What is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is a person’s death caused by another person’s or entity’s negligence, misconduct or carelessness. Wrongful death can arise from a number of situations including:
Who can sue for wrongful death?
In most states, the wrongful death claim belongs to the surviving spouse, children, and sometimes parents of the decedent. Likewise, in most states, a personal representative of the decedent must be appointed and the representative brings a lawsuit against the person or entity responsible for the death.
From what types of situations can a wrongful death claim arise?
Many types of factual situations can result in someone’s death because of the negligence or intentional wrongdoing of another. Some types of conduct that can result in a wrongful death include medical malpractice, criminal acts, motor vehicle accidents, exposure to toxic chemicals, and death during a supervised activity. More information here: https://fordandlaurel.com/
What kinds of damages can I sue for?
Aside from the emotional trauma, many types of damages can result from a person’s death including:
Loss of love, society and support
Loss of future earnings
Loss of benefits, including pension and medical coverage
Loss of household services
Loss of inheritance
Loss of companionship or consortium
Possible punitive damages (to punish and deter wrongdoer from harming others)
What happens if a person dies before bringing a personal injury lawsuit against the person responsible?
If the death was caused by the injury, then the heirs of the decedent have a wrongful death claim against the person responsible for the injury and the death. If the death was not caused by the injury, in most cases, the personal injury claim survives the death and may be brought by the decedent’s personal representative.
How do judges and juries determine the dollar amount of economic loss to place on a person’s life?
In order to place a dollar amount on the economic loss of a person’s life, juries and judges ask certain questions such as:
How much money did the decedent earn?
How many more years would the decedent have worked?
What household services did the decedent provide?
How financially dependent were the plaintiffs on the decedent?
Keep in mind, compensation is available even if the decedent was not employed and not making any money at the time of death. Other services, such as household chores, loss of training, advice and nurturing of children are also considered and with the help of experts, monetary figures are placed on them. This monetary payment will allow the survivors to obtain substitute domestic services.
After the death, how much time do I have to file a wrongful death lawsuit?
In Texas, the statute of limitations (time limit) for most wrongful death lawsuits is 2 years from the date of death. However, if the person bringing the wrongful death action is a minor, the 2 year period does not start until the minor is 18 years old. Additionally, special circumstances may extend or limit the statute of limitations including wrongful deaths resulting from exposure to asbestos or medical malpractice. Speak to a qualified attorney to determine the statute of limitations in your particular case.
Could I sue for wrongful death if the decedent’s death was the result of someone’s negligence?
Yes. Most wrongful death lawsuits are based on negligence. To prove negligence, the plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit must prove that the defendant had a duty to act a certain way, breached that duty, the breach caused the decedent’s death, and the death caused the plaintiff damages.
Could I sue for wrongful death if the responsible party is charged or convicted of murder or manslaughter?
Yes. The government may charge the responsible party with murder and a court may ultimately convict the responsible party to punish them. This procedure takes place in criminal court. Filing and litigating a wrongful death lawsuit takes place in civil court where the plaintiff is asking for compensation for the loss of the decedent. It is possible for both procedures to occur or for one procedure to occur without the other.
Could I sue for wrongful death if the defendant was found “not guilty” in criminal court?
Yes. The burden of proof is lower in civil cases. In criminal cases, the prosecution must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed the crime. In civil cases, the plaintiff has to prove that more likely than not, the defendant is responsible for the wrongful death. In other words, if the jury believes that there is more than a 50% probability that the defendant negligently caused the wrongful death, the plaintiff wins.
Do I have a wrongful death case for the death of a fetus?
There is a clear trend toward recognizing wrongful death actions for the deaths of unborn children. The old rule, set forth in 1884, held that the family of an unborn child who died because of another’s negligence did not have the standing to sue for wrongful death. A clear majority of jurisdictions are moving away from this holding mostly due to medical advances and the understanding of “separateness” between mother and child. Although the law has evolved to meet modern understanding, determining the appropriate amount of damages is still not clear.
Is the money paid for wrongful death settlement tax-free?
Generally, yes. Compensatory damages (damages meant to compensate plaintiffs) awarded to survivors are tax exempt. Punitive damages (damages meant to punish and deter future misconduct) are usually taxable although they may be exempt from income tax depending on state law. Please visit this website @ https://no1-lawyer.com/
Are there certain types of damages that the jury cannot award me?
The jury will be instructed not to consider the following:
Pain or suffering of the decedent
Grief or sorrow of the survivors
Mental or emotional distress of the survivors
The poverty or wealth of any survivor
For more information, or to have a free consult with a wrongful death attorney, call us today.