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The Process of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas

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Home » Helpful Houston Personal Injury Information » The Process of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas

Losing a loved one is one of the most stressful situations in life. It can be even more difficult when someone else’s negligence caused their death. A wrongful death lawsuit may be necessary to seek justice and compensation for the loss of your loved one. The timing of a wrongful death case can last from 6 months to 2 years on average.

The process of a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas

But what exactly does the process of a wrongful death lawsuit look like? Here is a Texas wrongful death lawsuit process, from the initial case evaluation to trial preparation.

Case Evaluation

The first step in the wrongful death lawsuit process in Texas is to consult a lawyer specializing in these cases. The lawyer will review the facts of the case and determine if there is enough evidence to support taking on a wrongful death claim.

The Houston wrongful death attorney will also assess the case’s viability, including damages that could be recovered. And outline the legal options available to the surviving family members. This initial consultation is free, and it is an essential step in starting the process of hiring a wrongful death attorney In Houston, TX.

Accident Investigation

Investigating a wrongful death claim includes gathering evidence, such as medical records, witness statements, and any other relevant documentation. The attorney will assess the strength of the evidence and evaluate whether it supports a claim for wrongful death.

During the investigation, the attorney may consult with experts, such as accident reconstruction specialists or medical professionals, to gather additional insights and opinions on the case. These experts can provide valuable expertise in determining the cause of death and identifying any negligent parties.

The attorney will also consider the potential damages that could be recovered in the lawsuit. Damages may include compensation for medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of income, companionship, consortium, and financial losses. By evaluating the facts and parties, the attorney can determine if a claim is financially viable for the surviving family members.

Overall, the attorney’s investigation is crucial in assessing the merits of a wrongful death claim. The investigation is to find evidence to support filing a lawsuit. It is an important step in seeking justice and holding the responsible parties accountable for their actions.

Notice of Claim

Providing notice of the claim to the defendant and asking the defendant to preserve evidence is an important step in a wrongful death lawsuit.

The purpose of this notice is to ensure that the defendant does not destroy or alter any evidence that could be crucial to the lawsuit. Preserving evidence is essential for both parties to have a fair chance of presenting their case in court. The notice also lets the defendant notify their insurance company of the claim.

Pre-Litigation Settlement Discussions

Pre-lawsuit settlement negotiations are an important step in the wrongful death lawsuit process. Before filing the lawsuit, the plaintiff’s attorney may discuss the possibility of settling with the defendant or their legal representative. These negotiations aim to resolve the case without going to trial, saving both parties time, money, and emotional stress.

During the pre-lawsuit settlement negotiations, the plaintiff’s attorney will present the facts supporting their case and the damages sought. The defendant may respond with their arguments, defenses, or counteroffers. The goal is to reach a mutually acceptable agreement that compensates the surviving family members for their loss and holds the defendant accountable for their actions.

Settlement negotiations can be conducted through various methods, such as direct communication between the attorneys, mediation, or arbitration. The parties may exchange settlement offers and negotiate to find common ground. If a settlement is reached, it is usually documented in a written agreement that outlines the terms and conditions of the settlement.

If the negotiations are unsuccessful, the plaintiff’s attorney may proceed with filing the lawsuit. However, successful settlement negotiations can save both parties the time, expense, and uncertainty of going through a trial.

Filing the Wrongful Death Lawsuit

If the lawyer determines that there is a strong case for a wrongful death lawsuit, they will file a wrongful death petition with the court on behalf of the surviving family members. This petition outlines the case details, how the defendant was negligent, including the cause of death, the responsible party, and the damages sought.

The defendant will then be served with the complaint and have 20 days to respond in Texas. The defendant’s response usually includes a general denial and often affirmative defenses claimed.

Discovery Phase

Once the lawsuit has been filed, both parties will enter the discovery phase. Discovery in Texas is where each side gathers evidence and information to support their case, which  may include:

  • Depositions: sworn statements from witnesses, experts, and parties involved in the case.
  • Interrogatories: written questions that must be answered under oath.
  • Requests for production: requests for documents or other evidence to be provided.
  • Requests for admission: requests for the other party to admit or deny certain facts.

The discovery phase can be lengthy, as both sides work to build their case and gather as much evidence as possible. Discovery in a wrongful death suit can last from 8 months to 1 year or more.

Mediation

After the discovery phase, the lawyers for both parties may engage in settlement negotiations in mediation. Harris County, Texas, courts often order mediation. Mediation uses an impartial person to bring the parties together to resolve the case before trial. The case will be resolved if a wrongful death settlement is reached, and the surviving family members will receive compensation for their loss.

Pre-Trial Motions

The case will proceed to trial if a settlement cannot be reached. Before the trial begins, both parties may file pre-trial motions. These are requests to the court to rule on certain issues before the trial begins.

For example, the defendant may file a motion for partial summary judgment, arguing that there is insufficient evidence for a wrongful death claim. At the same time, the plaintiff may move for summary judgment on some affirmative defenses or the lack of evidence for a third-party claim. The plaintiff or defendant may file a motion to exclude certain evidence from being presented at trial.

Jury Selection

In a wrongful death lawsuit, the case will be heard by a jury. Before the trial begins, the lawyers for both parties will have the opportunity to question potential jurors and select a jury that they believe will be impartial and fair.

Opening Statements

All parties in a wrongful death case are allowed an opening statement to the jury. The purpose of the opening statement is to educate the jury about what the party hopes to show in the case.

Trial

The trial is where both sides present their case to the jury. The plaintiff’s lawyer will present evidence and call witnesses to testify, while the defendant’s lawyer will do the same. Both sides will also be able to cross-examine the other party’s witnesses.

After all evidence has been presented, both sides will make closing arguments, and the jury will deliberate and reach a verdict.

Appeals

If the jury finds in favor of the plaintiff, the defendant may choose to appeal the decision. An appeal means a party asks a higher court to review the case and potentially overturn the verdict.

Contact A Texas Wrongful Death Lawyer for Help

Losing a loved one is never easy, and it can be even more difficult when someone else’s negligence causes their death. While a Houston wrongful death lawsuit can take time, it can help bring closure and justice for the surviving family members.

By understanding the process of a wrongful death lawsuit, you can be better prepared for what to expect and ensure that your loved one’s memory is honored through the legal process. If you believe you have a wrongful death case, don’t hesitate to seek the guidance of a qualified lawyer who can help you through the process and seek the justice your loved one deserves.

Contact a Texas Personal Injury Lawyer at Baumgartner Law Firm for a Free Consultation

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About Our Law Firm

Baumgartner Law Firm is a Houston personal injury law firm headed by Greg Baumgartner.

Our firm was established in 1985 and has helped thousands of injury victims get maximum compensation for their cases. If you have been injured in an accident in Houston, TX, contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. (281) 587-1111.

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