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If you have lost a loved one through someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, no award or settlement can compensate you for the loss you have suffered. A wrongful death claim is a legal action to hold the responsible party accountable and to seek justice for your loved one by recovering compensation for yourself and your family members.
At the Law Offices of Willie D. Powells III & Associates PLLC, we handle wrongful death claims to help families uncover the truth about the death of their loved ones and recover compensation to offset losses associated with the death. Our wrongful death lawyer in Houston will fight for your rights and to obtain justice for your loved one.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is a civil action filed against a party who has caused someone’s death through negligence or intentional harm. In Texas, wrongful death claims are filed to recover damages for the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse, children, and/or the parents of the deceased.
A wrongful death claim can be brought only when a victim who would otherwise have a personal injury claim dies as the result of negligence or intentionally harmful acts of the defendant.
Here are some common types of wrongful death claims:
- Car Accidents: When a person dies as a result of a car accident caused by another driver's negligence, the surviving family members may file a wrongful death claim.
- Medical Malpractice: If a healthcare professional's negligence or medical error leads to a patient's death, the family may pursue a wrongful death claim.
- Workplace Accidents: If an individual dies due to a workplace accident, such as a construction site incident or industrial accident, their family may file a wrongful death claim.
- Defective Products: If a person dies due to a defective product, such as a faulty car part or a dangerous consumer product, the manufacturer or distributor may be held liable in a wrongful death claim.
- Premises Liability: Property owners or managers can be held responsible if a person dies due to unsafe conditions on their premises, such as slip and fall accidents or inadequate security.
- Criminal Activities: If a person's death results from criminal actions, the perpetrator may face both criminal charges and a wrongful death lawsuit from the victim's family.
- Intentional Acts: If someone intentionally causes harm leading to another person's death, the surviving family may file a wrongful death claim. This can include cases of assault, battery, or homicide.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Texas?
In Texas, the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit is typically granted to specific individuals who are closely related to the deceased. Generally, the following parties may have the standing to file a wrongful death claim:
- Spouse: The surviving spouse of the deceased person has the primary right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Children: If there is no surviving spouse, the deceased person's children may have the right to file a claim.
- Parents: In certain situations, parents may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit, especially if there are no surviving spouse or children.
- Personal Representative: If none of the above-mentioned individuals file a claim within three months of the death, the personal representative of the deceased person's estate may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit, unless he or she is asked not to by all surviving family members who are eligible to file a claim.
What Must Be Proven in a Wrongful Death Claim?
To hold the defendant liable in a wrongful death claim, you must meet the same burden of proof that your loved one would have been required to meet if he or she had lived.
If your claim is based on negligence, you must show the following elements:
- Duty of Care: The first element is establishing that the defendant owed the victim a duty of care. This means showing that the defendant had a legal obligation to act reasonably and responsibly to prevent harm to others.
- Breach of Duty: The next step is demonstrating that the defendant breached the duty of care owed to the victim. This involves showing that the defendant's actions or negligence fell below the standard of care expected in the given situation.
- Causation (Direct and Proximate): It must be proven that the defendant's breach of duty was the direct and proximate cause of the victim's death. "Direct cause" means that there was a direct link between the defendant's actions and the death. "Proximate cause" means that the harm caused was a foreseeable consequence of the defendant's actions.
- Victim's Death: Establishing that the victim did, indeed, pass away as a result of the defendant's actions or negligence is a crucial element. This often involves presenting medical evidence and expert testimony to establish the cause of death.
- Damages: Finally, it needs to be demonstrated that the victim's death resulted in damages that the surviving family members are seeking to recover. This can include financial losses, such as medical expenses and funeral costs, as well as non-economic damages like emotional pain and suffering.
Determining Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim
The Texas wrongful death statute states that the jury may award damages in an amount proportionate to the injury resulting from the victim’s death. These damages will be divided amongst the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased in proportions determined by the jury.
Punitive (also known as “exemplary”) damages may also be recovered when the death was caused by a willful act or omission or the gross negligence of the defendant. These types of damages are designed to punish the defendant and set an example to deter similar conduct in the future.
What Are Wrongful Death Damages Based On?
Damages awarded by the jury in a wrongful death claim are based on the losses surviving family members have suffered and are likely to suffer in the future because of their loved one’s death.
These losses may include:
- Funeral/burial costs
- Medical expenses
- Earning capacity
- Care, support, services, maintenance, counsel, and advice of the deceased
- Love, comfort, society, and companionship of the deceased
- Emotional pain and suffering and mental anguish caused by the loved one’s death
Why Choose Our Firm for Your Wrongful Death Claim?
At the Law Offices of Willie D. Powells III & Associates PLLC, you are not just another number. We pay attention and take extra care, treating every client as an individual. Most of our clients come to us through personal referrals, and we work to maximize the experience.
Hiring our Houston wrongful death lawyer can provide the following benefits during the challenging aftermath of a tragic loss:
- Legal Expertise: We bring extensive knowledge of Texas wrongful death laws and a deep understanding of the legal processes involved in such cases. Our expertise ensures that your case is handled with the necessary legal acumen.
- Investigation and Evidence Gathering: We take the lead in investigating the circumstances surrounding the wrongful death, collecting evidence, and working with experts to build a strong case. Thorough investigations can significantly impact the outcome of the lawsuit.
- Navigating Complex Legal Procedures: Wrongful death cases involve intricate legal procedures and deadlines. We guide you through the entire process, ensuring that all necessary paperwork is filed correctly and on time, reducing the stress on your end.
- Negotiation Skills: We are experienced negotiators who can engage with insurance companies or opposing parties to secure a fair settlement on your behalf. Our goal is to maximize compensation for the losses suffered by your family.
- Courtroom Representation: If a fair settlement cannot be reached through negotiation, we are prepared to represent your interests in court. Our team has the litigation skills needed to present a compelling case before a judge and jury.
- Maximizing Compensation: Our focus is on obtaining the maximum compensation available for your case. This may include damages for medical expenses, funeral costs, lost income, and the emotional pain and suffering endured by your family.
- Emotional Support: Dealing with a wrongful death is emotionally taxing. We provide compassionate support throughout the legal process, offering a helping hand during a difficult time. We understand the sensitivity of these cases and approach them with empathy.
We provide our legal services on a contingency fee basis, so you do not pay any upfront or out-of-pocket fees when you hire our firm. Instead, we only collect attorney costs if/when we successfully recover compensation on your behalf.
When a negligent or reckless act causes or contributes to the death of another, the close family of the victim may bring a wrongful death claim against the responsible parties.
A wrongful death case can be filed for many types of fatalities, including:
- Car Accidents: Negligent driving behavior—such as driving while intoxicated, speeding, and distracted driving—can be cause for a wrongful death claim when these actions lead to fatal injuries.
- Aviation Accidents: An aviation accident may be the result of some form of negligence, and, if so, the close family of a deceased victim has the right to pursue compensation through a wrongful death claim.
- Medical Malpractice: Medical professionals have a duty to provide patients with an “accepted standard of care.” If a medical professional fails to provide this standard of care, and the person dies as a result, a wrongful death claim can be filed against the medical professional, facility, or another negligent party.
- Truck Accidents: Truck accidents are far more likely to be fatal than other motor vehicle accidents due to the size and weight of semi-trucks and 18-wheelers. If your loved one died in a truck accident, a wrongful death claim could be filed to recover compensation.
- Birth Injuries: Some birth injuries are the result of medical negligence. In these cases, a wrongful death case can be filed against the medical professional and facility.
Other causes for wrongful death claims include recreational accidents, such as ATV and swimming pool accidents, bus accidents and other mass transportation accidents, pedestrian-vehicle collisions, plant explosions, workplace accidents, unsafe premises, defective products, and intentional acts of violence, such as assault, homicide, and murder.
A wrongful death claim is filed against the responsible party when it brought about the death of a loved one. The loved ones are suing for the harm they experienced as a result of losing the family member. This harm can be emotional and financial.
Some damages include:
- Loss of emotional support
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of financial support
A surviving spouse and surviving children have the right to pursue damages in a wrongful death claim. A survival claim can be brought against the parties responsible for the death of a loved one.
It includes the following factors:
- The negligent party’s actions brought pain and suffering to the family member before they died
- The defendant should be held liable for the pain and suffering
- The deceased person would have been able to pursue compensation had he or she lived
- The compensation will be paid to the deceased person’s estate
Only the heir of a deceased person or the estate representative can bring a survival claim against negligent parties in the state of Texas.
Mr. Willie Powells was always available to answer any question or concerns that arose at any time of day or night during the time he was handling my case, as well as after. The Firm has a wonderful staff as well as lawyer(s).- Former Client
Willie Powells represented me a couple years ago when I was rear-ended. His professionalism, compassion and persistence to ensure that I was made whole were exemplary. I trust Willie to always have our family’s welfare in mind while making legal deci- Former Client
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How much does it cost to file a wrongful death claim?To make his services widely available to grieving families, Attorney Willie D. Powells III works on a contingency fee basis. You do not have to pay for any legal services unless compensation is recovered on your behalf.
How long do I have to file a wrongful death claim in Texas?
In the state of Texas, a wrongful death claim must be filed within two years of the deceased person’s passing. There are some rare cases where more time is allowed by the court. If you are unsure as to whether you can file a wrongful death claim, the best thing you can do is speak to an experienced personal injury attorney.
What is the difference between a wrongful death claim and a criminal homicide case?
Wrongful death claims are civil lawsuits, meaning they take place outside of the criminal justice system. In contrast, manslaughter, homicide, and murder cases pass through criminal courts. This means that someone charged with manslaughter, homicide, or murder faces criminal penalties, such as prison time and steep fines. In a civil lawsuit, however, the defendant could be ordered to pay the plaintiff’s damages. Additionally, in a criminal case, the burden of proof is much higher. The prosecution must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction, but in a civil wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff only needs to prove that the defendant is more likely than not to have caused the death of the decedent to successfully recover compensation.
Will I have to go to court if I file a wrongful death lawsuit?
Many wrongful death lawsuits settle before going to trial. However, there is a chance that your case will proceed to trial, and you may have to go to court. If this is the case, you can trust our firm to fully prepare you for litigation.