When someone is killed because of the negligence of another person or entity, surviving family members may seek to hold the responsible party accountable by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
If you’re here because you’ve lost a loved one in an accident, we are so very sorry. We can’t imagine what you’re going through.
While you are grieving you shouldn’t have to worry about anything else. At Sutliff & Stout we have over a decade of experience helping people like you though this awful time.
We’re proud to be rated among the best wrongful death attorneys in Houston
Reasons for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas
There are many different reasons why family members would want to seek a wrongful death claim, including financial compensation and a sense of justice for their loss. Some losses that may be compensated if you prevail in a wrongful death case include:
- Lost financial support and earning capacity of the deceased;
- Lost services and support the deceased would have provided;
- Lost comfort and companionship;
- Lost inheritance that would have existed had the victim lived a longer life;
- Emotional and mental pain and suffering, distress, and anguish of the surviving family members.
Because many of these losses cannot be objectively quantified, the amount available for recovery in a wrongful death action can vary significantly from case to case.
Frequently Asked Questions About Texas Wrongful Death Lawsuits
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Texas law provides the survivors of those wrongfully killed with a path to justice. By filing a wrongful death lawsuit, surviving family members can gain financial security as well as a sense of closure in knowing that the negligence of someone is responsible for their loved one’s death will be held accountable by a court of law.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Texas?
Not every loved one has the right to file a wrongful death claim as the law specifically identifies the parties who can recover for a wrongful death. The following surviving family members are the only ones eligible to do so:
- Spouse — by legal or common law marriage, even if they are separated at the time of the death;
- Parents — Biological or adoptive, but not including stepparents or grandparents;
- Children — Includes adult children, biological or adoptive.
A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed against any person or company responsible for the death of a loved one. In some cases, a wrongful death lawsuit can be brought against the government. A wrongful death action can be filed after any kind of accident, including those involving medical malpractice or defective products.
When can you File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Following a sudden, tragic death, it is only natural that family members would want to take time to grieve and put back together the pieces of their lives. However, it is important to realize that there is not an unlimited amount of time to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Texas law sets out a strict two-year deadline for wrongful death actions, which is called the “statute of limitations.” This deadline is two years from the date of the death–not the date of the incident that caused the death. Therefore, if a victim spent six months in the hospital following a car accident before they succumbed to their injuries, the clock starts running on the date they passed away.
While two years may seem like a long time, filing for a successful wrongful death claim requires extensive and often complex preparation. The petition filed must meet many different requirements and include enough information for the court to rule that a valid claim exists. The petition must be able to stand up to the inevitable challenges by the other party.
Therefore, it is important to give a wrongful death attorney enough time to fully investigate the circumstances surrounding a death, identify the correct negligent parties, gather evidence, and skillfully draft a petition. If you suspect you have a possible wrongful death claim, you should consult with a lawyer as soon as possible so they can begin working on your case.
What Damages are Available in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The term “damages” refers to a sum of money awarded by a court to compensate someone for an injury or death. In Texas, wrongful death damages allows victims to recover many different types of damages, including the death of their deceased family member’s income and financial support, the loss of the deceased family member’s companionship, the loss of an expected inheritance, and mental anguish and suffering. The family may be able to recover compensatory, punitive, or exemplary damages to penalize the defendant for his or her grossly negligent act.
An experienced Houston injury lawyer can help your family understand what types of damages you may be able to recover and the process to file a claim.
What is a Survivorship Claim?
Under Texas law, a survivorship claim is a legal claim made by the decedent’s estate. This type of claim allows the decedent’s estate to recover the costs of medical bills, funeral expenses or burial expenses, and pain and suffering estate of the deceased person endured prior to his or her death. A survivorship claim is different than a wrongful death lawsuit. A Houston wrongful death attorney can explain whether a survivorship claim is right for your family.
Is There a Time Limit on Wrongful Death Lawsuits?
A procedural rule known as a statute of limitations requires you to file a lawsuit within a certain period of time. Typically, family members must file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years of the date on which their loved one died. In some cases, this time limit is measured from the date on which your loved one’s untimely death occurred.
Because the two years statute can prevent your wrongful death lawsuit from being heard, you should contact a qualified wrongful death lawyer as quickly as possible after losing a loved one. These rules apply regardless of how strong your case is.
How much will it cost to hire a wrongful death attorney?
If you hire Sutliff & Stout, there is no upfront cost. Our Firm works on what is known as a contingency fee basis, which means that we only get paid if we are able to recover money on your behalf. This type of agreement allows a person to pursue their claim without worrying about spending tens of thousands of dollars.
Given the large sums of money that are typically in dispute, these cases can get very expensive. When hiring an attorney, be sure to hire a lawyer that has the resources and money to invest in your case.
When is the time to consult a wrongful death attorney?
Immediately. While I know this sounds bad, the reality is that in most of our large wrongful death cases the company and its insurance company will have people on site the day of the incident gathering evidence. If you hire a lawyer immediately, the lawyer can take steps to make sure that you and your family’s interest are protected.
What fatal accidents can be cause for a wrongful death claim in Texas?
When a person is killed by the negligence of another, then certain individuals have a right to make a wrongful death claim. In Texas, the only people that can make a wrongful death claim are a person’s parents, spouse or children.
In the context of a car accident, various factors contribute to fatal car accidents, but the most common we see are:
- Distracted driving – Handling cell phone from talking or texting, eating, drinking, or even applying makeup. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, reports texting has increased as a contributing factor of car accident deaths.
- Drunk driving – Having a blood alcohol content at 0.08% or higher may result in a DWI and other sever consequences.
- Aggressive driving – Includes moving traffic offenses that endanger other people or property such as speeding and ignoring traffic signs and signals.
Car accidents have a statute of two years for injury cases. If multiple incidents occurred among passengers in the same vehicle an injury attorney can help with the personal injury cases and the wrongful death action.
What determines if a wrongful death case is valid?
Losing a loved one can be a traumatic experience. In order to have a valid case, the death must have been caused by the negligence of another and the claim must filed within the applicable time frame. Generally, the statute of limitations is two years from the date that incident occurred (which is not necessarily the date the person died).
There are some exceptions to this deadline in the context of a minor or an injury that wasn’t discovered until later (e.g. asbestos exposure is an example of an injury that takes a long time to develop). Also, the claim cannot be barred for some other legal reason. A wrongful death lawyer can help you investigate what occurred, what claims exist and who the proper parties to the claim are.
Which relatives are allowed to sue for wrongful death?
Wrongful death claims can be made by parents, spouse or children. If not brought within a certain time, a person’s executor or administrator can bring the claim for the benefit of the foregoing individuals. If a step-parent has not adopted the deceased, he or she will not be able to make a claim for wrongful death.
How are damages computed in a wrongful death lawsuit?
In Texas, the following types of damages are recoverable in a wrongful death claim:
- Pecuniary loss sustained in the past and future. “Pecuniary loss” means the loss of the care, maintenance, support, services, advice, counsel, and reasonable contributions of a pecuniary value, excluding loss of inheritance that you, in reasonable probability, would have received from your loved one had he or she lived.
- Loss of companionship and society sustained in the past and future. “Loss of companionship and society” means the loss of the positive benefits flowing from the love companionship, comfort, and society that you, in reasonable probability, would have received from your loved one had he or she lived.
- Mental anguish sustained in the past and future. “Mental anguish” means that emotional pain, torment, and suffering experienced by person because of the death of their loved one.
- In determining these types of damages, the jury may consider the relationship between the person, their living arrangements, any extended absences from one another, the harmony of their family relations, and their common interests and activities.
- Loss of inheritance. “Loss of inheritance” means the loss of the present value of the assets that the deceased, in reasonable probability, would have added to the estate and left at natural death to you.
In what ways can a wrongful death lawyer assist a family?
There is a lot to consider when dealing with a wrongful death case. It takes a great deal of knowledge, experience, and resource to handle these cases properly. Our wrongful death attorneys will advise you every step of the way during the litigation process. This can include helping you seek fair compensation by recover damages for any future earnings, medical bills, funeral and burial costs, loss of income and pain and suffering.
What is the difference between murder and wrongful death?
Murder is a criminal term. While a murder can form the basis of a wrongful death claim, such claims are complicated in the civil context because of their intentional nature. Wrongful death is a civil term to describe a claim seeking to recover compensation for the responsible party actions or inactions in causing a person’s accidental death. A wrongful death claim or a civil case does not lead to a person’s incarceration.
Sutliff & Stout’s Houston Wrongful Death Attorneys Are Ready to Help
If you would like to discuss a fatal accident case with a personal injury lawyer from Sutliff & Stout, Injury & Accident Law Firm feel free to give us a call at (713) 987-7111 or contact us online to discuss your injury or wrongful death claim.
Here are several examples of our recent wrongful death case results:
Below you’ll find a few sample wrongful death case results that we’ve achieved for our clients. To see more case results from our firm click here.
Please note that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome in your case.