Losing a loved one in an accident is one of the most horrific and shocking things that can happen. A wrongful death lawsuit imposes liability on the responsible parties and helps the family obtain compensation.
What Determines Liability and Losses in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit arises when a victim dies as a result of the negligence, fault, or recklessness of another party. Wrongful death lawsuits seek damages, or compensation, for the survivors’ loss. Generally, to prevail in a wrongful death lawsuit, you will need to prove both liability — that the other party is responsible for the death of your loved one — and damages, or losses you have suffered as a result of their death.
In some cases, multiple parties might be responsible for a wrongful death. For example, an accident might involve a commercial vehicle, such as an 18-wheeler, truck, or semi. While the commercial vehicle’s driver might be negligent, it is also possible that some liability rests with the trucking company, which can also be held responsible for the negligent actions of its employee. In cases such as this, an important decision is whether to file a claim against the driver, the trucking company, or both.
It is possible to sue multiple parties and hold each of them liable, depending on their respective levels of responsibility. Generally, if the case goes to trial, the jury will determine how liability should be apportioned, and to what extent each of the parties should be responsible for the injuries and damages suffered.
Additionally, in some cases, it is necessary to file a claim against both the parties responsible and their insurance company. Insurance policies have coverage limits, and if your damages exceed those limits, it may be necessary to sue both the insurer and the party, holding the party personally responsible for the difference. When multiple parties are involved, the case becomes invariably more complex, and hiring a knowledgeable personal injury attorney is a must.
Who Can File This Type of Suit?
Typically, a wrongful death suit may be filed by the surviving relatives or estate of the deceased. In Texas, wrongful death actions may be filed by the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased.
In order to bring a timely claim under the Texas statute of limitations, your case must be filed within two years of the date of death. To prevail on this claim, the family must prove that their loved one’s injury was caused by another person's or entity's "wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default," and that their loved one would have been entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit had he or she survived.
What Kinds of Compensation Might be Available?
Damages in a wrongful death lawsuit fall into several categories. First, the family may recover their loved one’s lost earning capacity: the wages they would have garnered, had they been alive. They may recover lost inheritance or the amount the deceased would have saved and left to the family. The family may also recover the loss of the care, support, and maintenance their loved one would have provided, had it not been for their untimely death. Mental anguish, psychological trauma, and the loss of love, comfort, and companionship are also types of damages sought in many wrongful death claims.
In addition to wrongful death damages, the family may also have a potential survival claim, which allows you to pursue the personal injury claim that your loved one could have brought during their lifetime. A survival claim, which is different from a wrongful death lawsuit, exists when the deceased would have been able to pursue a valid claim — for example, where your loved one suffered from the accident before ultimately succumbing to their injuries.
How Can the Francis Firm Help?
A wrongful death lawsuit is one of the most complex and involved areas of personal injury law. In addition to having to prove the wrongdoer’s liability for your loved one’s death, you must also clearly prove the damages the family has suffered as a result. These types of claims typically entail extensive settlement negotiations, sometimes having to go up against large insurance companies that have significantly more resources than the victim’s family.
An experienced wrongful death attorney can not only assist not with settlement negotiations but also represent your claim in court, should you need to go to trial. Your attorney can maximize your chances of a payout with their understanding of the law and its application to your case, their familiarity with the claims process, and their knowledge of the procedures involved.At The Francis Firm, we believe that when a family member dies in a preventable accident, whoever caused that accident should be held liable for the damages that result to surviving family members. Please contact us for a free consultation to discuss your case.