Every day in Fort Worth, someone loses their life in an unexpected, preventable accident. You hear about it on the news and hope you are never on the receiving end of such a tragedy. But then, one day, you are. You receive a call that your loved one was killed, and suddenly, you are shoved into a world of grief, confusion, helplessness, and anger. Our Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer is available to help with recovery and to hold people and corporations accountable for their wrongdoings.
If your family member died due to someone’s negligence or wrongful act, you may have a legal claim against the responsible party. You may be entitled to monetary damages for your losses, including medical and funeral expenses, lost wages and benefits, and pain and suffering.
In this article, our experienced Fort Worth wrongful death lawyers answer common questions about wrongful death lawsuits and explain how our team can help you through this extremely difficult time. You are not alone.
What is a wrongful death in Texas?
In Texas, a wrongful death occurs when someone dies due to a party’s:
- wrongful act,
- unskillfulness, or
This definition can be found in Chapter 71 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, commonly referred to as “Texas’ Wrongful Death Statute” or “Texas Wrongful Death Act.” This statute allows survivors to file a civil lawsuit against the individual, company, professional, or government agency responsible for their family member’s untimely death.
What are the most common causes of wrongful death claims in Texas?
Wrongful death cases that our Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer handles can be broken down into three types:
Negligence-based cases, medical malpractice, and intentional acts.
They include but are not limited to:
- Traffic fatalities, including drunk driving and distracted driving;
- Big rig (18-wheeler) fatalities;
- Motorcycle or bicycle fatalities;
- Auto-pedestrian fatalities;
- Boating fatalities;
- Train fatalities;
- Plane fatalities;
- Workplace fatalities;
- Construction site fatalities;
- Doctor or hospital malpractice;
- Jail or prison deaths;
- Industrial fatalities;
- Defective product deaths.
What’s the difference between a personal injury lawsuit and a wrongful death suit?
Wrongful death is similar to a personal injury lawsuit with one major caveat: the victim dies. A personal injury lawsuit is a civil claim filed by an accident victim against the negligent party who caused them injury. A wrongful death lawsuit, on the other hand, is a civil action brought forth by surviving family members after the death of their loved one.
In both claims, the plaintiff(s) must prove that the defendant’s wrongful act, negligence, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default led to the accident and resulting injuries or death.
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas?
According to Section 71.004 of Texas’ Wrongful Death Statute, only the surviving spouse, children, or parents of the deceased can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. The parties can file a claim individually or together. If the family doesn’t file a lawsuit within three months, the personal executor or administrator of the deceased estate may file the suit – unless the family has given them specific instructions not to do so.
So a sibling can’t bring a wrongful death action in Texas?
Unfortunately, no. Under Texas law, siblings are not included in the list of survivors who can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.
Who are the parties in a wrongful death case?
The person(s) who brings the lawsuit is called a plaintiff(s). The person or entity against whom the claim is brought is called a defendant.
How long do you have to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Fort Worth?
In Texas, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim is two years from the date of death. In other words, you have two years from the date that your loved one died to file a lawsuit. If you do not file your claim within this time period, you will lose your legal right to bring that action. A Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer at Varghese Summersett is standing by to help you start this process.
So how are wrongful death lawsuits resolved? Will I have to go to trial?
Wrongful death lawsuits are typically resolved through negotiation and settlement with the defendant’s insurance company. In fact, most civil cases in Texas – including wrongful death suits – are settled out of court. However, if a fair settlement can’t be reached, then the case will go to trial.
At Varghese Summersett, we will fight for the compensation and justice the victim’s family deserves. If that means going to trial, we’re ready. Our Fort Worth wrongful death lawyers have a proven track record of success in and out of the courtroom. We will do everything in our power to get you the best possible outcome.
Does a judge or jury decide wrongful death in Texas if it goes to trial?
A jury – not the judge – will ultimately decide whether the defendant is liable for the death of the victim and, if so, how much money to award the plaintiff(s). The jury will receive instructions and guidance from the judge based on the law.
How do you prove negligence in a wrongful death case in Texas?
In Texas, negligence is the basis for most wrongful death claims. Negligence occurs when a person or entity fails to exercise the level of care that a reasonable person would under similar circumstances. For a jury to find negligence and award compensation, there are four elements that the plaintiff’s attorney must prove:
- A legal duty of care was owed: The responsible party owed a duty of care to the deceased. For example, motorists have a duty to operate their vehicles in a reasonably safe manner.
- This duty of care was breached: The responsible party breached or violated this duty of care through some negligent act or omission. For example, a motorist drove under the influence.
- The breach of duty caused injury or death: For example, a motorist drove intoxicated and caused a wreck in which someone died.
- Monetary damages occurred: The plaintiff(s) suffered quantifiable damages due to the death of their loved ones, such as funeral or burial expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
What kind of damages can survivors recover in a Texas wrongful death suit?
In Texas, there are two types of compensatory damages that can be awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit: economic damages and non-economic damages
- Economic Damages: These are damages that are meant to compensate a plaintiff for an actual monetary or pecuniary loss, such as funeral and burial expenses, and lost earning capacity.
- Non-Economic Damages: These are damages that don’t have a specific monetary value but are meant to compensate a plaintiff for intangible losses, such as pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and mental anguish.
Below are specific types of economic and non-economic damages that may be awarded in a wrongful death case in Texas handled by our Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer:
- Pecuniary Losses – This type of economic damage refers to the loss of care, maintenance, support, services, advice, and counsel that the survivor(s) would have received from the victim if they had lived.
- Mental Anguish – This type of non-economic damage refers to the survivor(s) emotional pain, torment, and suffering caused by the death of a family member.
- Loss of Companionship and Society – This type of non-economic damage refers to the positive benefits flowing from the love, comfort, companionship, and society that the survivor(s) would have received from the victim if they had lived.
- Loss of Inheritance – This type of economic damage refers to the loss in value of assets that the victim would have likely added to the estate and left to the survivor(s) in the event of natural death.
Can exemplary (or punitive) damages be awarded in a Fort Worth wrongful death case?
It’s possible. Plaintiff’s attorneys can seek exemplary (or punitive) damages if the death was caused by the willful act or omission or gross negligence of the defendant. Often, punitive damages are awarded to punish or make an example out of a defendant in a wrongful death case. Punitive damages are not intended to compensate the family for the expenses and loss of their loved one. Punitive damages are intended to send a message or put an exclamation mark on the jury’s verdict, usually in a particularly egregious case.
Is there a cap on the amount of money that can be awarded?
It depends on the type of wrongful death case. For example, if it is a medical malpractice case or involves a government organization, there is a cap on the amount of damages that can be awarded. A Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer on our team can explain the type of damages that are available in your specific case and whether there are any limitations.
Who decides how the compensation is divided?
If the case goes to trial, the jury has the difficult job of deciding how to apportion the damages among the surviving family members. Generally speaking, jurors give the most compensation to the:
- Surviving spouse;
- Minor children who lost a parent;
- Parents who lost a minor child.
How is compensation divided if the case is settled out of court?
If the case is settled, the adult beneficiaries decide how to divide the proceeds. It they can’t agree, your lawyers will intervene to help fairly distribute the award based on previous cases in which juries divided money under similar facts and circumstances.
What happens if you accept a settlement offer in a Fort Worth wrongful death case?
In most cases, once you accept a settlement offer in a wrongful death case, that’s the end of it. You can’t go back and ask for more money later if it turns out the settlement wasn’t enough to cover all the damages suffered. So, it’s important to have an experienced Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer on your side every step of the way to make sure you receive enough compensation to cover all of your losses.
How is wrongful death lawsuit different than a survival lawsuit?
The biggest difference between a wrongful death claim and a survival action is the purpose of the compensation and the recipients of the damages. In a wrongful death suit, damages go directly to the surviving relatives. In a survival action, damages go to the deceased’s estate for distribution, not directly to surviving family members.
Wrongful death benefits are governed by Section 71.004 of the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code, which gives the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased a wrongful death cause of action for their own damages. In other words, if this lawsuit is successful, family members can receive compensation for personal losses as a result of their loved one’s death, such as medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, and loss of love, companionship, guidance, and financial support.
Survival death benefits are governed by Section 71.021 of the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code, which gives heirs, legal representatives, and the estate of a deceased a survival cause of action. This type of suit allows survivors to sue for pain and suffering incurred by the deceased after the accident but before they passed away. Think of it as the victim’s personal injury claim if they had lived. The damages reflect the compensation the victim would have received if he or she hadn’t died of his or her injuries. This type of claim can be filed before the death occurred, and the compensation focuses on the deceased losses and are payable to his or her estate.
Wrongful death and survival actions are different types of legal recourse for negligence-based deaths. In some instances, both can be pursued. It is complicated to understand the difference between the two, so it’s essential to speak with a Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer to help you understand your legal options and which type of claim is right for your situation.
How do I know if I have a wrongful death case?
Our Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer on our team can investigate the circumstances of your loved one’s death and help you determine whether you have a case. If we believe you have a case, we will advise you on how to move forward.
How much will a Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer cost?
When a loved one dies because of someone else’s negligence, the last thing you want to worry about is whether you can afford a Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer. We understand. We work on a contingency basis, which means we don’t get paid unless you get paid.
If we are successful, we collect a portion of the settlement or verdict. If we are not successful, you don’t owe us anything.
What are the advantages of a contingency fee agreement?
There are benefits to working with a Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer on a contingency basis. First, you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to pay a lawyer upfront. Second, it gives us an incentive to get the best possible result for our clients because our success is directly tied to the amount of the award.
What are the next steps if I’m thinking about filing a wrongful death suit?
If you think you may have a wrongful death case, the best thing to do is to reach out to a Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. The sooner you get started, the better. We can investigate the circumstances of your loved one’s death to determine if you have a case. If so, we will handle everything so you can focus on what’s important – taking care of yourself and your family.
How long does a Fort Worth wrongful death case take?
The duration of a Fort Worth wrongful death case depends upon the complexity of the case, the number of defendants, and whether or not the case goes to trial. In general, a Fort Worth wrongful death case can take anywhere from one to two years to resolve.
How long does it take to receive compensation after a Fort Worth wrongful death case is resolved?
It generally doesn’t take too long to receive compensation after a Fort Worth wrongful death case is resolved. It usually takes around six to eight weeks, although the timeline can be moved forward or back depending on the facts and circumstances.
How will a Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer work on my case?
The Fort Worth wrongful death lawyers at Varghese Summersett will handle every aspect of your case from start to finish. This includes investigating the accident, gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, filing the lawsuit, and taking your case to trial, if necessary. You can focus on grieving and let us handle the rest.
What are the key things I need to do to make sure my Fort Worth wrongful death case is successful?
There are a few key things you should do if you want to improve the chances of success in your Fort Worth wrongful death case:
- Hire an experienced Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer.
- Cooperate with your Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer and provide them with all the information and evidence they need to build a strong case.
- Be patient – these cases can take time, but it will be worth it in the end and can help you move forward with your life.
Did your loved one die needlessly? Talk to a Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer today.
If you have experienced the recent unexpected death of a loved one, you are probably struggling to cope with your sadness and grief. You may also be feeling anger, frustration, and a sense of injustice.
You don’t know how to go on, but you must. You have to find a way to pick up the pieces and move forward. A Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer can help you do that.
Please call 817-203-4878 for a free consultation with an experienced Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer. We can’t bring back your family member but we can help make your life easier – the way your loved one would want you to.