Texas law gives family members in particular certain rights to compensation if someone else caused their loved one’s early death. This is known as a wrongful death action, and you generally only get two years from the date of death to bring such a lawsuit.
Sadly, the grieving process often takes much longer than two years. Survivors spend years grieving and dealing with the emotional pain and emptiness left by a death, only to discover they have no legal options left. This is why it is so important to muster the courage and strength to have the difficult conversations now. It is free to talk with Seerden Law Firm, PLLC right here in Houston.
We will provide you with a clear picture of your legal options and rights. We can explain the law and answer any questions you may have about your ability to pursue compensation from those responsible.
If you decide not to take action, you’ve lost nothing. But if you do want to seek compensation and hold someone accountable for your loved one’s death, you will be armed with the information and your rights will be securely protected.
Call us or contact us online now for a free consultation.
What Do You Have to Prove in a Death Claim?
In order to successfully recover compensation for the loss of a loved one, you will need to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. In many cases, you might also bring other types of civil claims against the wrongdoer, depending on the facts of your case.
In general, here is what you will need to prove:
- A legal obligation. The first element is the duty of the defendant. Did the defendant have some legal obligation? In a car accident, all drivers are held to the same general standard of using a reasonable degree of caution when operating their vehicle. Doctors must exercise the same level and standard of care as a similarly trained professional practicing in the same area of medicine. Hotels and other businesses are required to provide a reasonably safe and hazard-free environment. Once our team identifies the applicable legal standard for your specific type of injury, we must prove how that obligation was violated.
- Breach/Violation. Did the defendant do something (or fail to do something) that would qualify as a breach of their duty or a violation of their obligations to you? A drunk driver is clearly violating his duty to the public. A truck driver operating past his hours of service is clearly endangering others. But some cases are less clear cut.
- Direct Cause. Next, you must prove that your loved one’s death was the direct result of the incident.
- Damages. Finally, even if you prove someone owed your loved one a duty, violated that duty, and caused their death, you must still prove the value of that loss.
- Death Is Related. One other element of a wrongful death case is proving that the death was related to the injury. For instance, there are many times where a person has a complex medical history and then suffers a serious injury. Insurance companies love to claim that the death was caused by something other than the injury. So you must prove that the death was related to the incident or injury.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Every state has its own statute that gives family members a potential right to recover compensation for the wrongful death of a close relative. In Texas, Section 71.004 of the Revised Statutes exclusively permits the following individuals to bring wrongful death lawsuits and recover compensation under the law:
- Surviving spouses
- Surviving children
- Surviving parents
This is different from money recovered by an estate on behalf of the decedent. This is known as a “survival action,” and those funds are disbursed according to the decedent’s will or the state’s laws pertaining to estates.
Compensation for Families in a Death Accident Claim
There are many reasons why a family would want to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. For many people, an unexpected death brings not only emotional misery and sadness, but also financial hardship. Therefore, families can recover compensation for:
- Loss of support
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of affection
- Loss of intimacy (for spouses)
- Final expenses (funeral and burial costs)
- Final medical expenses associated with the injury leading to death
- Emotional distress
- Exemplary damages
Exemplary damages are not technically a form of compensation. In some states they are called “punitive” damages, as they are intended to punish wrongdoers and discourage conduct that led to the death. These can be very large awards at times, especially in situations where the defendant acted in a grossly negligent or reckless manner, which caused the death.
How Our Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help You
When you hire Seerden Law Firm, PLLC, you can immediately take comfort knowing you have a trained and experienced legal team on your side. Only 2 percent of all lawyers in Texas hold Board Certification as a personal injury trial lawyer. Andrew Seerden has the experience in and out of the courtroom to help you recover compensation.
Here are just a few of the ways we work to help our clients:
- No-cost Consultations. From our Houston office, we can meet and discuss your case individually. If you are grieving the catastrophic loss of a loved one, you want an attorney who can look you in the eye and listen empathetically to your story. We will get to know you and your case so that we can help you make strategic choices going forward. We never charge for a consultation, and we only take an attorney fee if we succeed.
- No-Cost Investigations. We also don’t charge our clients upfront costs for performing a thorough investigation of the case. We typically need to pull medical records, hire investigators, and retain experts to help us prove your case. We cover all these things on your behalf, and we only get our costs back if we recover compensation for you.
- Skilled Trial Lawyer. One of the best ways to settle a wrongful death case is to go into negotiations prepared for trial. Once a defense attorney and insurance company realize your attorney isn’t afraid to try the case before a jury, that’s when real settlement talks can happen. Otherwise, they have all the leverage. By hiring Seerden Law Firm, PLLC, you give yourself the competitive advantage.
Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Claims in Texas
Texas law allows you only two years from the date of death to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent party. That’s not very long when you really consider it. After all, most people who lose a parent, child or spouse will spend at least a few months just dealing with the immediate fallout, such as burial and funeral expenses, trying to deal with life insurance policies, final medical bills, and more. Then there are the stages of grief. People often spend upwards of a couple years just trying to return to a feeling of normal.
In the meantime, the insurance companies don’t wait. They kick into action, often hiding or burying critical evidence. Witnesses disappear, and time passes. The best way to protect your rights is to speak with a Houston wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. Obviously this can be emotionally challenging, but many people have reported feeling comforted and actually getting a bit of closure by speaking to an attorney.
Here are some benefits of talking to a wrongful death lawyer shortly after the death:
- Get answers about whether you have legal options.
- Put to rest concerns about legal rights.
- Find out exactly what the deadline would be if you decided to take action.
- If there’s no case, you can find out sooner.
- Avoid any chance of missing the statute of limitations.
- Learn about your options for paying final expenses and medical bills.
- Have an opportunity to tell your story to a compassionate person who can provide solutions.
Common Types of Fatal Injury Cases Our Law Firm Handles
While there are many ways that a person can die unexpectedly, perhaps the most common types of wrongful deaths are as follows:
- Car Accidents. Each year, about 36,000 people die from wrecks in this country. The vast majority of these deaths are completely avoidable. Bad drivers often take chances with their own lives and those of others by texting, talking on a handheld device, not paying attention, or even drinking and driving.
- Truck and Motorcycle Collisions. Much like car accidents, motorcycle and trucking crashes are particularly severe and can claim the lives of those involved. For motorcycle riders, there is very little protection to keep a rider from being killed in a crash. When a semi-truck collides with a passenger vehicle, the people in the car usually don’t stand a chance. What makes it worse is that trucking companies typically move very quickly to conceal evidence and avoid liability. In motorcycle crashes, insurance companies are quick to shift the blame to the rider, rather than accepting responsibility for their own insured’s negligence.
- Premises Liability Cases. Business owners are responsible for maintaining a safe and hazard-free environment on their properties. When a business invites the public onto its property, there is a duty to warn people of known dangers. Things like loose steps, improperly constructed railings, improperly designed balconies, and many other things can lead to horrific injuries and deaths. We’ve helped families who have lost loved ones due to falls, industrial injuries, and similar types of injuries as well.
- Medical Malpractice. Medical errors and physician negligence are also a major cause of wrongful death. When a healthcare provider provides careless or negligent care, it can actually make a person worse off than when they came for treatment. Whether the fatal injury occurred in a nursing home, hospital, assisted living facility, surgical center, or specialty facility, bad medical care can indeed be deadly.
Experience Counts in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
When it comes to fighting for the rights of surviving spouses, children, and parents, you need a trial lawyer who isn’t afraid to take on the large corporations and their powerful insurance carriers. Attorney Andrew Seerden has more than 20 years of legal experience, and he is committed to fighting for the rights of injured people and their families. At Seerden Law Firm, PLLC, you will always be kept in the loop, and you’ll always have a way to contact your attorney for information about your case.
We know that the choice of a Houston wrongful death attorney is very difficult, so we want to make it as easy as possible to get the help and information you need. To set up a free consultation and learn more about our firm, contact us online or by phone today. Remember, you only have a short time to take action, so don’t delay.