FVF Law is a values driven law firm.
Losing a loved one is one of the most profoundly difficult things that can happen to you. The intense grief that follows a loved one’s wrongful death is deeply traumatic; psychologists identify the loss as the single most stressful event in an individual’s life.
When a wrongful death occurs as a result of another individual’s or entity’s negligent, dangerous, or careless behavior, survivors often experience especially acute grief, stress, and anger. These parties crave — and rightfully deserve — some sort of legal retribution for their loss.
Additionally, one type of stressor that often goes unmentioned is the financial and administrative burden of a wrongful death. Survivors must also deal with the practical facts of their loved one’s passing, including paying for their final costs, coping with the loss of household income, and sorting through the details of their estate.
In Austin, compensation for these and other damages is often available through wrongful death and survival claims. These are civil actions brought forth by surviving loved ones, relatives, and administrators of the deceased’s estate to ease the emotional and economic damages suffered through the loss of a cherished spouse, child, or parent.
If someone you love was killed due to another’s actions, you have the right to understand who or what was at fault. And if there was negligence involved, you may have the right to pursue legal action as well. A wrongful death lawyer can help you investigate the circumstances behind your loved one’s wrongful death and assert those rights in the event that misconduct or negligent behavior is to blame. While no amount of money can replace a loved one who has been killed, it is your right to hold the wrongdoer accountable for the pain and financial consequences that have been caused.
A wrongful death claim is a civil action designed to mitigate the economic losses and emotional burden of losing a loved one at the hands of another individual’s or organization’s negligence or misconduct. These lawsuits occur separately from criminal suits; they can be filed independently by the surviving spouse, children, or parents, even if no criminal charges have been brought by the state or the defendants were not found guilty in a criminal trial. In fact, survivors often file lawsuits with an Austin civil court when the criminal system did not result in an indictment or conviction. This is because the burden of proof in a civil case is lower than in a criminal case, and the two systems are separate.
There are countless ways that a wrongful death can occur. However, there are several types of cases we see frequently at FVF Law.
There are many harms and losses, called “damages,” associated with a wrongful death — some of which may not be immediately apparent to you and other survivors. Those damages which are financial in nature are called “pecuniary losses” — damages that are sustained by the family members who have lost the decedent’s earning capacity, advice, services, care, maintenance, and support. Beyond those pecuniary losses, are ”non-pecuniary” losses that are difficult to quantify but reflect the loss of those intangible benefits that flow from your relationship to your loved ones.
If a wrongful death suit or survival claim is resolved in your favor, you can recover the following types of pecuniary and non-pecuniary losses, among others:
In some cases, the actions that led to the wrongful death of your loved one are so egregious, so irresponsible, or even so outright appalling in their lack of concern for others’ safety that punitive damages may be allowable. Punitive damages are a kind of exemplary damages that may be available to surviving family members when the person or entity responsible for your loved one’s wrongful death acted with what the law calls gross negligence or willful intent. Drunk driving, especially by repeat offenders, is one example of gross negligence.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim to Action in Texas
The Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code places certain limitations on who is considered a survivor of the deceased and who can bring action to recover damages in these claims. These parties include:
A wrongful death lawsuit may not address all the financial details associated with the sudden death of a loved one. In Texas, when an individual dies as a result of negligence, that individual retains the right to file a civil lawsuit, just as they would have if they had lived. That action is brought forward by surviving loved ones, legal representatives, and the administrators of the deceased’s estate.
In a survival action, plaintiffs may sue for the pain and suffering the deceased experienced before their wrongful death, medical bills incurred as a result of the incident, lost wages, and property damage. If the claim results in favor of the plaintiff, that award goes to the deceased’s estate to be distributed to the heirs.
To assert a survival action, the deceased must have an estate created in their name that complies with Texas state probate and estate law.
An experienced Austin wrongful death lawyer, like our professionals at FVF Law, can help you ensure that your loved one’s estate is established in a manner that adheres to Texas probate laws. This includes helping the family bear the financial burden that the probate process can entail.
If you have recently experienced the wrongful death of a loved one and you believe that there was foul play or negligence involved, you should discuss your case with a personal injury lawyer right away. Beyond the strict two-year statute of limitations to file a wrongful death claim, investigating and proving a wrongful death claim in Texas will take considerable time, energy, and resources. It is critically important to make sure all the relevant evidence is preserved so that any person or company who played a role in the incident can be held to answer. That is the main reason why it is in your best interest to speak with a lawyer sooner rather than later.
An Austin wrongful death lawyer near you can help ensure that you meet those deadlines, as well as offer helpful advice on creating an estate, documenting evidence for your claim, and investigating the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death. We can help you identify the individuals and parties that may be to blame — and ensure that those parties are held accountable for their negligent actions.
The process of bringing forth wrongful death and survival actions against large corporations, insurance providers, and other entities can be quite difficult. An Austin personal injury lawyer will not only be intimately familiar with the laws and regulations in your area, but they’ll also be able to provide nearby resources such as medical providers and funeral services to help you make arrangements for your loved one.
Our personal injury attorneys at FVF Law have years of experience on their side. We know the local Austin Texas court systems, which helps us navigate through your case efficiently. As Austin locals, we can also relate to jurors in our community. We will help you fight to assert your rights and properly investigate your case.
If you’d like to understand your rights and options following the sudden death of a loved one, contact us today for a free consultation. Our team of legal professionals in Austin can help you settle legal and financial details, offering support and guidance during this difficult chapter of your life.
The aftermath of a loved one’s passing can be confusing and extremely difficult. Survivors will likely have questions. Following are some commonly asked questions regarding Austin wrongful death cases.
Texas is a comparative negligence state, meaning that fault is assigned a percentage based on how much an individual is responsible for death-causing accidents. So, if your loved one was 50% responsible for the Austin accident leading to their death, surviving family members are entitled to seek compensation.
In the entire state of Texas, only the surviving spouse, child(ren), or parents of an individual who has passed can receive wrongful death compensation.
You have two years from the date of the accident to file your wrongful death claim. There are some exceptions, however. FVF Law is here to help if you’re unsure of your case or if you’ve missed the filing deadline.
Criminal cases do not normally have a huge impact on wrongful death cases. That’s because these cases are typically handled by separate lawyers and court systems. However, a criminal case may impact a wrongful death case if there is specific evidence that may be relevant to the other.
This is different from a wrongful death claim, and is associated with recovering losses experienced by the deceased individual between the date of injury and their passing. On the other hand, a wrongful death claim is one in which family members of the deceased seek compensation for their own emotional and financial losses.
In Texas, spouses, common-law marriage partners, and legally separated spouses are all considered to be surviving spouses. Putative spouses, however, are not allowed to sue for wrongful death in the state. FVF Law is here to help if you’re unsure about your status as a surviving spouse.
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