Have you lost a loved one due someone else’s careless act, such as a fatal car accident?
The experience of the untimely death of a family member can be a devastating, painful period in one’s life. If their death came as a result of the misconduct, either willful or negligent, of another individual or a company, that death may be legally considered a wrongful death.
Knowing how to pursue a wrongful death claim can be confusing and may seem impossible in an already chaotic situation of the aftermath of your loss. Contact the wrongful death lawyers at the Sloan Firm today and let us assist you during this difficult time.
How the Sloan Firm Can Help Bereaved Families in Their Time of Need
The attorneys at the Sloan Firm have seen it all and we fight for our clients rights and best interests.
We will listen to the details of your case, gather facts about what happened and then plan a customized strategy for your claim, based on what is most important to you.
Seeking Justice for Your Lost Loved One
There are two possible ways to pursue compensation for your loss. This first is a wrongful death claim, under the Texas Wrongful Death Act. This law provides the right for certain family members to sue when their relative is wrongfully killed because of the negligence or deliberate action of another. In order to pursue a wrongful death claim, the accident must have been caused by the willful or negligent conduct of someone other than your relative.
Under the Wrongful Death Act, parents, children or the surviving spouse are able to pursue compensation for the damages they experience due to the loss of their loved one, and not for the actual injuries of the deceased. The injuries of the deceased may be pursued by the decedent’s estate in a separate claim.
The other pathway is called a survival claim, provided for under the Texas Survival Statute. This law allows the estate of someone who was wrongfully killed to file a personal injury claim on behalf of the person who died for the pain and suffering and other potential damages they experienced prior to passing away.
Texas Wrongful Death Laws
In Texas, a wrongful death claim is available for the benefit of the surviving spouse, child, and/or parents of the person who died. The claim may be filed for an individual or together as a group. In Texas, adult children may also file wrongful death claims over the death of a parent.
If the surviving spouse, child or parents do not file a claim in the first three months after the death of their loved one, a personal representative of the estate, either named in the will or appointed by a judge, may file the claim on their behalf.
Separately, under the Texas Survival Statute, the estate, heirs or legal representative may bring a claim.
Types of Damages in Wrongful Death and Survival Cases
For a wrongful death claim, both compensatory damages and punitive damages may be pursued. Compensatory damages are intended as compensation for your loss, and include financial damages such as loss of income, and other non-pecuniary damages such as loss of advice and counsel.
Some of the compensatory damages which may be available include:
- Loss of decedent’s earning capacity
- Loss of parental services, child services or spousal services
- Loss of advice and counsel
- Loss of companionship and society
- Loss of inheritance
- Mental anguish
- Expenses associated with therapy
Punitive damages, also called exemplary damages, are available in certain cases, such as when the death is caused by a willful or intentional act or omission, or by gross negligence. The purpose of these punitive damages is not to recover compensation for a loss but to punish a wrongdoer and send a message about the behavior that lead to the wrongful death.
Under the Survival Statute, the estate or person filing the claim is essentially suing on behalf of the person who died. The case is pursued in the same way as a normal personal injury lawsuit, as if the person had lived. The damages available may include medical expenses, funeral expenses, lost wages, property damage, etc. Any amount recovered goes to the estate of the deceased.
Time Limits on Wrongful Death Claims
In Texas, the statute of limitations on wrongful death claims is two years. The statute of limitations for any claim refers to the time limit for filing claims based on state statute. So in Texas, you have two years from the death of your loved one to file a wrongful death or survival claim, though that “clock” may be paused for certain reasons.
Comparative Fault in Wrongful Death Claims
Just as in other personal injury cases in Texas, a wrongful death claim is limited by comparative fault. If the decedent’s actions contributed to their own death, the amount recovered may be reduced by the percentage at which they are determined to be at fault by a judge or a jury. The deceased must be found to be less than 50% responsible for their own death in order to recover at all.
New Mexico Wrongful Death Laws
If you live in New Mexico, you have three years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim, though some factors may pause the three-year clock. The wrongful death claim must be filed by the person named as the personal representative of the estate of the deceased, often the surviving spouse, parents, children or siblings.
Although the personal representative files the case, and may receive a portion of the compensation, depending on their relationship to the deceased, the claim is filed for the benefit of surviving family members, and the division of any compensation or award will be determined according to the priority of the relationship. For instance, if there is a surviving spouse but no children, all damages go to the spouse. If there is a surviving spouse and children or grandchildren, damages are divided half and half between the spouse and the children or grandchildren.
Get Legal Help with Your Wrongful Death Claim
We have wrongful death attorneys available to help you in the Longview, Houston and Santa Fe regions. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today for a free and confidential evaluation of your wrongful death case.