Filing a wrongful death claim is a legal process open to you when a loved one’s death is attributed to the negligence or misconduct of another. A wrongful death lawyer in Cameron, TX or Buffalo, TX will be able to help you bring a claim if you were loved one has died because of another’s negligence.
How to File a Wrongful Death Claim
Understanding a Claim
In Texas, wrongful death claims are governed by statutes that define who can file these claims and under what circumstances. A wrongful death claim is applicable when a person dies due to the wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default of another. This claim is distinct from any criminal charges that might be brought and is specifically aimed at seeking financial compensation for the loss suffered by the deceased person’s family or estate.
The parties eligible to file a wrongful death claim in Texas include the deceased person’s surviving spouse, children, and parents. These parties can file the claim individually or as a group. However, if none of these parties have initiated the claim within three months of the death, the executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate may file the claim, unless specifically requested not to do so by the family. If you’re not sure if you are eligible to bring a wrongful desk claim, be sure to talk to an experienced wrongful death lawyer in Cameron, TX and Buffalo, TX area.
Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims
If you wish to file a wrongful death claim, you must do so within the statute of limitations. In Texas, the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is generally two years from the date of the person’s death. This means that the claim must be filed within this time limit or the right to seek compensation might be permanently lost.
There are certain exceptions to this rule, such as in cases where the claimant is a minor or where the cause of death was not immediately apparent, but these are just that: exceptions. In most cases, if you try to bring a case after this deadline, the court will have no choice but to throw it out.
Determining Your Rightful Damages
The damages in a wrongful death claim can be extensive but will always depend on the specifics of the case. They typically include:
- Loss of earning capacity of the deceased person, considering what they might have reasonably earned had they lived
- Loss of companionship and love, acknowledging the emotional and relational loss suffered by the family members
- Mental anguish and emotional pain suffered by the family due to the loss
- Loss of inheritance, which represents the value of what the deceased would have saved and left to the surviving family members had they lived a normal expected lifetime
- Medical and funeral expenses related to the death
Calculating these damages accurately requires experience, and it may also require the expertise of economists or actuaries, especially when projecting potential future earnings or the value of lost inheritance. An experienced lawyer who deals with wrongful death suits will be able to refer you to these sorts of specialists if they are necessary in your case.
Establishing Liability in Wrongful Death Claims
To succeed in a wrongful death claim, you must be able to prove that the death resulted from the defendant’s negligence or wrongdoing. This involves demonstrating that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased, breached that duty, and that this breach directly caused the death. The evidence required to establish liability can include witness statements, medical records, accident reports, and expert testimony.
The Legal Process of Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
The process of filing a wrongful death claim in Texas involves several steps. The first step, which your lawyer will assist you with, will be gathering all the important documentation you need, like the death certificate of your loved one, any evidence of the accident or fault that led to their death, and proof of the damages you’re claiming compensation for.
Once you have done this, your attorney will help you to file a complaint which must be done in the right way and with the right court. Your complaint will explain the basis of your claim, give all the details of what happened and who is involved, and lay out the damages you are seeking. The defendant will be given a copy of this complaint and a chance to respond.
The wrongful death case may go through various stages in the court system, including discovery, where both parties exchange information and evidence, pre-trial motions, and possibly a trial. Throughout this process, both sides may engage in settlement negotiations. If a settlement is not reached, the case will proceed to trial, where a judge or jury will determine liability and damages.
Settlement negotiations can be a very complex aspect of wrongful death claims. These negotiations may occur at any stage of the legal process. Sometimes, these cases never go to trial and a settlement has reached early. Sometimes, you need to progress a bit through the case before the other side realizes that you are serious and that your claim has enough merit that they are likely to lose. Never accept the settlement without talking to your attorney, who can tell you whether it is fair or whether you should proceed to trial.
In many wrongful death cases, the defendant’s insurance company will be involved, but you need to understand that insurance policies, while they may cover certain aspects of the claim, such as the defendant’s liability for the death, often have limits. Also, insurance companies are often motivated to settle claims for the lowest amount possible. Skilled legal representation is important to ensure you get fair treatment in these negotiations.
Once a settlement is reached or a court decision is made, the final steps involve the disbursement of the awarded damages. The distribution of these funds must be done according to all stipulations of the court or the settlement agreement. This process often requires the setup of trusts or estate accounts, especially when large settlements are involved or if the beneficiaries include minors.
The Importance of a Cameron, TX and Buffalo, TX Wrongful Death Lawyer
Having an experienced attorney is essential in wrongful death claims. Your attorney will use an understanding of the law and the local courts to make sure that your case is brought in the right way, follows all procedures and deadlines, and that you are properly represented in negotiations and in court.
Texas follows the doctrine of modified comparative negligence, which can affect the outcome of your wrongful death claim. If the deceased is found to be partly responsible for the incident that led to their death, the compensation awarded can be reduced proportionally to their degree of fault. It’s very important to have an attorney who understands this and who will fight to protect you from an insurance company that may try to unfairly blame your loved one for the accident or at least saddle them with more fault than they actually had.
Dealing with Multiple Defendants
In cases where multiple parties may be liable for the wrongful death, things can get even more complicated, and each defendant’s role and responsibility need to be clearly established. It’s even more important to have a lawyer in these cases.
Filing a wrongful death claim requires that your attorney have a thorough understanding of Texas law, be well prepared, and be a skilled negotiator. Don’t try to bring a claim on your own: contact Brian Gutierrez, Personal Injury Trial Lawyer right away for help.