How Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Work?
If you have recently lost a loved one and are considering a wrongful death lawsuit, you may be thinking, “How does a wrongful death lawsuit work?” or “How do you win a wrongful death lawsuit?” In wrongful death cases, a representative of the deceased’s estate files a lawsuit on behalf of the estate for any claims that the deceased may have for things like pain and suffering before death (called a survival claim) and the surviving spouse, children, and parents can bring a lawsuit for the wrongful death of their loved one.
Typically, this representative works with a wrongful death lawyer to:
- Determine the validity of their case
- Prove that the party being sued is legally liable for the loved one’s death
- Collect evidence
- Negotiate with liable parties
- Go to court if necessary
At Grimes & Fertitta, we understand that this is a troubling time for you and your family, and it is our goal to help you find justice for your loved one, as well as prevent any other tragedies. Here, we cover the most common steps and elements involved in successfully bringing a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas
How do you win a wrongful death lawsuit?
Simple answer: prove the other party is responsible for your loved one’s death via substantial evidence. Complex answer: there are five notable steps you’ll need to take if you want to increase your chances of bringing a successful claim in a wrongful death lawsuit:
Step 1. Be eligible to file a wrongful death claim
Who can sue for wrongful death? Only a representative of the deceased’s estate, the spouse of the deceased, the deceased’s children, and the parents of the deceased may file a claim. Surviving siblings and grandparents cannot file a wrongful death claim in Texas.
Step 2. Find a wrongful death lawyer with a track record of success
Finding the right wrongful death lawyer is a critical part of a successful wrongful death case. Depending on the particulars of your potential case, you may wish to start looking for a general “personal injury” or “wrongful death” lawyer. Alternatively, you may want to look for a lawyer who has experience handling certain types of wrongful death cases, like ones involving car accidents, workplace accidents, traumatic brain injuries, etc. For example, you could hire a personal injury lawyer in Houston & The Woodlands, a The Woodlands wrongful death lawyer, or fatal car accident lawyer in Houston.
Grimes & Fertitta has experience handling a wide variety of personal injury cases but, over the years, we have earned a reputation amongst our clients and colleagues for our skilled and caring handling of wrongful death cases.
Step 3. Have a valid wrongful death case
Your lawyer can help you determine if your case will be successful using the four elements of wrongful death:
- That the death was caused wholly or to some extent by the defendant’s negligence, recklessness, or carelessness.
- That this negligence was a breach of duty to the victim, meaning that it was the defendant’s duty to provide safety or care to the victim.
- How this breach of duty caused the death of the victim.
- And that because of this death, the surviving family members of the victim incurred significant damages (medical expenses, funeral costs, potential income, and pain and suffering, and more).
Step 4. Actively pursue evidence and meet filing deadlines
These documents include an official death certificate, list of surviving family members, autopsy reports (if possible), medical and funeral bills, evidence of financial or supportive loss, and evidence in support of your claim of negligence. A skilled wrongful death lawyer knows how to help their clients find and preserve critical evidence that might otherwise be overlooked or even destroyed.
Step 5. Negotiate aggressively, go to trial if necessary
The vast majority of wrongful death cases are resolved out of court via negotiations. It is especially important to have a legal team on your side during the negotiation process. Insurance companies are notorious for lowballing settlement amounts and otherwise cheating survivors of the compensation they need to recover from the loss of their loved ones. The attorneys at Grimes & Fertitta are skilled at aggressive negotiating for an amount that compensates you adequately for your loss depending on the particularities of your case.
You will want to work with a lawyer that is always prepared to go to trial in the event that a fair settlement amount cannot be reached.
Types of compensation available for wrongful death cases
The type and amount of compensation you can receive from a wrongful death lawsuit relies heavily on the particulars of your case. Eligible family members can be rewarded survival damages, which refer to the amount of money the deceased could’ve been granted if they were alive to carry out and win a personal injury or catastrophic injury lawsuit (For more information on the difference, visit our article post: What are Catastrophic Injuries?)
Survivors can receive three main types of damages: Special compensatory damages (economic damages), general damages, and wrongful death damages.
- Special compensatory damages refer to concrete damages such as medical expenses and lost wages.
- General damages refer to less “concrete” damages, such as the pain and suffering the deceased may have endured after receiving a fatal injury.
- Wrongful death damages refer to damages related to the death of a loved one, including funeral and burial costs, loss of companionship, and mental anguish of surviving family members.
In particularly egregious cases, punitive damages may be awarded. These damages are additional damages meant to punish the negligent party.
So, if the surviving family members of the deceased experienced any financial loss after the death of their loved one, they could be eligible for compensation. This can include any payment the deceased would have earned up to their anticipated retirement.
Spouses, minor children, and parents of a minor child are typically eligible to be awarded damages. The proportions awarded are usually decided by the court.
Statute of limitations for wrongful death cases
When answering the question, “How does a wrongful death lawsuit work?” one of the most frequently overlooked aspects of the process is the statute of limitation.
In the state of Texas, a wrongful death claim must be filed within two years after the decedent’s death. There are two statutes of limitation that can apply to these cases are the time between the deceased’s injury to their death, and the damages the family suffers after the death.
Since these cases can potentially take a few years to complete, the decision to file a lawsuit must be made soon. Filing a wrongful death claim requires proper planning and investigation on your and your lawyer’s part to have a successful case, so don’t waste any time. Contact an attorney as soon as possible.
How long does a wrongful death lawsuit take?
Wrongful death lawsuits can last for several months or many years depending on your particular case’s evidence and how you and your attorney decide to approach negotiations. Choosing an experienced lawyer is even more important in these cases for better time management and action.
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit? Grimes & Fertitta is here to help.
Losing a loved one is a terrible and overwhelming experience. Filing a lawsuit adds extra stress to an already awful situation, but it is often the only means of getting the rightful amount of compensation you and your family need to recover. That’s why it’s so important to find a lawyer you can trust.
The attorneys at Grimes & Fertitta are here to help you navigate through the steps in a wrongful death lawsuit as you focus on healing from the loss. Still have questions along the lines of “How does a wrongful death lawsuit work?” Our close-knit firm will work hard to answer all of your questions and make sure you are kept abreast of all parts of your wrongful death case.
At Grimes & Fertitta, we treat our clients like family. You will never be just another case number to us.
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