Need Help Filing A Wrongful Death Claim?
Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult things you will ever face in life. When that tragic loss is due to the negligence of another, the pain and frustration are even more unbearable.
When you lose a family member in an accident or due to the carelessness of a person or company, you have a right to compensation for that wrongful death.
But this isn’t just about money.
We know nothing can ever replace your lost spouse, child, or parent, but the law gives you the right to hold negligent parties accountable.
For real closure, you need real justice.
While dealing with the heartbreak of your loss, you may have a ton of questions about what to do next. You may feel overwhelmed or numb. You may not even know where to start.
We understand, and we’re here to help.
Our Houston Wrongful Death Lawyer offer free confidential consultations, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us now at 800-898-4877, or send us a question online to get more information.
We’re on your side. There is NO cost to get a free consultation right now. If you decide to hire us, you pay nothing upfront, and you will pay absolutely nothing at all unless and until we’ve won your case.
What Are Wrongful Death Laws in Texas?
In the case of wrongful death, each state has its own laws and statutes. Having a Texas wrongful death attorney evaluate your case ensures you are partnering with someone thoroughly familiar with the Texas Wrongful Death Statute – and how it applies to your unique situation.
There is a deadline, also known as a statute of limitations, for wrongful death claims in Texas. Generally speaking, this statute of limitations is two years from the date of your loved one’s death. (While there are exceptions that may extend this deadline, you need the careful analysis of a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney to determine if these exceptions apply to your case.)
If you wait too long to file your claim, you may lose the right to seek any compensation for the tragedy you have endured. The two-year limit is actually not a very large window when you consider how complicated wrongful death cases can be. They require extensive investigation, evidence collection, and preparation before an attorney can file them.
Don’t wait. A wrongful death lawyer can be an invaluable resource during this time of hardship.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Under Texas law, a wrongful death occurs due to:
- a wrongful act
- neglect and negligence
Under these broad terms, the specific causes of wrongful deaths can vary substantially. For example, wrongful death claims may result from the following fatal accidents:
- Motor vehicle accidents caused by negligent drivers or dangerous road conditions
- Slips, trips, and falls due to hazards on someone’s property
- Accidents caused by defective or dangerous products
- Dog bites or other animal attacks
- Fires caused by dangerous conditions or faulty wiring and electrical systems
- Construction site accidents
- Medical malpractice or hospital errors
- Nursing home abuse and nursing home neglect
- Violent assaults
Because so many acts can form the basis of a wrongful death lawsuit, the best way to stay informed about your legal rights is to discuss what happened with an experienced Houston wrongful death lawyer.
Who Can File Wrongful Death Suits?
Only certain relations to the victim may pursue wrongful death claims. Friends and colleagues are, unfortunately, excluded.
Instead, only the following people may file wrongful death claims in Texas:
- Surviving spouses
- Children, including adopted children and adult children
- Parents and adoptive parents
Note: Texas law excludes siblings from filing wrongful death claims.
If none of the above parties take action to file a wrongful death lawsuit, the person designated as the executor or personal representative of the deceased’s estate can file the claim.
If you were named as such a representative and believe the death was wrongful and preventable, consult with an attorney now. A skilled wrongful death attorney can help you plan the steps you can take to obtain compensation on behalf of the estate.
How Is A Wrongful Death Claim Different From A Criminal Case?
Sometimes, wrongful acts that lead to death also constitute criminal offenses. Law enforcement authorities and prosecutors may place the responsible party under arrest and may issue criminal charges for homicide.
In this situation, surviving family members may believe that a criminal case is their main source of obtaining justice for the loss of their loved one. However, criminal cases have their limitations. You may also be entitled to pursue a civil wrongful death claim.
A criminal conviction may mean that the wrongful party is sentenced to prison and required to pay fines to the court. Those punishments, however, do little to help surviving family members feel whole again… and they don’t even begin to address the many financial losses they may have experienced as a result of the death.
For family members, a claim in civil court for wrongful death is the main source of direct compensation. This case is entirely separate from any criminal proceedings. If a criminal conviction was entered, that conviction may be used as evidence of a wrongful act in a civil case. However, you may still have a viable wrongful death claim even if the party was not convicted, thanks to the different legal standards in criminal and civil cases. This is why it’s important to always explore your concerns and your rights with a wrongful death lawyer.
What Damages Are Available in a Wrongful Death Claim?
A life is priceless and irreplaceable, but the death of a loved one can create a ripple effect that leads to other losses in the lives of survivors.
While the value of every wrongful death claim will vary, family members can often seek significant compensation for losses and damages such as:
- Lost income and financial support from the deceased
- Lost inheritance value if the deceased would have had a larger estate had they lived longer
- Lost services, care, maintenance, support, and counsel from the deceased
- Lost companionship and love
- Emotional and mental pain, suffering, and anguish
- Funeral costs
These damages are added together and granted as a single award or total settlement.
Death impacts different relatives in different ways. The court will also decide the proportion of loss of each family member who brings the claim. The claimants will then divide the damage award in proportion to their percentage of loss.
If a wrongful death claim arises from a particularly egregious act – such as an intentionally violent act or an act of gross negligence – a court may award “exemplary” damages, also known as punitive damages. These damages aren’t linked to any specific losses. Instead, they are based on the court’s desire to punish and discourage wrongful acts.
Punitive damages are not available in every case. Your wrongful death lawyer can advise you on the specifics of your case.
What is The Legal Process of a Wrongful Death Suit?
While each wrongful death case will have unique circumstances, the process tends to follow specific rules and procedures. Below you will find a brief overview of the wrongful death legal process.
Free case evaluation: The first step in any wrongful death case is to schedule a free consultation with an attorney who can assess your situation and inform you of your rights and options. The attorney will listen to your story and advise you as to whether you have a viable wrongful death claim. This initial consultation is always free.
Investigation: The next step in many cases is to conduct a thorough investigation. This investigation will identify any potentially liable parties and gather evidence of their carelessness. This often requires resources such as accident reconstruction experts, medical experts, and more. A qualified wrongful death law firm will be able to connect with these experts and other resources you’ll need to gather evidence of the wrongful death.
Calculating damages: Another highly important step is calculating all of your losses. This will let you know how much you can seek in your wrongful death claim. Some damages, like costs for medical treatments prior to death, are relatively easy to quantify and can be proven with bills and records. Others, like loss of companionship or emotional suffering, are impossible to put a price tag on… but still deserving of compensation. You should always have the help of an attorney familiar with such calculations.
Drafting and filing a complaint: Once you’ve identified the parties responsible for the wrongful death and proven the value of your claim, your attorney can begin drafting the complaint. A complaint is the legal document filed with the court and marks the beginning of a formal case. A wrongful death complaint must meet certain requirements, including naming defendants, stating supporting facts for your wrongful death cause of action, and detailing the legal relief that you seek. The more persuasive your complaint is, the stronger your case will be.
Pretrial process: The longest stage of litigation is the pretrial process. This takes place between the initial pleadings and a trial if needed. Pretrial proceedings involve conferences with defendants, a discovery period during which you exchange evidence and information with the defendant so your attorney can build your case, the filing of motions with the court, negotiations, and more. You need an attorney who understands how to stand up for you and how to handle the pretrial process in an efficient, assertive manner. This is not a battle you want to enter alone.
Settlement negotiations: Settlement negotiations between parties are arguably the most important parts of any civil case. Even though you filed a claim for the court to resolve, you and the defendant can negotiate to try to settle the case out of court at any time. During these negotiations, your attorney will use information gathered during discovery to convince the other side that you have a strong case that will prevail at trial. Many defendants will agree to settle out of court, as in court they will risk losing and paying more due to a trial verdict. Therefore, the majority of cases result in settlement agreements. A skilled wrongful death attorney will be your fierce advocate and handle the entire negotiation process for you, right up until the trial date. Which brings us to…
Jury trial: While most cases settle and never make it to trial, sometimes negligent parties are unwilling to make reasonable offers. In those situations, cases may proceed in front of a jury or judge. Always ensure the wrongful death lawyer you’ve chosen has trial experience under their belt and will not hesitate to protect your rights in court when necessary.
Why Choose Our Team?
Stewart Guss and his firm have successfully handled hundreds of wrongful death cases. Our client-first focus means each person who reaches out is treated with the respect and compassion they deserve during this heartbreaking time.
Often, the deceased are breadwinners who leave behind families who counted on them for housing, food, clothing and, of course, love and affection. We understand the flood of emotions and struggles you may be dealing with at this time. That’s why we’ve made it our professional mission to help guide you through the process, protect your rights, and recover as much as possible on your wrongful death claim.
Strength, Sympathy, and Compassion: Cornerstones of Our Practice
Choosing the right attorney is important, but it’s even more crucial in a wrongful death case.
For over 20 years, Stewart Guss has represented parents who have lost children, children who have lost parents, and spouses who have lost their husbands and wives. As a loving husband and father of two, Stewart Guss is a lawyer who holds those who have suffered tragic losses close to his heart. Making a difference in the lives of those who need it most motivates him in each and every case.
If you believe you may have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another, call us right away. We’re here to listen. Don’t get tricked into signing anything until you speak with us, or you could lose some or all of the compensation you are entitled to.
The attorneys at Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law will do everything possible to recover as much as possible for your claim, and we take pride in treating our clients like family. Pick up the phone and call (866) 437-3820 or send us an email through our online contact form to discuss your wrongful death claim with a legal expert. Remember, your consultation is free, and you pay nothing unless we win your case.
Legal battles are the last thing you want to think about when you’re grieving. Let us take the weight off your shoulders in the pursuit of justice.
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