Losing a family member is always overwhelming and heartbreaking. The loss is especially difficult when the death was avoidable. Sadly, families lose loved ones every day because of the negligence and wrongdoing of other parties.
If your loved one died because of another person’s actions, your family might be able to pursue compensation for the wrongful death. Recovering for a wrongful death of a loved one in Austin, TX, does not erase the loss. However, holding the person responsible for your family member’s death can bring some measure of closure and justice.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim in Austin, TX?
A wrongful death occurs when a party intentionally or negligently causes the death of another person. A wrongful death action is a civil claim filed by family members seeking compensation for damages caused by a wrongful death.
Many wrongful death cases also involve a criminal case against the party who caused the person’s death. However, the criminal case and the civil case are separate. Therefore, the family members can proceed with a wrongful death claim even if criminal charges are not filed or the person is acquitted.
Examples of Wrongful Death Claims Filed by Loved Ones
Wrongful death claims arise from any type of personal injury case. Fatal accidents and injuries occur because of the following:
- Motor vehicle accidents, including crashes involving cars, pedestrians, commercial trucks, motorcycles, and bicycles
- Construction accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Defective products
- Premises liability, including slip and fall accidents
- Workplace accidents
- Assaults and violent acts
- Dog bites and animal attacks
Your family member may have survived the initial accident or injury. However, if they died because of the injuries sustained in the accident, your family can pursue a wrongful death claim for the fatality.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Action in Texas?
Texas wrongful death laws restrict who can file a wrongful death action. Under the current law, only a deceased person’s spouse, children, and parents can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Other family members are barred from filing a claim.
These family members have three months from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If they do not file a lawsuit, the right to file a wrongful death action passes to the personal representative for the deceased’s estate. The personal representative has two years from the date of death to file the lawsuit.
Damages That Loved Ones Can Receive for a Wrongful Death Claim
The damages recovered for wrongful death cases differ from damages in other personal injury cases. The damages for wrongful death are more restricted. If you prove the elements of a wrongful death claim, you could receive compensation for:
- Medical bills incurred between the date of injury and the date of death
- The cost of the funeral, cremation, and burial
- Loss of inheritance
- Mental anguish and distress
- Loss of the financial support the person would have provided had they lived
- Loss of support, companionship, guidance, and love
- Loss of the value of services
- Loss of consortium
Sometimes, a jury might award punitive damages to the family members. Punitive damages are only awarded in specific cases where the defendant acted with malice, gross negligence, or fraud.
The compensation the family receives could be reduced if their loved one is partially to blame for the accident that resulted in their death. The compensation for damages is reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to the deceased person. However, if a jury finds the deceased person was more than 51% at fault, the family cannot receive any compensation for damages.
What Should I Do To Recover Compensation for a Wrongful Death of a Loved One in Austin, TX?
Contact an Austin wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. It can be difficult to think about a lawsuit and legal matters when you are grieving the loss of your loved one. However, family members have just three months to file their laws after losing a loved one.
Therefore, you must act quickly if you want to file a lawsuit. Otherwise, a probate estate must be opened, and the court must appoint a personal representative. That person may then file a lawsuit on behalf of the probate estate.
The cause of action is not lost if you allow the estate to file the wrongful death lawsuit. However, there are some slight differences that a lawyer can discuss with you during a free consultation.
Because lawyers accept these cases on a contingency fee basis, you do not need to worry about paying any attorneys’ fees up front. Instead, the attorney agrees to take a percentage of the amount recovered for damages as the fee for legal services.