Odessa Wrongful Death Lawyer
Nobody is ever planning for what they will do should their loved one die, but many people suddenly find themselves in that exact situation when an accident causes a person’s death. When you believe that an accident stemming from another party’s negligence is to blame for the death of your loved one, you will want to immediately contact an experienced Odessa wrongful death lawyer for help recovering as much financial compensation as possible.
Many insurance companies representing negligent parties in wrongful death cases will be quick to contact the victims left behind and claim that they are willing to help families deal with many of the costs they are now facing, but such insurers will instead focus on minimizing their costs and may only offer victims a fraction of what they are actually entitled to. You will want to retain legal counsel so you can be sure that you are getting every last dollar you need and deserve.
Have you been involved in a car accident in Odessa?
Reach out to our Odessa car accident lawyers at The Patel Firm today at 361-600-3632. We’re ready to hear your story. We don’t charge any upfront fees, and our consultations are always free of charge. If we find our services align with your needs and choose to take your case, we’ll promptly start striving to secure the compensation you rightly deserve.Need Assistance? Let’s Chat.
Wrongful Death Laws in Texas
Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 71.002 establishes that wrongful death is an injury causing a person’s death when the injury results from another person’s or their representative’s wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default. Under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 71.004, a wrongful death claim is for the exclusive benefit of a surviving spouse, children, or parents of a deceased person.
Surviving spouses, children, or parents are able to bring these actions individually or for the benefit of all parties. Siblings or friends of deceased people thus cannot file wrongful death actions.
If a surviving spouse, child, or parent of the deceased person does not begin an action within three months of a person’s death, then the deceased person’s executor or administrator will be allowed to file an action. Such actions, however, will not be allowable when a surviving spouse, children, and parents specifically request that the executor or administrator not do so.
Deaths resulting from willful acts, omissions, or gross negligence of defendants can mean possible awards of exemplary damages (better known as punitive damages) under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 71.009 in addition to any actual damages. It is Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 71.021 that establishes the Texas Survival Statute in which a cause of action for personal injury does not subside because of the death of an injured person or the death of a person liable for the injury, meaning personal injury actions survive to and in favor of a deceased person’s heirs, legal representatives, and estate against a liable people and their legal representatives and can proceed as though a liable person were still alive.
Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 16.003 establishes that individuals have to file suits within two years of the date of a person’s death. The date of a person’s death could be different from the date of an accident causing fatal injuries, as some people could see hospitalization for a period of several days or weeks before succumbing to their injuries.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death Cases
There are several different causes of wrongful deaths in Texas. A very common kind of wrongful death claim often involves workplace accidents.
Many people suffer fatal injuries while on the job, and it is possible that employers could be liable for fatal injuries. Even when an employer is not liable, there could be other third parties that bear liability.
Some of the other frequent causes of wrongful death claims include, but are not limited to:
- Car Accidents
- Uber, Lyft, and Rideshare Accidents
- Truck Accidents
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Bicycle Accidents
- Pedestrian Accidents
- Airline Accidents
- Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse
- Premises Liability Accidents
- Defective Product Accidents
- Medical Malpractice
- Maritime and Offshore Accidents
- Dog Bites
Difference Between Criminal Cases and Civil Cases
It is not uncommon for a wrongful death case to involve a negligent party facing criminal charges for the conduct causing another person’s death. Victims have very little control over criminal cases, and you should understand some of the other significant differences between a criminal case and a civil claim.
In a criminal case, a prosecutor for the state will have to have to prove that a negligent party was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, often considered one of the highest levels of proof. Your civil claim is only going to require you to prove that a negligent party was liable by a preponderance of the evidence, essentially meaning that they were “more likely than not” responsible for a death.
The difference is critical because it is always possible that a person could earn an acquittal as it relates to criminal charges but still be found civilly liable for damages. Remember that football star O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of murdering his wife, Nicole Brown, and her companion, Ronald Goldman, but a civil jury ultimately found him liable for both the wrongful death of and battery of Goldman and battery against Brown, resulting in a judgment of $33.5 million.
Wrongful Death Damages
Many wrongful death cases reach resolutions through settlements because insurance companies do not want to pay the high costs of taking cases to trial. Again, many insurers try to settle cases with victims early on before they have even had the chance to speak to an attorney in Odessa, but you should know you have the right to refuse these offers, and you should decline them because they are assuredly less than what you are entitled to.
If a wrongful death case does make it into court and a jury hears your case, they could award you compensatory damages. This term generally refers to a combination of economic damages and noneconomic damages.
Economic damages refer to tangible financial losses a family is experiencing. Noneconomic damages, on the other hand, are much more subjective kinds of non-pecuniary losses.
A common kind of economic damage can be the loss of a possible inheritance. Other types of economic damages may include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost benefits, including retirement and medical or health insurance
- Loss of household, parental, and spousal services
- Loss of earnings
- Mental health care costs for surviving family members
Noneconomic damages may include awards for a family’s loss of their decedent’s care, support, guidance, companionship, and love. Other examples of noneconomic damages might include:
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of counsel
- Loss of consortium
The financial compensation for a family in a wrongful death case cannot be subject to a decedent’s debts. This means that a person who leaves behind certain debts that their estate is dealing with cannot have a wrongful death settlement or award applied to these expenses.
Again, punitive or exemplary damages can also be possible in an extremely limited amount of cases. Exemplary damages intend more to be penalties or punishments for defendants than compensation for victims, so these awards only apply in cases in which the court wishes to send a message to the broader public about unacceptable forms of conduct by negligent parties.
Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 41.003 states that exemplary damages must be proven by clear and convincing evidence that harm was the result of fraud, malice, or gross negligence. Under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 41.008, exemplary damages cannot be more than two times the amount of economic damages plus an amount equal to any noneconomic damages up to $750,000 or $200,000, whichever is greater.
Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 41.001(6) defines fraud as any fraud other than constructive fraud. Fraud claims are relatively uncommon in wrongful death actions.
Malice is defined under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 41.001(7) as a specific intent to cause substantial harm or injury to a person. Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 41.001(11) defines gross negligence as being an act or omission that, when it is viewed objectively from the standpoint of a person at the time of the occurrence, involved some extreme degree of risk, considering both the probability and magnitude of possible harm to others, and of which a person had some actual, subjective awareness of such risk involved, but nevertheless proceeded with conscious indifference to the rights, safety, or welfare of others.
Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with an Odessa Wrongful Death Lawyer
Did your loved one die because of another party’s negligence in the Odessa area? You will want to be sure that you take the time to speak with The Patel Firm because we will take the time to thoroughly review your case and then work tirelessly to ensure that you are able to recover every last dollar that is available to you.
Our firm can immediately step in and deal with the insurance companies on your behalf, so you will not have to worry about saying or doing anything that jeopardizes your case. Call (432) 217-1197 or contact us online to arrange a free consultation with our Odessa wrongful death lawyer.