Quick Answers to Your Top Questions About Injuries in Texas
Wayne Wright LLP keeps our clients and the public informed. We provide answers to frequently asked questions to help our clients face their own legal battles. Contact Wayne Wright LLP to speak with an experienced injury attorney in San Antonio, Corpus Christi, El Paso, or Austin offices. We will schedule a free case review and answer your specific questions. Our law firm will not stop working until you receive the justice you deserve.
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What should I do if my loved one is killed in an accident?
A preventable accident that takes the life of a loved one is a tragedy that nobody should have to go through. Yet, every day there are Texas families torn apart by drunk driving accidents, medical malpractice, defective products, negligence, recklessness, willful wrongdoing, and other causes.
As a surviving family member, you are entitled to seek compensation in a court of law when you have lost a loved one due to the negligent or wrongful actions of someone else. Here’s what you should know, and how to get started with the legal process of a wrongful death lawsuit.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The law in Texas states broadly that liability for a wrongful death lawsuit exists if the death was caused by a “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.” However, only certain people with relation to the deceased are able to make a wrongful death claim. A surviving spouse is the most common initiator of a lawsuit, but the children—including adult children and legally adopted children—or the parents of the deceased are also eligible to file a lawsuit. Siblings, however, are not included in this law.
There is a two-year statute of limitations that starts on the date of death. If no lawsuit is started within that time, you will not be able to pursue the case, outside of very limited exceptional circumstances. However, if the spouse, parents, or children don’t begin a wrongful death action within three months, the administrator of the estate of the deceased may begin a lawsuit, unless all parties request otherwise.
Before you begin, be sure to preserve any evidence you may have regarding your belief that this was a wrongful death case, such as police reports, witness statements and contact information, photographs of the scene, the autopsy report, or any supporting medical records or documentation. Be ready to discuss this with your potential attorney.
Choosing a Wrongful Death Attorney
Getting started with a wrongful death suit begins by contacting an attorney to discuss your situation. If you have family or friends who have experienced a similar tragedy, you may ask for recommendations, or ask your regular family attorney who he or she would suggest. Look for an attorney who has experience handling wrongful death suits like yours: medical malpractice, car accidents, workplace, or premises liability, for example. Read his or her website and look for case histories, client testimonials, and other information that shows a strong history of success. You may also look for reviews on third-party websites. Many top-notch firms and individual attorneys also offer free initial consultations, so take advantage of that to shop for the best fit for your case.
Once you agree to a consultation with an attorney, don’t be afraid to ask questions. See how his or her personality and experience line up with your expectations, and ask about fees, expenses, and other costs. Find out whether he or she works on contingency, with no up-front fees until there’s a win in court or a settlement agreement is made.
You don’t have to choose the first attorney you speak to. It’s never a bad idea to talk to multiple attorneys or firms before you make your choice—even if you do end up choosing that first attorney that you spoke to after all.
Get Legal Help Today
The days and weeks after the loss of your loved one are often a difficult time. There are many life changes that are going on, arrangements to make, and worries about the future of yourself and your family, especially if the one you lost was the chief breadwinner of the household. The sooner you speak to an attorney, the faster the legal process can get underway so that you can get the financial help that you need to cover funerary costs, any lingering medical bills, and other losses related to the loss of your loved one, such as lost wages and future earnings, compensation for the loss of companionship, and more.
At Wayne Wright LLP, our attorneys and staff understand that you need serious legal help right away. We have made it our job to stand up for the rights of families who have lost loved ones due to tragic and preventable accidents, and we are here to help you, too. For a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced legal professional, call us by phone today, send us an email via our online contact form, or click the live chat box on this page right now.
My loved one didn’t pass away right after the accident. Can I still file a wrongful death claim?
After an accident in which someone is gravely injured, there can be a protracted medical fight as doctors struggle to keep a person dear to you alive against all odds. Unfortunately, this is a battle that can’t always be won, and the injured person may pass away weeks, months, or even years after the accident that caused the injury. In situations like this with a significant gap in time between accident and death, it isn’t always clear-cut to survivors whether they can still seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.
Here’s what survivors should know about the time restrictions on a wrongful death lawsuit.
Proving a Wrongful Death Case
Even though your loved one did not pass away right at the time the accident happened, you may still be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to seek damages for your loss.
While the law in Texas does put a time limit on how long the surviving family has to file a wrongful death lawsuit, it’s important to note that this timeline typically begins from the time of death, not from the time of the accident or injury. Once the clock starts, the family has up to two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit, unless one of the rare exceptions applies.
Like any other wrongful death lawsuit, there will be four important elements to building a successful case when there has been a gap between injury and death. Typically, you and your attorney must:
- Show a duty of care. This means that you must show that the defendant had a duty to make sure that his actions didn’t harm someone else, such as obeying traffic laws while operating a motor vehicle.
- Show that the duty of care was violated. Once a duty of care has been established, it has to be proven that the responsible party violated that duty of care, such as if he or she ran a stop sign or a traffic light or was intoxicated behind the wheel.
- Prove that the violation caused the injury. You must be able to prove to the court that the actions of the defendant were what caused the death.
- Show that there were damages. You must also show that the accident caused you damages that can be compensated for financially. This includes the costs of emergency medical treatment and follow-up visits, repeated surgeries, long-term care with a home aide or at a nursing home, hospice expenses, and funerary costs.
As time passes between the initial accident and death, it becomes even more critical for families to contact a personal injury attorney to begin a wrongful death claim as soon as possible after their loved one passes away. Not only is the two-year statute of limitations in effect starting with the date of death, but evidence can also degrade over time. The memories of those involved can fade, physical evidence can become lost or deteriorate in quality, the original doctors that treated the injuries can change practices or retire, and other factors mean that there can be a real challenge to make a case.
Challenges of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Proving any wrongful death case can be challenging based on the situation, but there’s still hope for families who wish to seek recovery in a court of law. Whenever there is a significant time gap, the key factor is going to be showing that the person passed away due to the original injury and not due to an unrelated cause.
An experienced attorney with investigative skills can be a big help in any wrongful death case, but it’s especially important in cases when there is a time gap between the initial injury and death. He or she can help you protect your rights in this complex legal situation and discuss your legal options to move forward with your claim.
Get Legal Help Today
The attorneys at Wayne Wright LLP have been defending the legal rights of survivors for decades, and we’re here to help you and your family seek the compensation you may be owed in a court of law. To arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with a wrongful death lawyer, call us by phone, use our contact form to send an email, or click the live chat box on this page now.
Do I need to file a wrongful death case if the state of Texas is pursuing a criminal case?
The legal system can be confusing to anyone, and it doesn’t get any easier when you’re dealing with grief and the loss of a loved one.
A lot of legal myths and misconceptions get passed around to survivors by well-intentioned friends and family, and it can be difficult to tell fact from fiction during a difficult time in your life. One big misconception is about the nature of wrongful death lawsuits versus criminal charges. Sometimes, those who have survived an accident but lost a loved one believe that the court will take care of everything when the responsible person is arrested and charged. Is that really the case?
Here’s what you should know about wrongful death lawsuits when there are criminal charges involved, and how you can get the legal help you need today.
Criminal Court Versus Civil Court in Texas
Just because there are criminal charges filed against a person doesn’t mean that he or she is going to be ordered to pay restitution to survivors. The criminal justice system is concerned with corrections and punishment of those who violate the law. It is not a victim-centric system, in other words. The criminal courts are designed to protect society as a whole, but they do not typically provide relief to specific people who have been wronged.
However, there is another legal system that is separate but parallel to the criminal system that is designed for victims to seek compensation for their losses: the civil court. Civil court is where victims are able to file wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits (legally known as “torts”) to receive a ruling that grants them a financial award for the damages they’ve suffered.
Since both the criminal and civil legal systems are separate, it’s entirely possible and often expected that there will be a civil lawsuit against someone who has committed (or allegedly committed) a crime that cost a life or lives. The two court systems are complimentary, but unrelated.
It’s important for families to realize that although a successful criminal conviction could help your civil case, it’s not necessary, so don’t give up hope. Even if a conviction is not made in criminal court, representatives of an estate may succeed in a civil lawsuit against the responsible party, because standards of evidence in a civil case are different than those of a criminal case. Criminal prosecutors must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that a crime was committed. Civil court requires a “preponderance of evidence” to show that it is more likely than not that the defendant (the person being sued) is responsible for the claims made by the plaintiff (the victim filing the lawsuit.)
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
One important element in a wrongful death lawsuit is that the authorities will not usually file this type of lawsuit on your behalf. If a survivor wishes to seek compensation for a wrongful death, he or she will need to file the civil lawsuit, usually with the help of an attorney. Texas law says that those who may file a wrongful death claim must typically be related to the deceased, including:
- A surviving spouse.
- Adult children and children who have been legally adopted.
- Parents, including the legally adoptive parents of a deceased child.
The only exception to this is when the surviving family declines to file a lawsuit within three months. In this case, personal representative of the estate of the deceased may elect to file a wrongful death lawsuit after the three-month time period has passed, unless a surviving family member requests otherwise. Siblings may not bring a wrongful death lawsuit in the state of Texas.
Get Legal Help Today
If you have lost somebody that you love through the carelessness, recklessness, or wrongdoing of someone else, you have the deepest sympathies of Wayne Wright LLP. We’ve spent decades helping survivors seek financial compensation for their loss, and we’d like to help you and your family receive the justice that you deserve in a court of law. For a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced wrongful death lawyer at Wayne Wright LLP, call us today, use our contact form to send us an email, or click the live chat box on this page right now.
How long do I have to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas?
In most cases, you will have two years from the date the person died to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas. If you fail to file your lawsuit with the court before the two-year statute of limitations expires, then your case will likely be dismissed and you will be unable to recover damages.
There are limited exceptions to the two-year statute of limitations. The time to file a lawsuit may be extended if:
- You were a minor when the person died.
- You did not discover (and should not have reasonably discovered) that the person died because of someone else’s negligence until the statute of limitations had run.
- The defendant was fraudulent and concealed the truth about what happened.
- You were mentally or physically incapacitated before the statute of limitations expired.
Few cases fall into these limited exceptions.
While it can be difficult to consider a wrongful death case while you are grieving, it is important to consider the pros and cons of a wrongful death case as soon as possible after your loved one’s passing, and to make an informed decision about whether to proceed with a lawsuit well before the statute of limitations expires.
Two Things to Know Before Filing a Wrongful Death Case
If the statute of limitations has not yet run out and you are considering a wrongful death claim then you need more information before you can make an informed decision about filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Specifically, you need two questions answered:
First, Do You Have a Case?
According to Section 71.001 of the Texas Statutes, you have a wrongful death claim if you can prove that someone else caused your loved one’s death because of “[a] wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.” You will need to prove that:
- The defendant owed the person who died a duty of care.
- The defendant breached that duty of care by failing to act like a reasonable person would in similar circumstances.
- The defendant’s breach of the duty of care caused your loved one’s death, which would not have happened at that time but for the defendant’s actions or inactions.
- You have the legal right to recover damages.
You have the right to bring a wrongful death case if you are the personal representative of the decedent’s estate or if you are the surviving spouse, child, or parent. Before you file a wrongful death case, however, you should know what damages you may be able to recover.
Second, What Can You Recover If You File a Wrongful Death Case?
Each wrongful death case results in a unique award of damages. Your recovery could include compensation for:
- Medical expenses from the time of the accident until the time of death.
- Out-of-pocket costs, including funeral and burial costs.
- Lost income from the time of the accident until what would have been the person’s reasonably anticipated retirement date. Lost income may include compensation for past and future wages, bonuses, benefits, income from self-employment, and other compensation.
- Physical pain suffered by your loved one prior to death.
- Emotional suffering of your loved one prior to death and of your family since that time.
- Other non-economic losses such as loss of care, advice, counsel, love, companionship, and comfort.
While it can be difficult to determine exactly what you may recover, an experienced wrongful death lawyer can give you an idea of what to expect if you file a successful wrongful death case.
Is Now the Right Time for You to File a Wrongful Death Case?
Now is the right to time to talk to a wrongful death lawyer to determine if you should file a case. You do not gain anything by waiting. Instead, you risk your recovery by failing to gather evidence soon after the accident and by running up against the statute of limitations deadline.
We know that you are grieving and that you have a lot to think about right now. Let us help you with this important decision before your time to bring a wrongful death case expires and you no longer have the right to seek damages. Contact us today for a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation to learn more.
My fiancé died because of a medical mistake. Can I sue for wrongful death?
You were about to spend the rest of your life with someone when his life ended tragically. Along with being emotionally devastating, this type of loss is frightening when you share bills together. You may wonder how you’re going to cover the medical expenses now that your fiancé isn’t there to provide financial support, and you’re hoping that because the death was caused by negligence, you’ll receive compensation for wrongful death.
Are You Able to Sue for Wrongful Death?
Since you were engaged and not legally married or a relative to the victim, you aren’t sure if you are entitled to receive any damages for your fiance’s death. Those who are able to sue for wrongful death in Texas include:
- Spouses. The surviving spouse of the victim is able to sue for wrongful death. The spouse must still be legally married at the time of death and not divorced, and must provide proof that the marriage was still intact.
- Children. Adult children are able to make claims for wrongful death. Additionally, adopted children are also able to make these claims for their adoptive parents, but not their biological parents.
- Parents. Parents of children who died are able to make claims for wrongful death. Step-parents, however, are not able to file unless they have fully adopted the child who died. Similarly, adoptive parents are able to file for their adopted children.
Contact Wayne Wright for Help With Your Wrongful Death Claim
If you have questions about your fiance’s wrongful death and want to know if you are eligible to make a wrongful death claim, contact the attorneys of Wayne Wright. We can answer your questions and help you, should you pursue a wrongful death claim. Call 800-237-3334 to speak with a wrongful death lawyer about your situation and find out if we can help.
My child hurt his head playing sports, and the trainers told me he was fine. What are the signs of a traumatic brain injury?
After your child banged his head while playing sports, he was examined by the trainers and doctors and given a clean bill of health. As a parent, however, you aren’t so sure. You are concerned something could develop down the line. The truth is, you have every right to be concerned.
The Signs of Traumatic Brain Injuries in Children
Not all traumatic brain injuries (TBI) show symptoms right after a head injury. Many trainers and athletes assume that if the signs of a TBI aren’t immediately displayed, then an injury doesn’t exist. This kind of thinking could lead to an unfortunate death. The symptoms of a TBI aren’t always obvious, but by looking for the common signs, you could save your child’s life. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Anxiety for no apparent reason
- “Seeing stars” and feeling dazed, lightheaded, and dizzy
- Blurred vision and sensitivity to light
- Memory loss, including not remembering what happened right before and after the injury
- Difficulty with coordination and balance
- Slurred speech or saying things that don’t make sense
- Problems concentrating, thinking, or making decisions
It is extremely important to take your child to see a medical professional after experiencing any kind of head injury. Keep in mind that playing sports is one of the most common ways young people experience TBIs. Children ages 15 to 19 are in the age group that sustains brain injuries most often.
Did a TBI Cause the Death of Your Child?
Losing a child is difficult enough, but when it happens due to someone else’s negligence, the pain is almost unbearable. Although nothing can bring your child back, you can make those responsible accountable for their actions.
The legal team at Wayne Wright LLP has helped many in the Austin area receive the compensation they deserve due to a wrongful death, and may be able to do the same for you. Don't wait any longer to speak to a wrongful death lawyer. Schedule your free case evaluation by calling 800-237-3334.
How can a nurse cause a wrongful death?
Hospital patients often refer to nurses as guardian angels. After all, they often see the nurses more often than they do the physicians. Often times, nurses administer the medications, treatments, and care that are needed while in the hospital.
Nurses Often Commit Malpractice That Leads to Wrongful Death
Unfortunately, to err is human, and nurses aren’t immune to making mistakes. The problem is that many errors can cost a person his life. Nurses are rightfully held to a higher standard than others, as many people put lives in their hands. When nurses fail to perform their jobs at the appropriate level, however, helpless patients can die as a result. Although nurses can perform a variety of different types of malpractice, some are more common than others. Malpractice can turn into wrongful death when:
Nurses neglect to check patients for bedsores. These painful wounds can lead to amputations and systemic infections—which may result in death.
Medications are administered at the wrong time. Some medications can have fatal results if given with other medications during a certain time frame.
The wrong amounts of medications are given. Drug overdoses can occur when nurses mistakenly give too much medication. Giving too little medication can also lead to catastrophic results.
The nurse fails to check and monitor vital signs properly. Inaccurate vital sign readings can cause patients to not receive the urgent care that is needed. Alternatively, wrong readings can result in patients receiving medications that aren’t actually needed.
Do You Believe a Nurse Caused the Death of Your Loved One?
You understand that no one is perfect; however, you also believe that your loved one would still be alive if it weren’t for a healthcare professional’s mistake. If you want to take action, the legal team of Wayne Wright LLP may be able to help.
What challenges could I face when suing a nursing home for wrongful death?
When you received the call that your mother passed away in the nursing home where she resided in Austin, you automatically became suspicious. You had a bad feeling that perhaps the staff wasn’t taking care of your mother properly, and now that feeling is even stronger. You believe the nursing home was responsible for the death of your loved one.
Possible Obstacles When Suing a Nursing Home
The good news is you may be able to sue the nursing home for wrongful death. The bad news, however, is that you’ll likely face many challenges in your pursuit. The following are a few examples:
- A large team of defense attorneys. Nursing homes pay high insurance premiums each year, and when lawsuits are filed against them, the companies supply them with armies of defense attorneys. As a result, the attorneys will come after the plaintiff with a variety of defenses. Unless you have an experienced lawyer on your side fighting against them, there’s a good chance you won’t have the legal expertise to win your case.
- Statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the time period in which you are able to file a lawsuit for wrongful death. In Texas the statute of limitations is two years. If you fail to file a claim within that time period, you lose your right to file a claim, even if you only miss it by one day.
- Paperwork and other defense tactics. When a claim is made against a nursing home, one of the defense tactics used is to bury the plaintiff’s attorney in paperwork. The legal team will also try to hide the truth by misplacing medical records and other types of tricks.
Don’t Attempt to Fight Alone
Going after a nursing home and its insurance company without the help of an attorney is a mistake. A lawyer can subpoena facility and patient medical records, take depositions, and perform other actions that can help uncover the truth—increasing your chances of winning your case. The legal team of Wayne Wright LLP may be able to help you. Contact us today by calling 800-237-3334 to schedule your consultation to speak with a lawyer about your situation.
What should I do if someone I love died after falling in the hospital?
Injuries from hospital falls are not only traumatic, they are unfortunately common. Hundreds of thousands of patients fall while under hospital care every year, causing broken bones, cuts, bruises, and even internal bleeding. Patients over the age of 60 are particularly at risk of falling, and are more likely to die as a result of a hospital fall.
Since falls are commonly due to entirely preventable causes, hospitals can be held accountable for negligence after a serious fall. Here are just a few ways patients have suffered injuries in the past:
- The patient pushed the call button, but there was no response, so the patient fell attempting to get out of bed on his own
- The patient was not given non-slip socks or slippers
- The bed call button was disconnected or not working properly
- The patient needs to use the bathroom, and falls because he cannot wait for help getting out of bed
- The patient has been heavily medicated and does not realize his mental and physical abilities have been affected
- The patient trips on clothing, shoes, furniture, or other items in the room
- The patient fell because the room was not properly lit
- Wet floors from mops or bodily waste resulted in a fall
- Patients with canes and walkers were not given their assistive devices to use while staying in the hospital
- Patients who were known falling risks did not have extra precautions in place, such as special room designations, video surveillance, a sitter, or closer placement to a nurses’ station
Why it Is Important to Have the Details Investigated
Even if your loved one was elderly or severely ill, it is always a good idea to see if the hospital could have played a role in a family member’s death. At Wayne Wright LLP, we can fully investigate the legal and medical circumstances after a death in the family, getting you the justice and compensation you deserve—while giving you the time you need to grieve. Call us today at 800-237-3334 to get your questions answered in your free case evaluation.
Can I file a wrongful death claim if the property owner had a no trespassing sign?
While many property owners attempt to prevent people from wandering onto their land using “no trespassing” signs, these signs do very little to promote safety on the premises. Businesses and landowners have a reasonable duty to make their premises safe, and simply posting a sign is not enough to relieve them of liability when an accident occurs.
For example, a no trespassing sign is unlikely to prove effective against:
- Children. Posted signs are not a deterrent if people cannot read them. Many young children may wander into a neighbor’s yard and be attacked by a dog or drown in an unguarded swimming pool, and they cannot be held legally liable for their own actions.
- Attractive nuisances. There are some dangers that can seem appealing to young children and teenagers, making a sign unlikely to warn them away. Power tools, ladders leaning against trees or buildings, large piles of leaves or snow, lawn ornaments, or decorative fountains may entice visitors onto a property.
- Criminals. A business owner should take reasonable care to reduce the likelihood of criminal activity on his property. Criminals may disregard no trespassing signs, making them an inadequate defense against personal danger. Owners can only reduce their liability by providing proper security measures, such as bright lighting on the property after dark, posted security guards, and working security cameras.
We Can Tell You If You Have a Wrongful Death Claim
It is often difficult for grieving family members to gather evidence on their own behalf. At Wayne Wright LLP, we can fully investigate your claim and explain all of your legal options at no cost to you. Call us today at 800-237-3334 to get your questions answered in your free case evaluation.