Losing a loved one is a difficult ordeal, no matter how it happens. When someone dies because of a completely preventable accident resulting from someone else’s carelessness, it can be tragic. Even worse, the family members could be left holding the bills for unexpected expenses such as funeral costs and unpaid medical bills.
Fortunately, the law provides a way for someone’s family members to obtain financial compensation to help pay for their losses through wrongful death lawsuits. If your loved one died because of someone else’s negligence, you need an experienced Odessa wrongful death lawyer on your side. The Domingo Garcia Law Office is here to help.
Survival Actions vs. Wrongful Death Claims in Texas
In Texas, there are two possible types of lawsuits that the surviving family members can file. For our purposes, we will be discussing wrongful death lawsuits. However, it is important to know about survival actions as well. Survival actions allow the person’s immediate family members to bring a personal injury claim on behalf of the victim as if they were still alive. Generally, the same people who have the right to bring a survival action can bring a wrongful death lawsuit.
The Texas Survival Statute governs these claims, which provide compensation for the following losses:
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- Medical costs for treatments received prior to the victim’s death;
- Property damage from the accident; and
- Wages the victim missed because of their injuries, prior to their death.
In many cases, the victim’s heirs or legal representatives can bring both a survival action and wrongful death lawsuit together. A survival action could be for any personal injury action that happened before the victim died.
For a free legal consultation with a Personal Injury lawyer serving Odessa, call (432) 339-3333
Wrongful Death Vs. Criminal Charges in Odessa
The family members of people who have been victims of wrongful deaths often wonder whether the liable party will face criminal charges. Unfortunately, it is up to the state’s prosecuting attorney to determine whether criminal charges should be filed against the person or a party responsible for causing your family member’s death. There are several differences between the wrongful death claim and any criminal charges the defendant may face.
First, as previously mentioned, only the state’s prosecuting attorney can determine whether criminal charges should be filed against the liable party. However, with your wrongful death claim, your family can contact an experienced Odessa wrongful death attorney who can file a civil lawsuit against them.
The burden of proof in criminal and civil cases is also different. For the jury to return a conviction in a criminal case, guilt will need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. However, in civil wrongful death claims, the burden of proof is based on a preponderance of the evidence. The jury can doubt that the defendant is responsible for your loved one’s death, but if the evidence presented shows that they are more than likely responsible for causing your family member’s death, they can still be found liable.
Furthermore, the consequences and penalties the defendant will face vary considerably in criminal and civil court. If the defendant is found guilty in criminal court, they will face harsh penalties, such as:
- Restitution or fines
- Court ordered anger management
- Probation or parole restrictions
- Court-ordered mental health counseling
- Completion of a drug or alcohol treatment program
- Registration as a sex offender
- Loss of firearm rights
In civil court, however, if the jury finds the defendant liable for your family member’s death, they can be ordered to compensate your family accordingly. The judge may also find it necessary to award exemplary damages as a means of punishing the defendant for gross negligence or abhorrent conduct.
Although it may be up to the state to determine whether the defendant can be charged criminally, you can take justice into your own hands when you contact an Odessa wrongful death attorney for help.
Odessa Wrongful Death Lawyer Near Me (432) 339-3333
Common Accidents and Events Causing Odessa Wrongful Deaths
Under the worst circumstances, wrongful deaths can occur in virtually any type of incident, event, or accident. However, there are some types of accidents and events that cause wrongful deaths more frequently than others. Some of the more common types of accidents seen in Odessa include:
- Car accidents
- Tractor trailer accidents
- Motorcycle crashes
- Pedestrian accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Trips, slips, and falls
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Bertha juries
- Other violent crimes
- Product malfunctions
- Construction accident
- Work injuries
- Swimming pool accidents
- Trampoline accidents
- Dog attacks
These are only a few of the different types of accidents and incidents that can cause fatal injuries. If your loved one was injured and another type of accident, you may still have grounds for legal action against the liable party. Explore your legal options further when you contact a wrongful death lawyer in Odessa to discuss the details of your case.
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How to Build a Case Against the Liable Party
Your attorney will be tasked with proving to the court that the defendant is responsible for causing your family member’s death. To do this, we will need to introduce compelling evidence to support your claims. Your attorney will need to conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of the accident.
This way, we can gather the evidence needed to establish liability for the jury. Some of the more common types of evidence used to prove fault in Odessa wrongful death claims include:
- Pictures of the decedent’s injuries
- Photos of the accident scene
- Photos of any property damages
- Video of the accident or event
- Forensic evidence
- Dash cam footage
- Witness statements
- Reports from accident reconstructionists
- Reports from injury reconstructionists
- Police reports
- Accident reports
- Safety inspection logs, or lack thereof
- Maintenance records
- Financial records
- Social media posts
- Cell phone records
- Chemical blood alcohol test results
- Medical records
- Expert testimony
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Wrongful Death Lawsuits and Settlements in Odessa
Certain family members of the victim can bring a wrongful death lawsuit to recover losses that they have personally sustained because of their loved one’s injuries and death. There are some procedural rules and other tips you should know about wrongful death lawsuits. Here are some of the basics.
Only Certain Family Members Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
In Texas, someone has the right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit if they lost an immediate family member due to someone else’s negligence. Generally, this means the person’s spouse, child, or parent.
If none of these people file the wrongful death claim within three months, the estate executor or administrator can do it instead. Parties such as long-term partners, parents without parental rights, or stepchildren can not file a wrongful death lawsuit.
There Is a Time Limit to Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Someone only has two years after their family member’s death to initiate a wrongful death claim in Odessa. Your Odessa wrongful death attorney will need time to conduct an investigation, gather the appropriate documentation, and build your case. It is essential to begin the claim as soon as possible because as time passes, the case loses strength, and important supporting evidence could be lost.
The Proceeds of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Get Divided According to the Will
A wrongful death settlement or jury award goes to the victim’s estate. Their last will and testament then determines who receives a payout from the lawsuit and the amount. If the person did not have a will, the probate process will decide how it is divided.
Do Not Speak to the Insurance Companies
If the defendant’s insurance company contacts you to try to settle the claim, you should not try to work it out with them. Insurance companies are businesses that will try to pay you less compensation than you rightfully deserve. They have their own attorneys whose job it is to make sure they pay out as little as possible.
Possible Compensation in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
You can recover compensation for both your economic and non-financial costs in a wrongful death lawsuit or settlement. Economic damages are all of the costs that you have, or will, pay out of your own pocket. These are actual monetary losses, such as:
- Loss of future financial support and inheritance;
- Emotional and mental suffering or anguish;
- Loss of companionship; and
- Value of the lost care, maintenance, and counsel from the victim.
On the other hand, non-economic costs compensate people for losses that are not financial in nature. Non-economic compensation includes recovery for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of companionship. These are a lot harder to calculate, and generally, a jury will decide the appropriate number based on the case.
Could Your Family Be Awarded Punitive Damages?
Also commonly referred to as exemplary damages, punitive damages may be available in Odessa wrongful death claims. However, it will be up to the courts to determine whether punitive damages apply. This is not a type of loss your family is entitled to recover.
Instead, it is a way for the court system to punish the defendant for actions they consider reprehensible, egregious, or grossly negligent. By imposing exemplary damages, the courts are sending a message to the Odessa community that similar actions will not be tolerated in the future, and liable parties will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
There Is No Average Wrongful Death Settlement Amount in Texas
You are most likely wondering how much you can stand to gain from a wrongful death settlement. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an average wrongful death settlement or award. Settlement amounts depend on the unique facts and circumstances of every case, such as the facts of the accident and the defendants’ insurance coverage.
Hiring a Wrongful Death Lawyer in Odessa Is Essential for a Successful Lawsuit
It is crucial that you do not try to handle a wrongful death claim on your own. The legal system can be overwhelming to someone that does not deal with these claims on a regular basis. Your attorney will contend with the insurance companies, defendants, and their attorneys on your behalf and ensure that they do not take advantage of you.
Your wrongful death attorney at the Domingo Garcia Law Firm will help you by fully investigating your claim and determining a strong litigation strategy. They will work together with you to build a strong case using documentation, testimony, and other evidence. They will attempt to negotiate a settlement that is fair and compensates you for your losses, or they will take the case to trial for a jury to decide.
How Much does It Cost to Hire an Odessa Wrongful Death Attorney?
One of the top reasons more families do not reach out to a wrongful death lawyer for help are concerns regarding the cost. There are many misconceptions regarding how much it will cost to hire a wrongful death lawyer to help you. However, the majority of reputable wrongful death attorneys understand what your family is going through and are going to be willing to work with you on contingency.
You will not be expected to cover any upfront or out-of-pocket expenses unless or until your attorney produces a recovery in your case. In this way, reaching out to a lawyer for help involves minimal risk to you or your family. After everything you have been through in dealing with your loss, reducing this risk is essential.
With our attorneys by your side, your family can focus on mourning your loss while we cover all of the expenses involved in building your case such as the cost of hiring experts, forensic analysis of the evidence, and necessary court fees.
What to Expect from the Wrongful Death Claims Process
When you are feeling overwhelmed or intimidated at the thought of moving forward with your wrongful death claim, understanding what to expect from the process can help you feel more confident in your decision to get justice for your loved one.
With that in mind, it is important to remember that every wrongful death claim is different. What is successful for one family may not work for another. However, this is a general idea of what you can expect once you make the decision to move forward with your case:
Once you have retained a wrongful death attorney, your lawyer will begin by investigating the cause of the decedent’s death. By analyzing the type of accident or incident they were involved in, we can gather the evidence needed to establish liability and prove negligence or misconduct.
Once your attorney knows who is responsible for causing your loved ones’ death, we will need to analyze your damages to calculate the value of your claim. You have the right to recover a variety of economic damages and non-economic damages depending on the specific details of your case. It will be up to your attorney to ensure no loss goes unaccounted for so you can maximize your compensation and ensure the liable party covers every single cost.
You may be able to avoid bringing your wrongful death case to court if the defendant is represented by an insurance company. In many wrongful death claims, the defendant has purchased an insurance policy that protects them from liability.
In filing a claim with the insurance company, you may be able to recover certain types and amounts of damages, such as funeral and burial expenses and medical expenses. However, insurance settlements are rarely enough to adequately meet family’s needs. When this happens, you should always be prepared to bring your case to court.
The Wrongful Death Trial
Bringing your case to trial is often one of the best ways to get the most out of your claim. In civil court, you have the right to recover both economic and non-economic damages. You are not limited by the coverage purchased by the policyholder in an insurance claim.
Your attorney will introduce the evidence needed to support your case, including witnesses and expert testimony, to show the defendant is liable for your loved ones passing. The defense will then attempt to refute liability and reduce their financial obligation before the judge or jury reviews the evidence and makes a decision in your case.
Odessa Wrongful Death FAQ
Wrongful death claims in Texas have been known to be particularly complex. You may have many unanswered questions regarding the wrongful death claims process and what to expect from your case.
In the hopes of helping you feel empowered in your decision to move forward with your Odessa wrongful death claim, we have provided the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding insurance and civil claims for fatal injuries below. If you have additional questions, these can be discussed during your free consultation.
Can I file a Wrongful Death Claim for My Deceased Child?
Your ability to file a wrongful death claim for your deceased child will vary based on the specific circumstances of your case. If you are the lawful parent or legal guardian of a minor child who passed away in a wrongful death situation, you may have the opportunity to move forward with a civil claim against the liable party.
If you are the parent of an adult child who passed away in a wrongful death situation, you may also have the opportunity to file a wrongful death lawsuit alongside the decedent’s surviving spouse and children. If you are unsure whether you have the right to move forward with a wrongful death claim for your deceased child, the best way to find out what options are available to you is to contact an attorney with your questions and concerns.
Is There a Cap on Damages in Texas Wrongful Death Claims?
Yes, the amount of compensation you can be awarded in a Texas wrongful death claim can be capped depending on the circumstances of your case. For example, in the majority of wrongful death claims, the amount of punitive damages you can be awarded is capped at a maximum of $750,000 depending on the details of your case. Generally, punitive damages are not to exceed two times your economic damages plus the equal amount of non-economic damages.
There is also a cap on the amount of compensation that can be awarded in wrongful death cases involving medical malpractice. The cat for the total amount of compensation you can be awarded in a medical malpractice wrongful death claim is approximately $1,650,000. This includes the combined amount of all of your damages including exemplary damages and compensatory damages.
Who Will Pay for My Family Member’s Funeral and Burial Costs?
The defendant will be responsible for covering the costs of your loved ones funeral and burial expenses if your claim is successful. If you settle outside of court, the insurance company may be responsible for covering the decedent’s burial and funeral expenses, as well as their medical expenses and other types of losses.
Furthermore, if the decedent passed away in a work-related accident, your family may be entitled to death benefits through the decedent’s employer’s worker’s compensation insurance provider. During this difficult time, you can reach out to your wrongful death attorney in Odessa for help figuring out how to lay your loved one to rest.
The Domingo Garcia Law Firm Is Here to Help
Losing your loved ones is a heartbreaking ordeal. No amount of money can undo that hurt, but you may be eligible to recover compensation for your suffering and financial losses. The Domingo Garcia Law Firm can take on the legal burden and help you with any questions you may have about a wrongful death claim or survival action.
Contact us today to set up a free consultation to discuss your case with a wrongful death attorney in Odessa.