What a Wrongful Death Lawsuit is
When a person’s negligent actions cause the death of another person, an eligible family member may be entitled to bring a wrongful death lawsuit to court. Depending on the circumstances, a criminal prosecution may also be brought to court, but the wrongful death suit itself is civil in nature, and therefore separate from the criminal suit.
Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful death lawsuits may result from a number of different circumstances that lead to death, including:
Motor vehicle accidents, including truck accidents;
Other types of product liability;
Toxic torts; and
When you bring a wrongful death lawsuit to court, you will need to prove that the death of your loved one was caused by the defendant’s negligence, or that the defendant’s actions were intentionally wrong. You will also have to prove that you and family members suffered harm because of that person’s death. Some parties that you can bring to court for wrongful death include companies, members of the general public, or even governmental agencies.
Who is Eligible to Sue for Wrongful Death?
Not everyone may bring wrongful death suits to court. The laws vary from state to state, but in Texas, wrongful death lawsuits may be brought to court by the surviving spouse, the children of the decedent and/or the parents of the decedent (Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 71.004).
If family members do not take legal action within three calendar months of their loved one’s death, the executor of the decedent’s estate may bring the case to court. However, if the family member requests that the executor does not file a wrongful death lawsuit, then the executor is no longer allowed to take this action.
Who May Be Sued for Wrongful Death?
Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to bring a wrongful death action against more than one person. For example, in a vehicle accident where both a drunk driver and a faulty roadway were the cause of death, you may be able to sue the driver; the company the driver worked for (if the driver was using a company vehicle); the builder and/or designer of the road; the local government agency that did not set up enough warning that the road was a hazard; the installer, distributor and/or manufacturer of any faulty parts on the vehicle involved; the person who sold, gave, or served alcohol to the intoxicated driver; and the owner of the establishment where the alcohol was served.
If your wrongful death lawsuit is because of a faulty product, medical malpractice, or other claims, the list of parties that you can potentially bring to court is also long, so it is best to obtain a personal injury attorney to help you bring the case against all of the proper parties.
Immunity Against Wrongful Death Actions
Some governmental agencies, depending on the circumstances, may be immune to wrongful death actions. These are special circumstances. If your loved one died as a result of the actions or inactions of a governmental agency or employee, don’t hesitate to contact a personal injury attorney.
Damages that Victims May Sue For
The damages for which you may sue vary based on the circumstances. In some cases, damages may be capped. Available damages often include economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages. Economic damages include medical and funeral expenses, loss of earnings, loss of inheritance, loss of benefits (including medical coverage and pension plans) and the value of the goods and services that the decedent would have provided to the family.
Non-economic damages include less tangible damages such as mental anguish, loss of protection and care, loss of nurturing, pain and suffering, loss of love and loss of consortium. If the defendant was found to be negligent, you may also be entitled to punitive damages or treble damages, depending on the circumstances. An attorney can help you determine what damages you are eligible to sue for.
Texas Statute of Limitations
Texas has a statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim. While dealing with the death of a loved one is certainly upsetting and stressful, you should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the death so that you can get your wrongful death suit filed before the time frame has elapsed.
Wrongful death cases are usually complex and involve several defendants, their attorneys, their insurance companies, and the insurance companies’ attorneys. An attorney will help you list the correct parties to sue for wrongful death, and will assist you in getting medical records and other necessary documents gathered so that you can properly prosecute the matter.
Contact The Dashner Law Firm
Even if you are not sure that you have a valid wrongful death claim, contact The Dashner Law Firm to set up a consultation. If our attorneys find that you do have a valid claim, that claim should be filed as soon as possible so that you don’t risk going past the statute of limitations.