El Paso Wrongful Death Lawyer
There is nothing harder in life than losing a loved one. When that loss is caused by a sudden and unexpected accident, it’s even more difficult for family members to cope. In addition to leaving loved ones mourning and in a state of grief, the unexpected death may also leave families facing the financial consequences of the loss.
The deceased may have contributed an income to the household, or they may have provided crucial child care that the family is now left without. These are the types of losses that families can pursue compensation for through wrongful death claims.
Of course, a lawsuit can never bring a loved one back. However, a wrongful death settlement or jury award can help surviving family members with the financial burden of the loss. An El Paso wrongful death lawyer from the Law Offices of Michael J. Gopin, PLLC, can help your family through this difficult time. Contact us today to talk about your rights in a free consultation.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas?
Texas, like all other states, dictates that only certain individuals can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Under the law, only parents, children, and spouses can file a wrongful death claim. Children include those born out of wedlock and adopted children if they were dependent on the deceased. Additionally, parents of a deceased adopted child can file a claim when they suffer losses from the death, such as pain and suffering.
Under Texas law, any one of these individuals may file a wrongful death claim. If more than one of these individuals wishes to file a claim, they can form a group and file a claim.
If none of these family members wishes to file a claim, the estate may file a claim within three months of the death. These claims are filed by the executor of the estate. There is an exception to this rule, and that is that any family member eligible to file a claim can block a claim made by the executor.
What Do You Have to Prove in a Wrongful Death Case?
In some cases, it can seem clear that a preventable accident was the cause of a person’s wrongful death. However, proving that in court can be more complicated than it seems. For those unfamiliar with the law, this is often difficult.
To prove a death was wrongful, you must first prove that another person’s negligent actions caused the death. Negligence is a legal term used to describe careless or reckless actions. A person does not have to act intentionally in order to be negligent. They simply have to act in an unreasonable manner that hurts another person.
To be negligent, a person must have owed a duty of care to someone else. For example, drivers have a duty of care to drive in a reasonable manner that will not hurt anyone else on the road. Manufacturers have a duty to ensure their products will not harm consumers. Property owners have a duty to ensure that people who enter their property will not become hurt while there. When people do not meet that duty of care, or breach it, they are considered negligent.
Proving that someone acted negligently is not enough to prove wrongful death. You must also prove that the act of negligence caused the death.
To prove negligence, and the fact that it resulted in wrongful death, strong evidence is crucial. This evidence can include police reports, eyewitness statements, expert testimony, photos and videos of the accident scene, and doctor’s reports. If the act that caused the wrongful death was criminal, such as an assault, any evidence used in the prosecution of the criminal case is also useful in a civil wrongful death claim.
Compensation in a Wrongful Death Claim
- Lost earning capacity of the deceased
- Loss of an inheritance
- Loss of companionship, society, comfort, and love
- Emotional distress and mental anguish
- Loss of household services
- Funeral and burial expenses
The courts will determine which family members were most dependent on the deceased. Based on these findings, the court will also determine how much certain family members should be awarded in a wrongful death claim.
Additionally, survival claims can be filed in Texas. These differ from wrongful death claims because they act as personal injury claims that survive the death of the deceased. They are meant to compensate the deceased’s estate for losses the deceased incurred before his or her death. These damages can include medical expenses incurred before the death, and pain and suffering sustained by the victim prior to the death.
Texas Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death
In Texas, there is a statute of limitations on wrongful death. This is the time limit that loved ones have to file their claim. In Texas, wrongful death claims must be filed within two years of the date of death.
Texas’ statute of limitations is fairly strict. The law states that plaintiffs who file claims after this time are barred from receiving any compensation. That being said, there are some exceptions. The first and most pertinent exception involves wrongful death claims that a child wishes to file. Minor children cannot file a lawsuit or a wrongful death claim, as the courts have determined that they do not have the capacity to do so. However, if the child wishes to file a wrongful death claim after they turn 18, they have two years from the date of their 18th birthday to do so.
The other exception to the statute of limitations in wrongful death claims occurs when the family members eligible to file a claim don’t discover the cause of the wrongful death right away. The cause of death isn’t always obvious. For example, if someone dies while on the job, family members typically seek death benefits from workers’ compensation. However, if those family members learn six months after the death that a third party caused the death, they could have two years from the date of learning that information to file a claim for compensation.
The statute of limitations in Texas is clear about how long family members have to file a claim. This time limit, though, can still become complicated. So family members should always speak to an El Paso wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible to ensure their legal rights are preserved.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
Tragically, accidents resulting in wrongful death happen much more than people think. There are also many common causes of wrongful death, including:
- Car accidents: Due to the high number of drivers in Texas, and because many motorists do not drive in a reasonable manner, car accidents are the most common cause of wrongful death. These wrongful deaths are due to the fact that many drivers engage in dangerous behavior when behind the wheel, including distracted driving, reckless driving, drunk driving, speeding, and failing to pay attention to the road.
- Medical malpractice: The vast majority of healthcare professionals in El Paso are highly skilled and always provide their patients with the highest quality of care. Unfortunately, sometimes healthcare professionals cut corners, don’t follow proper procedures, or are simply negligent and fail to provide proper care. When this is the case, wrongful deaths can occur and healthcare professionals can be held liable. Medical malpractice may involve misdiagnosis, surgical errors, delayed diagnosis, and birth injuries.
- Workplace accidents: Some workplaces, such as construction sites, are inherently dangerous. Other work areas are not as dangerous, but serious accidents can still happen. If an employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance, those who lose a loved one on the job may be able to file a wrongful death claim against the employer. The family may also be able to file a claim against a third party that caused a fatality. A third party is someone who is not connected to the same employer as the deceased. For example, if a courier was in an accident with a third-party driver while on the job and the other driver was at fault, the courier’s family could file a wrongful death claim against the other driver.
- Defective products: Most people don’t expect products to be defective. When they are, the results can be deadly. For example, if the brakes on a car are defective and a driver attempts to stop, those brakes could fail and result in a fatal accident. When that is the case, family members can hold manufacturers responsible for causing the death.
- Truck accidents: Truck accidents are different from other motor vehicle accidents. Trucks are much larger than passenger vehicles, and when the two are involved in a crash, it’s almost always those in the smaller vehicles who suffer. Truck accidents are often caused by truck driver negligence or negligence on the part of the trucking company. In either case, families can file a wrongful death claim against the negligent parties.
- Pedestrian accidents: Pedestrians have very little chance when they are in a collision with any type of vehicle. As such, when they are hit, they sustain serious injuries and often don’t survive the accident. When this is the case, negligent drivers can be held accountable for the wrongful death.
- Bicycle accidents: Bicyclists also have very little protection when on their bike. They may have a helmet and protective clothing, but that is largely the extent of it. When a car or truck crashes into a cyclist, the cyclist sustains the worst injuries. These crashes are also often fatal for cyclists.
- Aviation accidents: Plane accidents are very rare. When they occur, they are typically caused by two main factors. The first is when a part of the airplane is defective and causes a crash. The second is pilot error. Both of these can cause not just one fatality, but sometimes many. Family members can often file a wrongful death claim when these tragic crashes occur.
- Nursing home neglect: Nursing homes are entrusted with one of society’s most vulnerable sectors, the elderly. Unfortunately, too many of these facilities are understaffed and try to take shortcuts in their care. This can result in neglect of elderly residents and a failure to provide the proper care. In other cases, the staff members at nursing homes may simply become impatient and frustrated with their residents. This results in abuse in too many cases. Both neglect and abuse are wrong and can result in wrongful death. When they do, family members can hold staff members and nursing home owners liable.
- Slip and fall accidents: Although these accidents may sound minor, they are not. When people fall, they can hit their heads and damage their spines, just two injuries that can result in wrongful death. When property owners fail to keep their property in a safe and clean condition, they can be held liable for these wrongful deaths.
Clearly, there are many causes of wrongful death. Unfortunately, none of them are easy to prove. An El Paso wrongful death attorney can help family members establish their claim and demand the compensation they need.
How Our Wrongful Death Attorneys Can Help You
Any death is extremely difficult to move past, and it often brings with it financial repercussions for loved ones left behind. If you have lost a loved one and believe it was a wrongful death, it’s important that you speak to an El Paso wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible.
At the Law Offices of Michael J. Gopin, PLLC, we know how to pursue wrongful death claims and hold at-fault parties and insurance companies accountable. Tragically, we cannot erase the hurt you are suffering. We can, however, help ease the financial burden of the loss.
Contact us today to schedule your free consultation so we can start reviewing your case.