Houston Wrongful Death Lawyer
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- The Legal Process For Wrongful Death Cases
- Types Of Wrongful Death Cases
- Damages Available In Wrongful Death Suits
- Finding An Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer
- Common Pitfalls To Avoid
- Call Us Today To Schedule A Free Consultation With A Houston Wrongful Death Lawyer
- Frequently Asked Questions About Wrongful Death
- Contact Our Houston Wrongful Death Lawyer
When it comes to accidents that can cause a person’s death, motor vehicle accidents are certainly one common cause and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) reported that the Fatality Rate on Texas roadways for 2021 was 1.56 deaths per hundred million vehicle miles traveled, which was a 4.17 percent increase from 2020, and there was also an increase in the number of motor vehicle traffic fatalities with the 4,489 people dying in 2021 being a 15.22 percent increase from the 3,896 deaths in 2020.
The 2020 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries from the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation shows there were 469 fatal occupational injuries in Texas in 2020, 139 less than 2019 and a 23 percent decrease, although the incident rate for fatalities in Texas was 3.9 per 100,000 full-time employees in 2020, still higher than the national average of 3.4.
People can die in a wide variety of possible accidents in Texas, and family members left behind often have the right to seek compensation for their losses. Individuals will only have a limited amount of time to take legal action, so it becomes imperative for a person to contact The Patel Firm as soon as possible to protect their legal rights.
The Legal Process for Wrongful Death Cases
The wrongful death process in Texas can be complicated to people who are not fully aware of many of the requirements. In general, a wrongful death case is going to involve the following steps:
1. Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
Chapter 71 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code establishes that an action for actual damages arising from an injury causing a person’s death can be brought when liability exists, and a person becomes liable for damages arising from an injury causing death when the injury was caused by a person’s or their agent’s or servant’s wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default. Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 71.004 establishes that an action to recover damages will be for the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased, and any of these parties can bring an action on their own or for the benefit of all.
2. Determining Liability
Proving liability for a wrongful death is going to require a person to prove that another party acted negligently, the negligence represented a breach of duty, the negligence caused the death of a loved one, and that death has resulted in real damages. It is important to understand that many wrongful death cases have the potential to result in criminal and civil cases, but the civil case is the only one concerned with recovering compensation for families and the burden of proof will be much lower because people only need to prove liability by a preponderance of the evidence, essentially meaning “more likely than not.”
Types of Wrongful Death Cases
People can be killed in a wide assortment of different accidents. The Patel Firm has experience representing people in all kinds of wrongful death cases, including:
1. Car Accidents
The car crash is undoubtedly one of the most common causes of wrongful death claims because so many people die in countless automobile accidents every day. Insurance companies are not always quick to offer people appropriate compensation in these cases because many times they will attempt to argue a deceased person was somehow at fault.
2. Medical Malpractice
Medical errors can have fatal results in some cases, and medical malpractice cases are some of the most difficult claims for people to handle in Texas because state lawmakers have tried to make it more difficult for people to hold negligent health care providers accountable. Texas has actually placed a limit or “cap” on damages in medical malpractice cases such that awards cannot be more than $250,000 in cases against single hospitals or doctors, or $500,000 in cases involving multiple parties.
3. Criminal Activity
Prosecutors could file criminal charges against negligent parties for murder, manslaughter, or criminally negligent homicide in certain wrongful death cases. It is again important for family members to understand that criminal cases are completely separate from civil cases, so a person being acquitted or having criminal charges thrown out does not avoid civil liability, as was the case with former professional football star O.J. Simpson, who was found not guilty of murdering his wife, Nicole Brown, and her companion, Ronald Goldman but later had a civil jury later find him liable for the wrongful death of and battery against Goldman and battery against Brown, ordering him to pay $33.5 million in damages.
4. Dangerous Property Conditions
Many fatal accidents involve dangerous circumstances on public property, and these types of cases are always challenging for the families left behind because even though they know that a property owner was at fault for not correcting a hazard or warning people about it, insurance companies are certain to claim that victims themselves were responsible for their own deaths. When you hire an experienced lawyer in these cases, they will know how to prove another party was at fault.
5. Fire and Explosive Accidents
A fire or explosion is obviously a horrific cause of death, and the parties responsible for causing fires or explosions could ultimately be liable for a person’s death. In 2020, KTRK-TV reported that the family of a victim killed in a Watson Grinding and Manufacturing explosion filed a lawsuit against the company claiming wrongful death.
6. Workplace Accidents
It is an unfortunate truth in Texas that many people end up being killed in their places of work while they are on the job. Many employers become liable in these cases, so people will want to be sure to retain legal counsel for help holding negligent companies accountable.
7. Vehicle Accidents
In addition to the aforementioned car accidents, there are a wide variety of other motor vehicle accidents that can cause death. Some of the most common examples include commercial truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, bicycle accidents, train accidents, and bus accidents.
When the negligence of any person causes the death of another person, then the negligent party can become liable for damages. Negligence refers to the cause of action under tort law that defines behaviors falling below a required legal standard for the protection of people against unreasonable or unsafe risks of harm.
9. Aviation Accidents
Discussion of aviation accidents often focuses on plane crashes, but the truth is there are other types of incidents that can also cause the death of other people. Different kinds of planes can be dealing with different kinds of issues, including pilot error, bad weather, or defective parts.
Damages Available in Wrongful Death Suits
Many people want to know how much money their wrongful death cases are worth, and the answer is always tricky because in many cases, it will be a judge or jury that ultimately makes that determination. People are usually entitled to certain damages that may include:
1. Compensatory Damages
A person’s compensatory damages are usually some combination of economic damages and noneconomic damages. Economic damages refer to the kinds of costs that can be proven and calculated, such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage, while noneconomic damages are extremely subjective and relate more to pain and suffering, emotional distress, and disfigurement.
2. Punitive Damages
Under the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, punitive damages are known as defines exemplary damages and can only be awarded as a penalty or by way of punishment because they are not intended to be for compensatory purposes. Punitive damages are a way of punishing people for certain conduct, and awards will have a maximum of either two times the amount of economic damages plus the amount equal to non-economic damages not to exceed $750,000 or $200,000, whichever is greater.
Finding an Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer
It is by no means easy for a person to find the right wrongful death attorney for their case, but most people who invest the necessary time and effort into their search will ultimately be pleased. You can help your own search by keeping the following advice in mind:
1. Evaluating Qualifications
Most any lawyer in Texas is going to have a bachelor’s degree as well as a Juris Doctor they received from some law school. They also must pass the state bar exam, take an oath, and be licensed to practice law in their jurisdiction.
2. Tips for Interviewing Prospective Attorneys
When people are seeking legal representation, they will want to ask a lawyer about complex legal issues they have worked on and how they resolved the problems as well as what their negotiation process is. It can also be beneficial to ask an attorney what their most significant professional accomplishment has been thus far and what they have learned from the cases that did not go well
Common Pitfalls to Avoid
People in wrongful death situations need to understand that there can be disastrous consequences to not handling a case properly. You will want to make sure that you avoid these two common mistakes:
1. Working with Unqualified Attorneys
Some people will be in a rush to secure legal counsel and do not take the necessary time to appropriately vet their lawyer’s experience. This can be a mistake when a person hires an attorney to handle a wrongful death case but the lawyer is not accustomed to moving forward with these cases because the case could stall and there may be no resolution.
2. Missing Statute of Limitations
People will only have two years from the date of a person’s death (not necessarily the same as the date of an accident) to file a wrongful death claim. Many families are too overwhelmed with grief to be concerned about legal action, but you must speak to somebody as soon as possible because delaying too long may not give an attorney enough time to adequately investigate the case and people may not be able to find legal representation.
Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with a Houston Wrongful Death Lawyer
If your loved one was killed in any kind of accident in the greater Houston area of Texas, you absolutely deserve answers and help recovering every dollar that you are now going to have to be spending because of the death. The Patel Firm understands how difficult wrongful death cases can be for people and we take the time to explain everything that is happening with a case so our clients are always fully informed about their rights and know what is going on with their cases.
Our firm works tirelessly in these cases to make sure that people are able to get every last dollar that is available to them. You may call (713) 539-1115 or contact us online to arrange a free consultation with our Houston wrongful death lawyer
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Wrongful Death
What is wrongful death?
Deaths are deemed wrongful when they are the result of injuries causing death, injuries caused by wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, or unskillfulness, or the injured party would have been able to file a personal injury action against the negligent party. The wrongful death claim is, in essence, the personal injury claim a deceased person would have filed had they survived.
What is a wrongful death lawyer?
A wrongful death attorney is the legal professional who helps families who have lost loved ones recover the compensation they need and deserve for their loved one’s death. The lawyer is going to conduct their own independent investigation into a person’s death and will know how to work to achieve either a settlement or jury award.
What types of cases does a wrongful death lawyer in Houston handle?
Many wrongful death attorneys in Texas handle a wide variety of possible wrongful death cases, with car accidents, medical malpractice, criminal activity, dangerous property conditions, fires and explosive accidents, workplace accidents, other vehicle accidents, and aviation accidents being among the most common. Other common causes can include bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, defective products, motorcycle accidents, boat accidents, and premises liability.
What compensation can a wrongful death lawyer in Houston help me get?
Most wrongful death cases result in people being awarded the aforementioned compensatory damages that are intended to help families be restored to their original conditions or as close as possible thereto. A very limited number of cases can also result in punitive damages when a death was the result of extreme recklessness.
How long does a wrongful death case take to resolve?
There is no hard and fast rule for the amount of time it will take to reach the end of a wrongful death case. It is certainly possible that an insurance company may agree to a settlement amount very quickly within a matter of only weeks, but it is far more likely that settlement negotiations will take several months, possibly even years.
What should I do if I need a wrongful death attorney?
When a person needs to hire a wrongful death lawyer, the first thing they should do is take advantage of what are usually free consultations. These opportunities will allow people to sit down with attorneys to discuss their case and get answers to their most pressing questions.
What is the difference between wrongful death and negligence?
When you are discussing wrongful death, you are talking about a legal remedy while negligence is a form of liability relating to a wrongful death claim. Negligence often ends up being central to most wrongful death claims.
How much compensation can you get for wrongful death?
Compensation is often unlimited in most Texas legal cases, but there are the aforementioned damage caps when it comes to punitive damages and medical malpractice cases. Texas also limits compensation in cases in which governmental entities are liable, as the limit will be $250,000 per person or $500,000 per incident.
What does liable for wrongful death mean?
Wrongful death cases are civil causes of action brought by family members and dependents against other parties who either knowingly or negligently caused the death of another person, and there is again a lower burden of proof in civil cases to prove another party was liable. When a person is liable for a wrongful death, they become responsible for paying the family or dependents the appropriate damages.
Who can claim damages in a wrongful death case?
It is important to remember that Texas limits wrongful death actions to surviving spouses, children, and parents of a deceased person. This means that siblings and other relatives do not have the power to pursue damages in these cases.
Contact Our Houston Wrongful Death Lawyer
Was your loved one killed in any kind of accident in the greater Houston area of Texas? Get in touch with The Patel Firm right away and call (713) 539-1115 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with our Houston wrongful death lawyer.