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.