When a loved one is unexpectedly killed in an accident, the grief is immeasurable. In cases where the accident resulted from another person or entity’s negligent or harmful behavior, the survivors’ grief often is accompanied by a desire for justice.
If you’ve lost a loved one, you will receive compensation only if you can prove the death was indeed “wrongful” — and you’ll likely need the help of an experienced attorney. Proving legal responsibility can be a complex process, especially in the midst of the challenges of dealing with the loss of a loved one.
Wrongful death attorneys have the experience and resources to gather evidence for your case, allowing you to focus on healing and seeking justice.
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When Should You File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Wrongful death damages are specifically intended to compensate eligible survivors for the measurable and immeasurable losses they experienced through the fault of another party. If you believe that your loved one’s death was caused by the negligent or intentionally harmful behavior of an individual or organization, you may have grounds to sue for wrongful death damages.
The surviving family members who are allowed to sue for damages vary by state, but claims are generally limited to certain immediate family members who are expected to be most impacted by the death — both financially and emotionally. These include:
- Surviving spouses, parents, and children; in Texas this includes adopted children
- An executor of the deceased’s estate, as long as no eligible family member has filed within three months of the death
The timeline is crucial when you believe you may have a wrongful death case. While you may still be in shock, contacting an attorney as soon as possible is in your family’s best interest to ensure that you do not miss the opportunity to file nor lose valuable evidence to the passing of time.
How Do You Prove Wrongful Death Cases?
Even when it seems obvious that your loved one’s death resulted from an accident caused by another person, in the eyes of the law, sometimes an accident truly is an accident. Proving a wrongful death case comes down to proving three important factors:
- Duty of care. Your case will need to demonstrate that the defendant had what the law refers to as a “duty of care” to the deceased. For example, in a car accident, all drivers have a duty to drive according to the law — and in a reasonable way — in order to maintain a safe driving environment.
- Breach of duty of care. When a driver fails to act in a safe and reasonable driving manner, they are breaching their duty of care to other drivers or pedestrians. In a wrongful death case, you will need to show evidence that the defendant behaved in a way that was either negligently or intentionally adverse to upholding their duty of care.
- Causation. In order to successfully prove your case and obtain compensation for damages, you must be able to show the defendant’s actions directly resulted in your loved one’s death. How difficult this is to prove varies on a case-by-case basis, but a wrongful death lawyer will be able to help you better understand whether you can prove causation.
Evidence is key in any case, and that’s true for wrongful death lawsuits as well. In order to prove the defendant’s duty of care, breach of duty of care, and causation, you will need to be able to show what happened, how what happened makes the defendant liable, and the damages that resulted.
The kind of proof depends on the unique circumstances of the case, but some common forms of evidence in wrongful death cases are:
- Physical evidence. Physical evidence may include breathalyzer/blood alcohol contents reports, vehicle damage, or photos of the scene.
- Testimony. Expert witnesses, eyewitnesses, and surviving family members all may be called on to testify.
- Police and medical reports. Police reports and medical records can demonstrate both what happened and to what extent the defendant caused damage to the deceased.
- Other records. Particularly when the case involves a commercial accident, such as an Uber or Amazon driver, driving and delivery logs can be crucial.
The more time that passes, the less evidence is easily available, so it is important to reach out to an attorney as soon as you are able.
How Are Wrongful Death Damages Determined?
Wrongful death lawsuits may include up to three types of monetary awards: economic, non-economic, and punitive.
Economic damages are awarded in order to compensate surviving family members for:
- Loss of household income or inheritance
- Funerary expenses
- Medical costs associated with treating the deceased for the incident prior to their passing
Non-economic damages are awarded to compensate for:
- Mental anguish
- Loss of emotional support
- Loss of companionship
Punitive damages are intentionally designed to punish the defendant for their negligent or intentionally harmful actions.
No amount of money can replace someone you love, but FVF’s attorneys will investigate your case thoroughly and use the facts of your case to fight for the wrongful death recovery award you deserve. FVF accepts only cases we believe we can add substantial value to — enough to pay for the cost of fighting the case and then some.
How Can a Wrongful Death Lawyer Help?
How your legal team demonstrates the defendant’s responsibility should be managed carefully, not only to get the justice you deserve but also to calculate the damages correctly to maximize the amount of your compensation.
FVF operates on a contingency fee basis, which means our fee is a percentage of the gross (total) recovery in your case. We are transparent about our fee so you always know what to expect. We can help you understand the best way to maximize the value of your case — even by anticipating the amount of taxes you will pay.
We offer free, no-commitment case consultations so that you feel empowered to make decisions about your future in one of the most devastating times you’ll ever experience. Our goal is for you to walk away from your first conversation with FVF less overwhelmed and more certain about your next steps, even if you do not hire us to represent your case.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with an Austin wrongful death lawyer that can help you navigate this difficult time.