A wrongful death action is a claim or lawsuit against a party alleging they are liable for damages caused by the loss of a family member. The action claims that the party caused the person’s death, so they are responsible for paying damages to the victim’s family.
While nothing can make up for losing a loved one, holding the party responsible for your family member’s death can provide some measure of justice for your family, in addition to financial assistance.
How To File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Austin, TX
The basic steps to file a wrongful death suit in Texas are:
Hire an Austin Wrongful Death Lawyer
Wrongful death lawsuits are complex personal injury cases. You need to hire an experienced, knowledgeable Austin wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney understands Texas wrongful death laws and how to use those laws to prove your claim.
An attorney also helps you avoid errors and mistakes that could hurt your case. Your lawyer also has the resources to investigate the claim.
Determine if a Wrongful Death Occurred
Wrongful death can arise from numerous situations, including automobile accidents, premises liability claims, defective product injuries, medical malpractice, and intentional torts. The first step an attorney takes is determining if a wrongful death occurred.
You may have grounds to bring a wrongful death claim if you have evidence proving the following:
- The alleged at-fault party owed your family member a duty of care
- The party breached the duty of care owed to your loved one
- The breach of duty was the proximate and direct cause of your loved one’s death
- Your loved one and your family suffered damages as a result of the party’s wrongful acts
You have the burden of proving each legal element to establish wrongful death. A lawyer can determine if the evidence supports a claim. Evidence in a wrongful death case can include, but is not limited to:
- Police reports
- Medical records
- Eyewitness statements
- Video and photographic evidence
- Expert testimony
- Coroner’s report
The evidence in a case depends on the circumstances and facts of the case. Therefore, you could have additional evidence that helps prove a wrongful death claim.
Determine Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas
Texas wrongful death laws specify who can file wrongful death claims. The right to file a wrongful death suit is reserved for the victim’s spouse, children, and parents.
What happens if the victim does not have any surviving family members that fall into one of these categories or they do not file a wrongful death claim? If there are no surviving family members or they do not file a claim within three months of the victim’s death, the personal representative for the victim’s estate can file a wrongful death claim.
File the Wrongful Death Lawsuit Before the Statute of Limitations Expires
The Texas statute of limitations sets a deadline for filing wrongful death lawsuits. Generally, you have two years from the date of your loved one’s death to file a lawsuit.
However, you should not wait to contact an Austin wrongful death attorney. Investigating and building a case for wrongful death takes time. Furthermore, crucial evidence could be destroyed or lost if you wait to hire a lawyer.
What Damages Are Available for an Austin Wrongful Death Claim?
If you successfully prove the elements required for a wrongful death action, your family can receive financial compensation for damages. The damages in a wrongful death case differ from the damages available in personal injury claims.
Damages for a wrongful death claim include:
- Reimbursement for medical bills and expenses from the date of your loved one’s injury through the date of their death
- Reimbursement for reasonable funeral and burial expenses
- The loss of inheritance, value of services, and financial support your loved one would have provided had they lived
- Loss of consortium
- Mental anguish and distress
- Loss of support, love, companionship, and guidance
Some cases support an award of punitive damages. A court can award punitive damages if you can prove the at-fault party acted with gross negligence, malice, or fraud in the death of your loved one. Punitive damages can add a significant amount to a wrongful death jury verdict.
Thinking about a court action after losing a family member can be difficult. When you hire a lawyer to handle the case, your lawyer handles all matters related to the case so you can focus on the grieving process and the matters you need to address after a loved one’s death.