A loved one’s death is a tragic time. The situation becomes even worse if you are suddenly responsible for thousands of dollars in funeral expenses and medical bills. You may have many questions, like who can be held accountable and who can sue for wrongful death. Janicek Law hopes to answer these questions for you.
If someone close to you lost their life due to someone else’s negligence, you need a San Antonio legal professional. The skilled wrongful death attorneys at Janicek Law can help you figure out if you can pursue filing a wrongful death claim. Call us today at 210-366-4949.
What is Considered Wrongful Death?
Negligence can have unintended consequences. From doctors and medical providers to distracted drivers, a professional mistake can easily result in death. But does that mean every unintended death is a wrongful death? The short answer is no. The general rule is that if the deceased person could have pursued a personal injury case if they would have survived, then the immediate family can pursue a wrongful death case. A wrongful death claim exists when someone dies due to the legal fault of a negligent party.
Medical malpractice is the result of a trusted medical provider making a mistake that results in a patient’s death. Wrongful death suits resulting from medical malpractice include birth injuries, medication errors, and nursing home abuse and neglect.
Even with updated safety equipment, fatal automobile accidents happen every day. Distracted, impaired, or careless drivers can and should be held responsible in a wrongful death claim. 18-wheeler accidents can cause multiple fatalities, and families can file a wrongful death claim for every person’s death.
When someone kills another person intentionally, they are usually charged with a crime and face jail time. They can also face a wrongful death lawsuit brought about by the victim’s surviving family members. Unlike a criminal case that has to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, civil cases only have to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the victim’s death.
How are Wrongful Deaths Proven?
Depending on the specific case, a qualified wrongful death lawyer can pursue a few different methods to prove wrongful death. In most cases, your legal team must prove the 4 D’s of negligence: there was a duty of care that the defendant owed, the defendant breached it, and their actions resulted in a death. Medical providers owe a professional duty of care to their patients. If a maternity nurse neglects to call the doctor when a fetus is in distress, they are breaching their duty of care. If the patient dies because of their neglect, that would be grounds for a wrongful death action.
Who Can Be Sued for Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death actions can be brought against any responsible party. This can include physicians, hospitals, bartenders, and even people who own property where the deceased person was injured. Anyone responsible in a wrongful death suit can be held financially liable.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Texas?
A wrongful death action needs to be filed within 3 months by an immediate family member. After this period, the executor of the deceased person’s estate can pursue damages in a wrongful death case. Overall, wrongful death lawsuits in Texas have to be filed within two years.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Worth?
No lawyer can tell you what the recovery from a wrongful death lawsuit can be without extensive research into the claim. Depending on the exact circumstances surrounding both the death and the life of the deceased person, wrongful death settlements can include economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages, or pecuniary injuries, are costs that are easily defined. They are meant to restore someone to the lifestyle they had before the injury. Some examples of economic damages include:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral expenses
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
Non-economic damages are harder to quantify. These damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Lost companionship
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
In Texas, a death caused by gross negligence can have exemplary damages awarded. These are also known as punitive damages and are intended to punish the defendant for a willful act that caused the death.
Who Can Pursue A Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas?
Every state has its own wrongful death statutes regarding who can file wrongful death claims. According to the wrongful death statute in Texas, only the immediate family members can file a wrongful death suit. This includes the surviving spouse, children, and parents of unmarried children. The Texas statute does not make a distinction between adopted children and biological children. More distant family members like aunts and uncles, cousins, and unmarried partners cannot pursue wrongful death lawsuits.
If an immediate family member does not file a wrongful death lawsuit within three months of the date of death, the executor of the will may file a wrongful death lawsuit. The executor of the will, sometimes referred to as a personal representative, can pursue a wrongful death claim in their name. The personal representative would not necessarily receive any of the compensation. It would instead be put into a special trust for the beneficiaries of the will.
Can a Fiancé File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In most cases, a fiancé or boyfriend/girlfriend of the deceased cannot file a wrongful death lawsuit. In Texas, only an immediate family member like the surviving spouse can file wrongful death lawsuits. If the family pursues a wrongful death claim, there’s no guarantee that financial dependents will receive fair compensation from a wrongful death settlement. If you find yourself in this situation, you may feel powerless. Contact the experienced attorneys at Janicek Law to see what we can do for you.
How Janicek Law Can Help You With San Antonio Wrongful Death Claims
At Janicek Law, we fight for families to receive fair compensation from the at-fault party. Our law firm has been fighting for injured victims and their families for over two decades; let us fight for you. For legal representation that you can trust, choose a wrongful death attorney from Janicek Law. Call us today for a free evaluation at 210-366-4949 and begin your attorney-client relationship.