Wrongful Death CaseFiling a Wrongful Death Case in Texas
Baumgartner Law Firm understands the importance of the grieving process. However, when a loved one dies, it can also cause significant financial hardship—and we want to do what we can to help you recover damages for your family member’s precipitate demise.
Every state has laws that hold persons or entities legally accountable for causing the death of another due to neglect, carelessness, or other reasons. These laws are designed to ease the financial burden on the victim’s families. This article examines how Texas defines a “wrongful death” as well as the Texas laws and process that could affect a wrongful death claim.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Texas
Texas Statute Section 71.002 states that if “neglect, a wrongful act, unskillfulness, carelessness, or default” by one party causes the death of another, a wrongful death claim if:
Further, Sec. 71.002 explains the Cause of Action as:
If liability exists under this section, a person is liable for damages arising from any injury that causes an individual’s death…[and] was caused by the person, his agent’s or servant’s wrongful act…[or] the injury was caused by an unsafe or harmful condition [of a utility or] machinery under the person’s control or operation.
The Process: Who May File a Texas Wrongful Death Claim?
Texas Wrongful Death Claim Law clearly defines who may file a claim as follows:
- Surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased–they may file the claim individually or as a group.
- If none of the above file a wrongful death claim within ninety days of the death, the deceased person’s representative or Executor of the Deceased’s Estate may file the claim
- A surviving family member may specifically request that the claim not be filed.
- Under particular circumstances, if the act or omission occurred in another state or a foreign country, it may still be possible to file a wrongful death claim in Texas.
- If a child was legally and fully adopted, they could file a wrongful death claim for the death of an adoptive parent.
- Adoptive parents are eligible to file a wrongful death claim on their adopted child
- An adopted child may not file a wrongful death claim of a biological parent
- Survivor siblings may not file a wrongful death claim for the loss of a biological or adopted sibling
Wrongful death is different from a criminal homicide case. In a criminal case, the charges are filed by the prosecuting attorney; the penalties for criminal homicide include probation, imprisonment, fines, or other sanctions. However, even if criminal charges are filed, a wrongful death claim may also be submitted.
Texas Wrongful Death Compensation and Damages
Damages awarded in a Texas wrongful death claim are paid to surviving family members or to the deceased’s estate; they are intended to compensate not only for financial losses but also:
- Emotional and mental suffering
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of inheritance they could have assembled had they lived an expected lifetime
- Loss of love, companionship, and comfort
- Medical bills related to the injury that resulted in the death
In Texas, Exemplary Damages (known as punitive damages in other states) may be awarded if a fatality is caused by gross negligence or a willful act or omission. The intended purpose of awarding punitive damages is not to cover financial losses, but rather, to punish an individual or entity and to deter similarly egregious behavior in the future.
Common wrongful death incidents include:
- Construction Accidents
- Criminal Acts
- Dangerous Chemicals
- Equipment failure
In a wrongful death claim, damages awarded are divided proportionately amongst the surviving family members–the court determines these proportions.
Need an Attorney for Wrongful Death
Houston Car Accident Claims:From Start To Finish
An Interactive Guide
You hear metal crumpling. Someone just hit your car. Maybe they ran a red light or lost control of their vehicle. Maybe you were rear-ended by a teenage driver on her cellphone.
Either way, you’re angry and frustrated. You have things to do. Places to go. But now, you're standing beside your damaged vehicle waiting for the police to arrive. You start to feel some neck pain.
All that to say: A single, unexpected moment changed everything.
A car accident can strike at any time. Whether you are on your way to work or headed to the store, it doesn’t matter. It’s moments like these that cause the government to require everyone to buy insurance.
A Guide For All Car Accident Victims
In this guide, you will learn:
- How To Handle Yourself When Disaster Strikes
- How To Ensure The At-Fault Insurance Company Covers Any Property Damage And Injury Expenses.
- What Injury Lawyers Do And How They Can Help You.
Get To Safety
Prevent Further Damage & Injury
If you find yourself in the middle of the intersection or on the freeway, you first priority is to move all persons (and vehicles if possible) out of the way of oncoming oncoming traffic.
Survey The Damage
Call The Police + Gather Evidence
After getting to safety, you should immediately dial 911. Make sure to alert the dispatcher if there are any serious injuries.
As you wait for help to arrive, you have 3 goals:
- Identify Extent of Injuries
- Identify Witnesses
- Identify Vehicle Damage
Pro Tip: Use your cell phone to record a statement from the other driver, as well as to store contact information for the other driver and any witnesses.
Should I Take?
Take Photos Of The
Other Driver's License
Damage On Both Vehicles
License Plate Of
Insurance Policy Of Other Driver
Get Medical Help
Your Health Is #1
After emergency help arrives, it is important to seek medical treatment. Even if you don’t feel injured, it is important to get checked out for any internal injuries.
Be sure to go in for any follow-up checkups or procedures.
Pro Tip: If you wait before seeking medical treatment, the at-fault insurance company may argue that your injury wasn’t serious and that you don’t deserve compensation for medical expenses.
- Internal Bleeding
- Broken Ribs
- Punctured Lungs
Whiplash is caused by a sudden forward or backward jerking motion of the head, which can damage the intervertabral joints, discs, ligaments, cervical muscles and nerve roots. Symptoms of whiplash manifest in neck pain, dizziness, sleep disturbances, fatigue, headache, lower back pain and sometimes numbness in the arm or hand.
Internal bleeding is caused by blunt trauma, and varies depending on the forces involved and the individual. It cannot be seen outside of the body, and it may occur within organs, tissues and body cavities including the abdomend, chest, spinal canal and head.
It takes aproximately 4,000 Newtons (measurement of force) to break or crack a rib. The symptoms of a broken rib include pain while breathing, applying pressure to the area, and when you bend or twist your body. Ribs are often broken by the force of the seabelt during deceleration of the vehicle during a crash.
Puncturing a lung can be a serious injury. In a punctured lung, air gathers between the lungs and the chest cavity. The pressure build up makes it impossible for the lung to expand. Symptoms include coughing blood, chest pain, difficulty breathing, dizziness and headaches.
Hire An Injury Lawyer
Save Time. Get Compensated.
Hiring an injury lawyer after a serious accident is one of the best things you can do. Injury lawyers take care of all communication and negotiation with insurance companies. This frees up your time to focus on recovering.
At our law firm, we offer free initial consultations to all Houston residents. Just fill out our contact form — or give us a call to schedule a convenient time for you. We’ll listen to your story and offer our advice.
Pro Tip: Never accept a settlement without consulting a lawyer, especially if injury is involved. Once you accept a settlement, you can never recover anything further in the future.
Time Is Of The Essence
In most cases, you have 2 years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. This is called the Statute of Limitations.
Certain exceptions can extend and/or shorten a limitations period.
If the victim is a minor, the limitations may be extended until they are 18 years old.
If you are in an accident caused by a governmental entity in Texas, the statute of limitations may be much shorter — ranging from a few months to six months.
File Your Claim
Notify Your Insurance Company
It is important to notify your insurance company about the accident as soon as possible.
Many insurance companies allow you to file your claim online. Otherwise, call the number listed on your insurance card.
Be sure to keep track of all adjuster names and contact information.
Pro Tip: There may be multiple active insurance policies that can cover you. For example, if the other driver didn’t have insurance, your own Uninsured Motorist coverage could kick in. An experienced attorney can help identify these policies & maximize your recovery.
Find Your Insurance Company
Find Your Insurance Company Contact Info
Learn Fault Factors
How Fault Is Determined
Were you speeding? Nearly one-third of all car accidents can be attributed to speeding.
Was anything obstructing your view? Over half of all states have windshield obstructions laws.
What were the weather conditions? Slippery roads can reduce traction and cause you to lose control of the vehicle.
Who had the right of way? The law gives the right of way to no one, but it does state who must yield (give up) the right of way.
What were the Traffic Conditions? Crashes of all types are at their highest Monday through Friday between the hours of 4:00-6:00 p.m.
Were you distracted? (Radio, Phone) Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving.
Were you wearing a seatbelt? Seat belt use is one of the most effective ways to save lives and reduce injuries in crashes.
Was a citation given out? In most instances, any driver violating traffic law will be held largely responsible for a resulting car accident.
Pro Tip: Do not give any recorded statements until you have the opportunity to consult with legal counsel.
Schedule a Free Strategy Session
Been in an accident? We’re here to help. Fill out the information below to arrange a free consultation
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Texas Wrongful Death Claim
Texas has a specific statute of limitations for filing a claim–two years unless one of the clearly defined exceptions apply. For more information and details, talk to an experienced Texas wrongful death lawyer at Baumgartner Law Firm
Settling A Claim
Wrongful death claims typically take years to settle—the average claim takes between 1-4 years, if not more. However, if the insurance company offers a low settlement and you accept when the case involves minors, the petition may take from a few weeks up to a couple of months. We highly recommend contacting our firm for a free consultation before agreeing to any amount the insurance company may offer.
If you believe you may have a legitimate wrongful death claim and would like more information about the Texas Statue on Wrongful Death or have questions about filing a wrongful death claim, the attorneys at Baumgartner Law Firm can assist with your case.
Baumgartner Law Firm has been winning record multi-million-dollar settlements for decades. We are deeply knowledgeable about the process of a wrongful death lawsuit, identifying potential defendants, and negotiating with the defendant’s insurance companies. We have been protecting the survivors of wrongful death victims in and Texas for over 35 years, fighting for and getting maximum compensation in every case.
We selectively represent accept cases to best represent our clients…and unless we win, we don’t get paid. Contact us for your free consultation today.