If you have lost a loved one to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, you are in an exceptionally difficult situation and may not know where to turn for the help you need. While you know that no amount of compensation can return your lost family member to you, you probably also recognize that just compensation can help you and your family face the difficult path forward. The legal mechanism for going after this compensation is called a wrongful death claim, and because one of the first questions you have may be how long will that take, better understanding the process can give you a better feel for the journey ahead. One of the most important steps anyone facing a wrongful death claim can take is consulting with an experienced Texas wrongful death attorney early in the process.
Table of Contents
- The Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Cases
- Factors that Can Affect Your Wrongful Death Case
- The Kind of Time frame You Can Reasonably Expect
- The Types of Compensation Available in Wrongful Death Cases
A statute of limitations refers to a time limitation defined by the law – after which you have no legal recourse on the matter. In the State of Texas, the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases is two years from the date of your loved one’s death (not from the date of the accident that ultimately proved fatal). Because wrongful death claims are exceptionally complicated and emotionally fraught, it is important to pay close attention to this relatively brief statute of limitations. The sooner you reach out to a dedicated Texas wrongful death attorney, the better protected your case will be.
The fact is that your wrongful death case will be utterly unique to you, the circumstances involved, and your specific situation. However, certain factors will play a role in how your wrongful death case is ultimately resolved.
In Texas, the only family members who can file a wrongful death case include the following:
- The decedent’s spouse
- The decedent’s children (including adoptive children)
- The decedent’s parents
It is important to note that adopted children cannot file wrongful death claims for the death of a biological parent. Additionally, unlike in many other states, siblings cannot file wrongful death cases in Texas.
[LEARN MORE]: Who Is Entitled to Wrongful Death Benefits?
Several factors will affect the amount of compensation you can recover in your wrongful death case, including:
- The decedent’s age at the time of death
- The decedent’s earning potential and profession
- The egregiousness of the at-fault party’s conduct
- Whether the decedent shared responsibility for the fatal accident
Sometimes, wrongful death cases the result of criminal actions that prove fatal, and in such instances, there can be both a criminal case brought by the state and a civil case brought by the decedent’s survivors. Often, it is best to address the matter of the civil case after a verdict has been rendered in the criminal case, but this is a determination best made by your seasoned Texas wrongful death attorney.
Because your wrongful death claim is unique, it is impossible to say exactly how long it will take to be resolved. There are factors, however, that can help move your case along.
Many wrongful death cases are settled prior to litigation at mediation. Mediation involves both sides – and their respective legal counsel – coming together and attempting to hammer out a resolution under the experienced guidance of a professional mediator. If your case is settled at mediation, you can expect a speedier conclusion.
While your case is likely to settle prior to litigation, preparing to go to trial can play a pivotal role in making this happen. By demonstrating that you are on top of your case and well prepared to move forward toward trial if the need arises, you let the at-fault party’s insurance company know that mediation is very likely in their best interest, which can also help speed the process along. It’s important to recognize, however, that preparing for trial is also time-consuming, so striking a balance is key to managing how long it will take for your case to be resolved.
Some insurance companies will stoop to deliberately slowing down the claims process, and while there are laws in place against such tactics and your attorney can skillfully fight them, they can drag the process out further. Also, if your case does go to trial, the court’s docket will play a considerable role in how far out your court date will be scheduled.
In your wrongful death claim, you will seek compensation for the damages – or losses – you’ve experienced, which can include all the following categories of loss:
- Your loved one’s lost earning capacity into the future
- The care, maintenance, services, advice, support, and counsel you and your family would have received had your loved one survived
- The mental pain, suffering, and anguish that you and your family suffered as a result of your loved one’s death
- The companionship, comfort, love, and society that you and your family lost as a result of your loved one’s death
- The inheritance you and your family members would likely have received if your lost loved one had lived to the age of life expectancy
These are the damages that are intended to compensate you and your family – as the survivors – but there are also damages available in relation to your loved one’s estate. These include those damages he or she could have recovered on had he or she survived to bring a personal injury claim, including:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with a Texas Wrongful Death Lawyer
If you have lost a loved one in an accident or due to the wrongful act of another, you should contact an attorney as soon as you can. To schedule a free case evaluation with a wrongful death lawyer in Texas, call our office at 361-400-2036 or contact us online.