Houston Wrongful Death Lawyers
with Proven Results
In Houston, there were 176 fatal car accidents in 2012, 94 of which involved drunk drivers, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Drunk driving is just one example of a situation that can give rise to a wrongful death action. When a loved one dies, families can suffer real harm, especially if the family member was a primary financial provider. While legal action cannot bring the family member back, the law can provide compensation to begin to address the loss the family feels. Often a civil lawsuit is the only real justice available to a family.
Any death caused by the negligence of others, where negligence means failing to provide reasonable care to prevent harm, is a possible wrongful death lawsuit. Below are some common situations that lead to these types of lawsuits.
A wrongful death claim must prove that the defendant’s negligence was a cause of the death (there can be more than one cause) and the case is available only to family members such as parents, children and spouses. Different causes of death may have different standards of negligence.
For example, a dangerous product case may be based upon a design defect in the product or a manufacturing defect. A design defect is a condition, which makes the product unreasonably dangerous, considering the use of the product and the risks of its use. In order to prevail on a design defect clam, the plaintiff must show a safer alternative design, which would have reduced the risk of injury or death and also was economically and technically feasible at the time of the incident.
A wrongful death case frequently stems from a car accident and many times the fatal wreck was caused by a drunk driver.
Surviving family members should speak with an attorney about their case and the standards they must meet to establish liability. Only spouses, parents and children of the decedent are entitled to bring wrongful death claims in Texas.
Types of Wrongful Death Damages Recoverable in Texas
There are two different actions that surviving family members may pursue after an individual’s death. Survival actions can recover damages in cases where the deceased survived the accident and later passed away. They address compensation on behalf of the decedent, like pain and mental anguish, medical expenses, and funeral and burial expenses. Wrongful death cases are claims family members bring for their personal loss from the death of their loved one.
Some examples of wrongful death damages include:
- Pecuniary losses – These are the losses family members endure like loss of care, maintenance, support, services, advice, counsel and any contribution that the family member, in reasonable probability, would have received from the decedent.
- Loss of companionship and society – This refers to the loss of love, comfort and companionship that a family member is without because of the death.
- Mental anguish – This refers to the emotional pain and suffering a family member experiences because of the death of his or her loved one.
- Loss of inheritance – This is the present value of assets the decedent would have left to a family member as part of his or her estate.
Punitive damages may be available in some cases as well, but only in situations where the death was caused by a “willful act or omission or gross negligence of the defendant.” (Tex. Civ. Code Title 4 Sec. 71.009)