Waco Wrongful Death Lawyer
Table of Contents
- Wrongful Death Claims
- Two-Year Statute of Limitations
- Filing the Wrongful Death Claim
- If the Decedent Had Survived
- The Damages Addressed in Your Claim
- Proving Negligence in Your Wrongful Death Claim
- Consider a Traffic Accident Example
- It’s Time to Consult with an Experienced Waco Wrongful Death Lawyer
Losing a loved one to someone else’s negligence is painful, but a dedicated Waco wrongful death lawyer can help you on your difficult journey forward.
Losing a loved one to the negligence of someone else is a devastating loss that no settlement – or anything else – can make right. While the law cannot bring your beloved family member back to you, it can provide you with the compensation to which you are entitled and that you need to face the challenges that riddle the road to recovery ahead. If you’ve lost a loved one to someone else’s negligence, you need the professional legal counsel of an experienced Waco wrongful death lawyer on your side.
Wrongful death claims are complicated – with exacting requirements involved. Under the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, wrongful death claims can be filed by specific parties when the death of their relative is caused by another person or another entity’s negligence, wrongful act, carelessness, lack of skill, or default. In other words, if your loved one loses his or her life to the negligence of another, you may have a wrongful death claim. Common examples include:
- Fatal traffic accidents, including car, truck, motorcycle, rideshare, scooter, pedestrian, or bike accidents
- Slip and fall accidents and other premises liability claims
In Texas, there is a strict two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death cases. This means that claimants have only two years from the date of their loved one’s death to file their lawsuit, and this two-year period can be deceptively short. Dealing with the fallout of a loss of this magnitude, including coping with the grief involved, can be a lengthy process in and of itself. There are two primary exceptions to this two-year limit.
If the claimant is a minor child, the two-year clock does not start ticking until he or she reaches the age of 18.
Determining Wrongful Death
Some deaths are not associated with negligence at the outset and require a good deal of investigation before the connection can be demonstrated. In these instances, the two-year statute of limitation begins the day the connection is established.
In Texas, only specific members of the decedent’s family can file a wrongful death claim, and they include:
- The decedent’s surviving spouse
- The decedent’s children
- The decedent’s adoptive children (if the adoption was fully executed)
- The decedent’s parents
- The decedent’s adoptive parents (if the adoption was fully executed)
One of these family members can file a claim on his or her own, or the family members can join together and file as a group. It’s important to note that, in Texas, the decedent’s siblings (whether biological or adoptive) cannot file or recover on a wrongful death claim. Grandparents are similarly excluded.
In Texas, the decedent’s estate can seek damages that address the compensation he or she would have been able to recover on had he or she survived. These survivor damages include:
- The physical and emotional pain and suffering the accident victim endured before succumbing to his or her injuries, which can be immense
- The medical expenses the accident victim incurred before succumbing to his or her injuries
- The cost of the accident victim’s funeral and burial
These last two expenses are costs that are shouldered by the decedent’s estate and not by his or her family.
The damages you are allowed to recover on in your wrongful death claim can vary according to your relationship to the decedent, but the basics include (as applicable):
- The mental anguish you endure as a result of your momentous loss
- Your lost inheritance (the amount you would have inherited if your loved one had lived to his or her life expectancy)
- The care, support, guidance, and/or counsel lost
- The love and companionship lost
- The lost income, earning capacity, and employee benefits of the decedent (in your household)
It’s important to note that, if the at-fault party’s negligence amounted to gross negligence or worse, you may be able to recover punitive damages, which are meant to punish the wrongdoer and to help to curb this level of dangerous negligence.
The crux of a wrongful death claim is the at-fault party’s negligence, and proving this negligence is paramount to your claim. The elements of every successful wrongful death claim include:
- The at-fault party owed your lost loved one a duty of care (a responsibility to his or her safety).
- The at-fault party failed to live up to this duty of care, which amounts to negligence (or worse).
- The at-fault party’s negligence caused your loved one to be injured and, ultimately, to die.
- There are legal damages associated with the injury-causing accident.
Fatal traffic accidents often lead to wrongful death claims, which makes them a prime example of these complicated cases. Consider the following:
- A drunk driver causes a car accident in which your loved one is seriously injured. The negligence in this example is the at-fault driver’s impairment, which is very closely associated with fatal car accidents.
- Your loved one succumbs to his or her injuries after being treated for them, which leaves his or her estate with the expense of these medical bills, the cost of his or her funeral and burial, and the physical and emotional pain and suffering he or she endured in the interim.
- Your household is left with emotional losses, a loss in family income, financial losses into the future, and more.
This example has the makings of a viable wrongful death claim.
If you have lost a loved one to someone else’s negligence, you naturally have questions, and the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions can help.
Is there a legal cap on damages?
Other than in wrongful death claims that involve medical malpractice, there is no financial cap on the damages that you can recover in your wrongful death claim. The best way to help ensure that your complete financial and emotional damages are well represented in your claim and that you receive the compensation to which you are entitled is by working closely with an experienced wrongful death lawyer from the outset.
What if the at-fault party also faces criminal charges?
The fact is that the at-fault party who causes the death of your loved one can face criminal charges for his or her dangerous actions, and this case will be brought by the government at either the state or federal level. Your wrongful death claim is a separate civil matter, and they are not mutually exclusive. The intention of the criminal case is to prove guilt and to punish the accused, while the intention of your civil case is to seek the financial compensation to which you are entitled. An important difference to note is that the burden of proof required in a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt, which means that it is unreasonable to believe otherwise. In a wrongful death claim, however, the burden of proof required is a preponderance of the evidence, which means that it is more likely than not that the negligence of the accused caused your loved one to lose his or her life. In other words, the defendant could prevail in criminal court but be found guilty in civil court (due to the variance in burden of proof).
Do I have to hire a wrongful death lawyer?
You are not required to hire a wrongful death lawyer, and you may proceed with your claim on your own. Wrongful death claims, however, are exceptionally complicated claims that come with exacting rules and restrictions that can be exceptionally difficult to master as an inexperienced layperson. Wrongful death lawyers know the ins and outs of these specialized claims and are well prepared to help guide yours toward a beneficial resolution. With a dedicated wrongful death lawyer on your side, you greatly increase your ability to fully recover on your losses and to successfully travel the path toward healing.
Can I afford a wrongful death lawyer?
Many people who have lost a loved one fear that they simply cannot afford a wrongful death lawyer and give up on obtaining just compensation as a result. The truth of the matter is, however, that most reputable wrongful death lawyers work on contingency. This means that their pay is contingent upon (or based upon) you either being awarded a settlement from the insurance company or you receiving a court award. Either way, your wrongful death lawyer will receive a prearranged percentage of your compensation at that time, and you do not have to worry about payment beyond this.
Won’t the insurance company cover my losses fairly?
Your wrongful death claim will very likely be filed with the at-fault party’s insurance company (such as his or her car insurance provider if the fatal accident was a car accident), and while it’s true that this insurance company is in the business of covering your losses, this is at odds with its focus on profits. As such, you can expect serious challenges ahead (in relation to obtaining just compensation). Consider some of the less-than-honest practices that some insurance companies will stoop to:
- Denying your claim from the outset (in the hope that your immense vulnerability at this difficult time will cause you to give up)
- Making an early lowball settlement offer (in the hope that you will accept out of abject desperation – and before you recognize the full extent of your damages)
- Casting doubt on the extent of your damages (in the hope that you will bow to the massive company’s obvious power)
- Complicating the already complicated claims process (in the hope that you will walk away)
- Denying negligence on the part of their policyholder
Although the insurance company would like you to believe that it has the final say in this matter, this stance is a smokescreen. If the insurance company refuses to negotiate in good faith, your wrongful death lawyer will advise you to move forward with a lawsuit in which the court will determine the outcome.
If someone else’s negligence causes you to lose a loved one, the grief and hardship you experience can be overwhelming, and no amount of compensation can right this wrong. Seeking just compensation, however, can help you on the arduous path toward healing, and the accomplished Waco wrongful death lawyers at The Patel Firm are committed to using the entire scope of their impressive experience on behalf of your legal rights and in pursuit of your rightful compensation. To learn more, please don’t hesitate to contact us online or call us at (254) 321-3030.
The Patel Firm Injury Accident Lawyers
6801 Sanger Suite 140
Waco, TX 76701
“This is my first time ever using a lawyer to help me process an accident claim. Joanne walked me through every step of the way. No matter when I reached out to ask my lawyer a question I got a very quick response. This was done during the COVID-19 shut down which made it extra difficult but the lawyerAnd his staff kept me informed. I am grateful that he kept his word in every way to me. I would recommend them highly to anyone I know.”
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