Nothing is more shocking and heartbreaking than the unexpected death of a loved one. When a family loses a loved one in a preventable accident or violent incident caused by someone else’s wrongdoing, the family may have the right to seek compensation to help with the financial burden of their loved one’s passing.
In the early days of such a shattering loss, it is not easy to think about the financial or legal issues associated with a loved one’s death. Your family deserves trusted and compassionate counsel at such a difficult time. Your family should not have to bear the financial consequences of a wrongful death such as the loss of a family member’s household support. A knowledgeable and compassionate attorney can help you understand the appropriate steps to take. A successful wrongful death claim can help ease the long-lasting financial burden and provide some security.
Keep reading to learn more about the steps in pursuing a wrongful death claim in Texas.
1- Talk to a Professional Wrongful Death Attorney
Attorney Troy A. Brookover has represented many people struggling to overcome life’s most difficult losses. He has more than 30 years of legal experience and is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization – a distinction held by just over 1 percent of personal injury lawyers in Texas.
Troy grew up in San Antonio and founded the Law Offices of Troy A. Brookover to make a difference in the community. The firm has obtained several six- and seven-figure awards for clients to help with medical expenses, funeral expenses, lost income, and other losses.
In San Antonio, contact the Law Offices of Troy A. Brookover in San Antonio to obtain the compassionate and knowledgeable legal representation you deserve if you have lost a loved one in an accident or criminal act someone else caused. Contact us today for a free initial legal consultation.
2- Understand the Statute of Limitations
Texas law imposes a statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death case of two years from the date of death. Only a handful of exceptions to this rule exist.
While two years may seem like plenty of time, there is a lot of work to do prior to filing a wrongful death lawsuit. The preparation includes conducting an investigation, gathering evidence, identifying who is financially responsible, submitting a claim to the appropriate insurers, and trying to negotiate a settlement. An insurer may dispute liability or move slowly in complete negotiations, making it important to remain aware of the statute of limitations.
It is better to start work on a legal claim as soon as possible before evidence is lost or deteriorates. Our objective at the Law Offices of Troy A. Brookover is to handle as much of the work required to prepare a claim as we can without burdening you.
3- Identify Who Is Eligible to Sue
Texas’s wrongful death statute allows a wrongful death claim to be filed only by and for the benefit of the decedent’s surviving spouse, children, and/or parents.
One or more of the eligible family members may pursue a wrongful death claim on behalf of all surviving eligible family members.
If none of the eligible family members has started a wrongful death claim by three months after the decedent’s death, the decedent’s personal representative – typically the executor of their will or administrator of their estate – may file a wrongful death lawsuit.
4- Identify Who Is Responsible for the Wrongful Death
The crux of a wrongful death claim is the family’s assertion that an individual or business is responsible for the decedent’s death, either because of negligent acts or an intentional act.
For example, after a fatal car crash, a wrongful lawsuit would assert that the driver who ran a red light and fatally injured your loved one violated their legal duty to drive safely by disobeying traffic laws meant to ensure safety. The at-fault driver acted negligently by running the red light. Medical records and testimony by medical professionals would assert that the collision was the cause of death.
Our task as your attorneys would be to investigate the collision and gather evidence to prove the driver’s negligence and show how it caused your loved one’s death. We would submit a demand letter to the insurers seeking compensation for your family’s losses and, if necessary, file a wrongful lawsuit in court. When the facts are disputed or unclear, uncovering the facts of a case is more difficult and time-consuming.
5- Establish What Damages You Are Seeking
The goal of a wrongful death lawsuit is to make things right for you financially. A wrongful death claim may seek compensation for:
- The cost of burial/cremation and other final expenses
- Medical bills incurred after the accident
- Loss of your loved one’s earnings and financial contributions to the household
- Loss of the value of the growth of your loved one’s assets and estate
- Loss of the services your loved one performed for your household and family
- Loss of your loved one’s advice, counsel, and support
- Loss of your loved one’s affection, companionship, and society
- The emotional and mental pain and anguish you and your family have had to endure
In special situations, a lawsuit may demand exemplary damages, also known as “punitive damages.” Texas juries may award exemplary damages to punish the party at fault when they have engaged in willful misconduct or showed gross negligence leading to the decedent’s death.
6- Negotiating a Settlement or Going to Trial
Once we have evidence demonstrating fault and a calculation of what the family is owed, we can submit a demand letter to the appropriate insurance company. The letter would outline our case and what compensation we are seeking on your behalf. The insurance company can then pay the claim, reject the claim, or offer a settlement.
Assuming the insurer does not pay the claim, we would respond to their settlement offer or denial and seek to negotiate a compromise settlement that is acceptable to the family. In most instances, cases are settled without a trial. When an insurance company refuses to agree to a reasonable settlement, we will be prepared to proceed with a formal lawsuit asking the court to compel payment to the family.
Once a lawsuit is filed, there are multiple steps before a case is heard in court. At any point, before the jury returns a verdict, a settlement may still be reached. If the case goes to trial, each side will present its assertions and evidence and have the opportunity to cross-examine the other side’s witnesses. With instructions from the judge, the jury will determine whether a wrongful death occurred and, if one was, calculate what damages to award.
Talk to Our San Antonio Wrongful Death Attorneys
If you and your family have lost a loved one because of another party’s wrongful acts, you should understand your legal rights. The Law Offices of Troy A. Brookover in San Antonio, Texas, can provide a free consultation about your legal rights and how he can help with your claim. Reach out to Troy today.