Wrongful Death Q & A
Q: What Constitutes “Wrongful Death”?
A: In Texas, wrongful death cases are governed by the Wrongful Death Act (Chapter 71 of the Texas Civil Practices & Remedies Code). A wrongful death is a death that is generally caused by negligence of another person or company. Negligence includes behavior that is careless, reckless, and failing to act with reasonable care. Some common causes of wrongful death include car accidents, truck accidents, construction accidents, faulty or defective products, and medical malpractice.
Q: Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim?
A: In Texas, the Wrongful Death Act gives certain individuals the right to seek compensation for losses they suffer. They are the:
Surviving Children; and
These are referred to as the “statutory beneficiaries” under the Act. Note that siblings of a decedent are not included, meaning they are not allowed to sue for the loss of their brother or sister, nor can cousins, aunts, and uncles of a lost loved one.
Separate from a lawsuit under to the Wrongful Death Act, the Estate of the deceased has a cause of action with different elements of damage and a separate lawsuit has to be brought to recover these damages. Only a “representative” of the estate can bring this claim/lawsuit.
Q: What Can You Sue for in a Wrongful Death Case?
A: In Texas, the Wrongful Death Act allows surviving spouses, children, and parents to sue for:
Loss of Championship & Society;
Mental Anguish; and
Loss of Inheritance.
Pecuniary losses means “the loss of the care, maintenance, support, services, advice, counsel, and reasonable contributions of a pecuniary value (excluding loss of inheritance) that the beneficiary would have in reasonable probability received from the decedent had he/she lived.”
Loss of Companionship and Society means “the loss of the positive benefits flowing from the love, comfort, companionship and society that the beneficiary would have in reasonable probability received from the decedent had he/she lived.”
Mental Anguish means “the emotional pain, torment, and suffering “experienced by the beneficiary because of the death of the decedent.”
Loss of Inheritance means “the loss of the present value of the assets that the deceased, in reasonable probability, would have added to the estate and left at natural death to the beneficiary.”
Separate from the damages under the Wrongful Death Act, the Estate of the deceased person can sue for:
Pain and Suffering of the Deceased;
Medical Expenses; and
Funeral and Burial Expenses.
Pain and Mental Anguish means “the conscious physical pain and emotional pain, treatment, and suffering experienced by the decedent before his death as a result of the occurrence in question.”
Medical Expenses means “the reasonable expense of the necessary medical and hospital care received by the decedent for treatment of injuries sustained by him/her as a result of the occurrence in question.”
Funeral and Burial Expenses means “the reasonable amount of expenses for the funeral and burial of the decedent reasonably suitable to his station in life.”
Q: How Much Will It Cost to Hire a Lawyer For a Wrongful Death Case?
A: We operate on a contingent fee basis. This means that we only charge a fee if we win your case. In other words, our getting paid is “contingent” upon our success. The fee is a percentage of the total amount of the settlement or verdict we obtain for you. The percentage is usually 33.33% but commonly goes to 40% if a lawsuit is needed. We pay all upfront costs so that you never have to pay anything out of your own pocket. If for some reason we don’t get a recovery for you, you owe us nothing.
By charging a contingency fee instead of an hourly rate (which is usually many hundreds of dollars an hour) it allows anyone who has a legitimate injury to have access to legal representation regardless of their income. Otherwise, only the wealthiest among us could afford to hire an attorney. You can meet with us as many times as you like at no cost or obligation before you decide which lawyer to hire. We want you to know your rights and be completely comfortable with your decision.
Q: What is the Statute of Limitations in a Wrongful Death Case?
A: Generally, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death case is two years from the date of death.
Q: Should I Accept a Settlement From the Insurance Company?
A: Never accept a settlement offer from an insurance company before consulting with an experienced wrongful death lawyer. Unfortunately, the settlement offered by an insurance company is usually a fraction of what you would receive with the help of a lawyer.