless driver
- Semi-truck accidents
- Accidents caused by speeding
- Accidents involving a motorcycle
- Accidents involving an ATV
- Construction accidents
- Cellphone tower accidents
- Logging accidents
- Trucking accidents
- Oil field accidents
- Other kinds of accidents in which the employer failed to keep employees safe
- Slip and falls in a parking lot
- Slip and falls in a store
- Drowning accidents
- Skiing or snowboarding accidents
- Accidents from unsafe conditions at an apartment complex
- Other kinds of accidents which the premises owner should have prevented
Unlike in negligence, intentional claims have various elements depending on the specific claim brought. The elements of a claim for false imprisonment will look very different from the claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress. However, all of the claims under this category share the element of intent.
You may have heard of the criminal versions of the claims under intentional torts. As the survivor of a victim of wrongful death, you may also file claims for the intentional torts that happened to the decedent if it is appropriate in your case.
If the wrongful death of the decedent was caused by a crime, you may not have a personal injury case. Talk to a San Antonio personal injury attorney to decide whether a personal injury claim is appropriate in your case.
Examples of wrongful death caused by intentional acts
Each intentional claim has its own set of elements that you must prove in order to win your case. The following are examples of intentional acts that can cause wrongful death.
- Battery, in which the plaintiff must prove that the defendant intentionally caused harmful or offensive contact with someone without that person’s consent
- Assault, in which the plaintiff must prove that the defendant intentionally put another person in reasonable apprehension of an imminent harmful or offensive contact
- False imprisonment, in which the defendant restrains another person in such a way that confines that person in a bounded area
- Trespass to land, in which the defendant knowingly enters another person’s property without permission
- Trespass to chattels, in which the defendant interferes with the personal property of the plaintiff
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress, in which the defendant acts outrageously with the intent to cause another person to suffer severe emotional distress
Talk to a personal injury lawyer in San Antonio if you think your case falls within one of these categories. It will be important to distinguish in these cases whether there is a personal injury claim, a criminal case, or both.
In strict liability cases, there is no intent or reasonable person standard. Strict liability cases for wrongful death often arise from products liability. Products liability cases involve manufacturers whose product was designed, manufactured, or labelled in a defective way.
Examples of wrongful death with strict liability
When manufacturers produce a device that causes a fatal accident for your loved one, they might be strictly liable for the injury they cause. For the manufacturer to be held strictly liable in a products liability claim, the product must be defective when the manufacturer sells it and must be the cause of the deceased person’s death. The following are just a few products that a defendant can produce that might make them strictly liable for a wrongful death.
- Defective automobile
- Defective medical device
- Defective construction equipment
- Defective personal protective equipment
- Other devices that were designed, manufactured, or labeled defectively
Should I hire an accident lawyer near me?
Hiring a lawyer near you helps ensure that the attorney has all of the resources on hand to help with your case. For example, if your loved one had a San Antonio car crash death, the legal authority surrounding the issues of your case will come from Texas statutes and cases. It also helps for your attorney to have knowledge of the area to understand your story better and for the attorney to be able to meet with you at your convenience.
What does a San Antonio personal injury lawyer do?
A personal injury attorney can help you at all stages of litigation, both procedurally and substantively. We have talked about the substance of the common law claims under which you might sue in a wrongful death case, but there is also the legal procedure that a claim must go through. A lawyer can help ensure that you do not make procedural mistakes at any point in litigation.
File Your Claim
First, you must be sure that you are filing your claim within the appropriate timeframe. Texas has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases. Usually, that means that from the day the wrongful death occurred, you have two years to file your claim; however, as mentioned earlier, in the context of a wrongful death, the timeline can depend on your relationship to the deceased.
Also, it can be difficult to determine the correct person to sue. For example, if your deceased loved one was a construction worker who was hired by a subcontractor, it can be confusing to follow or determine the chain of liability. You should sue the person or business who is ultimately at fault for the wrongful death.
Next, your attorney begins the negotiation process to get you compensated. Negotiation can be difficult for someone who is not familiar with the legal process, especially since insurance companies and their lawyers are often involved and know how to ask questions that reduce the strength of your case. Having an experienced advocate on your side can help you avoid falling into such traps.
The compensation in a wrongful death case covers for the pain and suffering for both you and your loved one, including you and your loved one’s missed wages, your loss of companionship, funeral expenses, and the pain and suffering that your loved one experienced before death.
Note: A Personal Injury Lawyer Does Not Handle End-of-Life Planning
This article is intended to help people who are determining whether they can bring a wrongful death claim. Understandably, there might also be matters related to an unexpected death that the deceased’s family must resolve; this might include such matters as dying without a will or funeral plans. Families often struggle with these tough decisions when they do not know their loved one’s wishes regarding their estate and funeral planning.
While these issues are incredibly important, they are separate from the wrongful death claim. There are lawyers who specialize in helping families whose deceased loved one passed away intestate (without a will), just as there are lawyers who specialize in personal injury claims.
Discuss your case with our San Antonio Wrongful Death Lawyers
If your loved one’s death was caused by someone’s intentional act, negligent act, or failure to act, or a defective product, you could have a wrongful death claim. Do not leave any “what ifs” when it comes to your loved one’s passing. You deserve not only the closure of having the party at fault take responsibility for your loved one’s death, but also the compensation to help you handle the financial burden that the defendant caused.
Our want to ease your suffering as much as possible, and we have the experience to give you truly effective counsel. The lawyers at Zinda Law Group care about your goals in the lawsuit and can advocate for you while leaving the control in your hands.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.