Protecting the Rights of Family Members after a Wrongful Death in Texas
When your loved one drives a car or heads into work, the last thing you expect is for them not to come home. Unfortunately, unexpected fatal accidents are more common than you think, and many families have to deal with this tragic reality every day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that unintentional injuries are the number one cause of death for individuals in the U.S. from ages four to 44 years old, and the fourth-leading cause of death overall for all age groups. If your loved one has suffered a tragic untimely death then speak with our San Antonio wrongful death attorneys to discuss how you can recover the compensation your family needs.
When a loved one suddenly dies, you may feel helpless and distraught. If that death occurred in an accident that was someone else’s fault, you may be angry and want to seek justice for your loved one and your loss. Texas law acknowledges this position and allows certain surviving family members to file a legal claim for wrongful death against the responsible party. This type of claim cannot bring back your loved one, of course, but can provide some additional closure and financial support for your family.
At The Law Offices of George Salinas, we know how devastating any loss can be – especially one that was unexpected. We understand the complex wrongful death laws in Texas and can advise you of your rights under the law. Time is limited to file a claim, so please do not wait to contact us today.
Wrongful Death Frequently Asked Questions FAQ
When Is a Death Wrongful?
A death is considered to be “wrongful” under Texas statute if the death occurred due to another party’s:
- Wrongful act
The most common basis for a wrongful death claim is negligence. Negligence means that a party owed you a duty of care, breached that duty of care, and caused an injury—in wrongful death cases, a fatal injury. Many people owe others a duty of care, such as drivers, medical professionals, manufacturers, and business and property owners, among others. In each case, our firm will conduct a thorough legal analysis to determine whether a death was caused by another party’s negligence.
If a fatal accident happened at work, the case may be more complicated. If an employer does not subscribe to workers’ compensation insurance, the surviving family members can file a regular claim for wrongful death in civil court. If an employer does subscribe to workers’ compensation insurance, the case will be handled differently than a typical wrongful death case. Instead of going through the court, the family will have to seek financial recovery via a workers’ compensation claim. There are exceptions to this rule, however, as a wrongful death claim may be filed if the death occurred due to the employer’s:
- Gross negligence
- Intentional act
- Intentional oversight
Knowing the right path to seek compensation after a death on the job can be difficult. Our law firm knows how to identify your options for recovery after you have lost a loved one at work.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Though you may be devastated by a sudden loss, you may not always have the right to participate in a wrongful death claim. The law specifically states who has the right to file a lawsuit in these situations. The following individuals may be eligible to file a claim:
- Surviving spouse
- Children, including legally adopted children and adult children
Any of the above parties may choose to file a wrongful death claim together or individually. If no one files a claim in the three months after the death, the executor of the will or the deceased’s personal representative can then file the claim on behalf of the estate.
If you are not sure whether you are eligible to seek compensation, you should discuss your relationship to the deceased with a highly experienced attorney. Attorney George Salinas understands this is a difficult time for you and is dedicated to helping family members who have lost a loved one. Call today for more information.
Coping with the tragic loss of a loved one is likely one of the most difficult life experiences that any individual must go through. Learning that the events that led to the death of your family member may have been prevented adds to the emotional and financial stress of your situation. Fortunately, Texas law allows eligible survivors of the decedent to take legal action against the party responsible for the death of their loved one. Until you have the time to consult with an experienced San Antonio wrongful death attorney, you can review the following answers to some frequently asked questions that we get about wrongful death lawsuits.
How does Texas define wrongful death?
Texas law defines wrongful death as a death that occurs from an injury “caused by a person’s or his agent’s or servant’s wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.” The law also requires that to file a wrongful death lawsuit, the deceased must have been entitled to bring an action for the injury had he or she lived.
Although surviving family members are eligible for additional damages, you can broadly think of a wrongful death claim as a personal injury lawsuit filed on behalf of a decedent by his or her survivors or a representative of his or her estate.
What scenarios lead to wrongful death claims?
Our loved ones can suffer fatal injuries in many different types of situations. Those that are a result of another party’s negligence or willful harm can give rise to a wrongful death lawsuit. Some examples of wrongful death claims that we handle at the Law Offices of George Salinas include:
- Motor vehicle accidents. Across Texas and the United States, traffic accidents are the most common cause of wrongful death. Over the last decade, well over 100 traffic fatalities occurred each year in the San Antonio area alone, not including the hundreds throughout the rest of Texas. Semi-truck accidents also contribute to this high death toll. Whether operating a big rig or a small car, drivers who break traffic laws and drive carelessly, or make poor choices behind the wheel, put others with whom they share the road at risk for deadly accidents that cause fatal injuries.
- Bicycle accidents. San Antonio consistently ranks in the top 20 most dangerous cities for bicyclists. Whether children or adults, cyclists don’t have the protection that those in motor vehicles do. This means when a vehicle strikes a cyclist, death is far more likely. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) estimates that more than 2,000 bicycle crashes occur across the state each year.
Which family members are eligible to file a wrongful death suit?
Texas law clearly states that the surviving spouse, children, and parents of a decedent can file a wrongful death claim. These parties can file separately, or they may join forces and file a claim together. Texas differs from other states in that the law allows adult children to file a wrongful death claim if they lose a parent.
Additionally, adopted children can file a wrongful death claim if they lose a parent, and adoptive parents can file a wrongful death claim if they lose a child. Texas law does not, however, allow surviving siblings to bring a wrongful death lawsuit if they lose a sister or brother.
How long do I have to file a wrongful death suit in Texas?
Texas has a two-year statute of limitations to take legal action against the party (or parties) that caused the death of your loved one; however, some caveats exist. If you, and other survivors, want to directly bring a lawsuit against the at-fault party, you must do so within 90 days. Once 90 days have passed, a representative for the estate of the decedent must bring the lawsuit. In this situation, any compensation will go to the estate and get distributed in accordance with Texas’s intestate laws.
What damages can survivors receive in a wrongful death suit?
Texas law clearly outlines the types of damages that eligible survivors can receive in a settlement or jury award for a wrongful death claim. These damages include economic and non-economic damages that family members suffer as a result of their loved one’s death.
Examples of damages that claimants can receive in a San Antonio wrongful death suit include:
- Lost future wages, sometimes referred to as lost earning capacity, to compensate family members for future income that the deceased would have earned had he or she lived
- Lost support, guidance, counsel, and care for surviving dependents
- Compensation for mental anguish and pain and suffering
- Lost companionship, comfort, and society for the surviving spouse
- Lost inheritance, including potential inheritance that the deceased would have saved had he or she lived
Damages in a San Antonio Wrongful Death Case
The value of a wrongful death claim will vary depending on the circumstances of the death and the support the deceased provided to family members. Some damages in a Texas wrongful death case include the following:
- The income the deceased would have earned had she lived
- Lost companionship, love, and comfort
- Lost support, services, advice, counsel, and maintenance
- Lost inheritance of beneficiaries due to an untimely death
- Mental and emotional pain, anguish, and suffering
The best way to know the value of your claim is to have an experienced lawyer evaluate your situation.
Find Out How a San Antonio Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Assist You
Texas law only gives you two years from the date of a death to file a wrongful death claim. There are few exceptions to this deadline and in most cases, if you wait too long, you will lose the right to seek any compensation at all. You should not delay in contacting an experienced San Antonio wrongful death attorney to learn about your rights and options today. The Law Offices of George Salinas has successfully handled Texas wrongful death claims and can protect your rights. Contact our office online or call 281-225-0909 today to schedule your free consultation.
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