There is rarely an easy way to talk about losing someone you love, especially when an accident or injury resulted in their pain and suffering and, ultimately, their loss of life. When this results from the negligence, recklessness, or carelessness of another person, it can be particularly difficult to accept.
When you have lost your family member in a traffic accident, workplace accident, or other tragedy, speaking with a lawyer as soon as possible can help you understand your rights, the rights of any other survivors injured in the accident, and how you can seek the care and support you and your family need.
Understanding Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Every sudden loss of life is tragic, but not every loss is legally a wrongful death. If you have questions about the events surrounding a death, contacting an experienced injury attorney can help you learn how you can get time-sensitive answers for yourself, including crash reports from motor vehicle accidents. If someone else’s irresponsible or harmful actions seem significant enough to be legally at fault, you might have the right to file a lawsuit. This can be a drunk driver whose life-changing decision to get behind the wheel resulted in a fatal crash or even a giant corporation with unsafe practices.
Wrongful death lawsuits also may help families recover damages related to losing their loved one’s:
- Current and future wage-earning capacity
- Care, maintenance, services, support, and counsel
- Love, companionship, comfort, and society
- Potential inheritance, including what the deceased would likely have saved and left to surviving family members
For families, the emotional loss felt after the death of a loved one is immeasurable, but the law provides ways for people who file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas to ask for compensation for the damage done to them by the death of their family member. It is also possible to sue for the pain and suffering of your deceased loved one, but that right comes through something called a “survival” action brought by the estate of the deceased person. Wrongful death lawsuits are commonly brought at the same time as a survival claim when a person survives for some time after their accident or injury occurs, resulting in their pain and suffering, medical bills, and other expenses. Other components of a survival claim are:
- Physical disfigurement
- Physical impairment
- Mental anguish
- Lost earnings/earning capacity
- Past medical expenses
Losing a family member unexpectedly, such as in an 18-wheeler accident, is especially traumatic. From a family’s perspective, this unbearable grief can make getting through daily activities feel impossible. From a medical perspective, this complicated grief can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, clinical anxiety and depression, and even substance abuse. Wrongful death lawsuits may cover the expenses for access to mental health care for surviving family members to cope with the trauma.
Family Members Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death
We know you can’t narrowly define who is going to be impacted by someone’s death. However, the law does limit whose pain and suffering can be compensated for in a wrongful death lawsuit. According to the state of Texas, certain surviving family members may file a wrongful death suit individually, or a group of them may choose to file together. This could be:
- The spouse of the deceased person, including common-law spouses
- The children of the deceased person, including their adult children and legally adopted children
- The parents of the deceased person, including adoptive parents
In some cases, another person who is the legal executor of the deceased’s estate may file the lawsuit if none of the above family members choose to within three months of the fatal accident. However, Texas still gives the immediate family members the option to prevent the executor from filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
How FVF Can Help with Your Wrongful Death Case
What about situations when — and this can be difficult to acknowledge — your loved one might also be partially liable, according to the law, for the circumstances of their death? If your spouse is killed in a crash by a reckless driver who was engaged in street racing, but her vehicle’s black box indicates she was driving above the posted speed limit at the time of the accident, do you still have grounds to file a lawsuit?
Families sometimes are concerned that they are not able to file a lawsuit or that it may cause further trauma to see their loved one’s actions torn apart. While no one can protect you from the pain of hearing the character or actions of someone you lost be attacked, you should know the law doesn’t require victims to be perfect. Texas is a comparative negligence state, and as long as your family member is less than 50% responsible for the circumstances that caused the accident, you might still have a viable case. FVF’s team has the resources to investigate thoroughly to get the facts of the case.
Texas law acknowledges that the effects of negligent, reckless, and careless people are not limited to those who are physically injured, so we’ll do our best to make sure you have answers to your most pressing questions at the first phone call. When you’re ready to speak with a lawyer about your case, contact FVF to schedule a free consultation.