Losing a loved one is always difficult, but when a death occurs suddenly, with little to no warning, it can be even harder to process and accept. That is especially true when the actions of another party brought on a loss. Fortunately for families, wrongful death laws allow an avenue for legal recourse.
While nothing can truly compensate for the loss of someone you love, a wrongful death lawsuit can at least help mitigate some of the financial turmoil that an unexpected death often brings. Working with a skilled wrongful death attorney in Houston, Texas, is the best way for area residents to ensure they are treated fairly under the law.
Are wrongful death laws the same in every state?
All states allow family members to sue for wrongful death in an effort to recover damages when a party’s wrongful or negligent acts cause loss of life. It’s important to know, however, that each state has unique rules about how these types of lawsuits are handled.
Let’s begin by examining the similarities between states. All states allow family members to seek damages for medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, loss of wages, future earning capacity, and pain and suffering. Loved ones can also recover damages for loss of companionship, meaning the loss of their loved one’s comfort, love, and affection.
What differs from state to state is who can file a wrongful death lawsuit and how the settlement is distributed among family members. For example, in some states a “personal representative” of the deceased person must file a wrongful death lawsuit. A personal representative might be someone listed in a will, or it could be an individual appointed by a court of law.
In other states, certain family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Those individuals might include a spouse, child, parents, or even siblings. Some states even allow anyone connected to the decedent through blood or marriage to seek wrongful death damages.
How are wrongful death cases handled in Texas?
In the state of Texas, close family members are permitted to file a wrongful death case if the negligent or wrongful acts of another party caused the loss of life. This list includes spouses, parents, children. These relatives can file suit individually, or as a group.
Texas allows for both noneconomic and economic damages. Economic damages include things like medical bills and funeral expenses. Noneconomic damages cover things that don’t have distinct values, like loss of companionship and pain and suffering.
Texas is rare in that it allows for something called exemplary damages. As the name implies, these damages are awarded to make an example of the party whose actions caused the loss of life. These are punitive damages intended to punish the responsible party.
The state of Texas also outlines the timeframe in which a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed. In most cases, surviving loved ones have two years from the time of their loss to file a wrongful death lawsuit. There are certain exceptions to this rule, including when the lost loved one is a child.
Texas also allows a wrongful death to be filed if the decedent was a Texas resident, even if the loss of life occurred outside of state lines. This even applies to deaths that take place in other countries. Whether or not this provision applies in any given case depends on the details, so it’s important to work with an attorney experienced in how Texas handles wrongful death lawsuits.
What are my first steps in seeking wrongful death legal action?
Once you decide to move forward with a wrongful death action, your first step should be to contact a skilled wrongful death attorney in Houston, Texas. An attorney can listen to the circumstances that led to your loss and explain your rights under Texas law. This information can help you and your family decide if a wrongful death suit is the right course of action.
This initial meeting will also help you understand what to expect as a wrongful death lawsuit moves forward, which can go a long way toward reducing stress throughout the process. Be prepared to share the details of the death, as well as an overview of the expenses incurred as a result. It’s also helpful to bring a notebook to take notes during your meeting, as it’s easy to forget details once you are back home and trying to consider your options.
Partnering with a great wrongful death attorney can make it easier to navigate the intricacies of the Texas legal process. For most families, the peace of mind that comes with knowing your case is in the best of hands is well worth the investment placed in hiring an attorney to handle your wrongful death case.