The sudden, unexpected death of a close relative in Fort Worth, Texas, could change your life as you know it. We know that money is cold comfort when you have lost a dear loved one and that compensation could never fill the void in your heart.
You will likely face some financial challenges due to the loss of the income and services your relative provided. A Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer from Domingo Garcia can seek money damages from the at-fault party whose wrongful act, whether accidental or intentional, caused the untimely death of your loved one.
Wrongful Death Claims
Sometimes, a sudden event causes an instantaneous or nearly immediate loss of life. In other situations, a person might suffer debilitating or catastrophic injuries from which they eventually die, weeks or months later. Either situation can lead to a wrongful death claim against the party whose wrongful act caused the victim’s death.
For a free legal consultation with a wrongful death lawyer serving Fort Worth, call (817) 755-1800
Examples of Wrongful Death Settlements Our Firm Has Achieved
Here are just a few examples of the outcomes we have achieved for our clients in wrongful death cases:
- $3,000,000 settlement for the family of a man killed in a work-site accident.
- $7,660,000 settlement for wrongful deaths from an equipment collapse.
- $2,750,000 settlement for a roadside worker getting struck and killed.
- $8,500,000 settlement for the family of a trucking accident fatality
- $6,000,000 settlement in a commercial vehicle wrongful death case
- $4,500,000 settlement in an oilfield wrongful death incident
The amount of recovery in any given wrongful death case will depend on the facts of the situation. Every wrongful death action is different. Although we cannot predict how much compensation you might win, we promise that we will bend over backwards to recover the money damages you and your family deserve.
Fort Worth Wrongful Death Lawyer Near Me (817) 755-1800
Parties Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Action
Texas has a wrongful death statute, Texas Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 71.004, which specifies who can file a claim. The surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased individual are allowed to bring a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation.
The proceeds of a wrongful death claim can only benefit people in those categories. Only those related by blood or marriage can receive wrongful death compensation.
The plaintiff who files the action can be one or more individuals in the beneficiary categories. In addition, if three months pass after the death, the executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate can file the lawsuit unless the beneficiaries are unanimously opposed to the action.
Pursuable Compensation in Fort Worth Wrongful Death Actions
The legal beneficiaries can pursue monetary damages for their losses. The jury is allowed to award damages that will compensate the survivors in an amount proportionate to the injury that the death caused.
Actual damages in a wrongful death case can include:
- Decedent’s lost income
- Medical bills and end-of-life care expenses
- Cost of the funeral and burial
Additional damages awarded can include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of parental guidance
If the death resulted from an intentional act or the defendant was guilty of an omission or gross negligence that caused the death, the jury can award exemplary damages in addition to actual damages.
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How We Prove Liability in a Wrongful Death Case
Most wrongful death cases have their basis in negligence, meaning that someone made a mistake that resulted in an accident that killed another. Whether the negligent wrongful death case involved a motor vehicle collision, dangerous medical device, slip and fall accident, or medical malpractice, the elements of negligence are essentially the same.
Duty of Care
The at-fault party had a legal duty to do something. For example, to follow the rules of the road, to ensure their medical device would not harm people, to maintain the premises in a safe hazard-free condition, or to provide medical care that met the appropriate standards.
Breach of Duty
Negligence is the result of a party failing to meet their legal duty. Examples of violations of duty can include driving recklessly, manufacturing medical devices that are dangerously defective, failing to correct tripping hazards like frayed carpet, or failing to diagnose a medical condition.
People make mistakes all the time. Negligence by itself, however, does not create liability on the part of the person who makes the error. The negligent act must be what causes another person to suffer fatal harm. The wrongful death must be the consequence of a reckless driving collision, defective medical device, injuries sustained from falling after tripping, or an undiagnosed medical condition.
In a successful wrongful death case, legal beneficiaries can receive money damages for their losses.
Evidence We Use in Wrongful Death Claims
The allegations we assert in a wrongful death case must be supported by credible evidence. This specific evidence necessary in an individual circumstance will depend on the unique facts of that situation.
- The decedent’s lost income will likely get established through records from the employer, tax returns, and other financial documentation.
- The death certificate will prove the death of the deceased person.
- Out-of-pocket expenses like medical bills, funeral expenses, and burial costs can get shown through properly authenticated invoices or proof of payment.
- The fault of the defendant could get established through the police report of the accident, photographs, video footage, eyewitnesses, surgical notes, pathology reports, expert witness reports, and other testimony or objects.
- Damages concerning the emotional consequences of the wrongful death can be established through the testimony of close friends, relatives, and others.
Additional types of evidence could be helpful depending on the particular facts of the case.
How Contingency-Fee Arrangements Work in Wrongful Death Cases
We do not charge our wrongful death clients a deposit or other upfront fees. Instead, we enter a contingency-fee arrangement, supported by a written agreement, that allows us to work on the case without receiving payment until the matter gets resolved.
When the case settles, or the jury returns a verdict, we will receive a portion of that amount. The specific terms of the agreement will be in the written fee contract.
Types of Accidents That Can Lead to Wrongful Death Claims
Whenever a party’s wrongful act causes the death of another, the survivors could make a claim for wrongful death damages. Some of the more common areas that create wrongful death actions are:
- Medical malpractice, like a surgical mistake, misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose, or prescribing a medication to which the patient had a known allergy.
- Vehicle accidents involving automobiles, trucks, tractor-trailers, buses, motorcycles, aircraft, and watercraft.
- Bicycle and pedestrian accidents, some of which involve collisions or interactions with vehicles, and some of which do not.
- Defective products, like airbags that explode when not intended to, scaffolding that collapses even when assembled correctly, and motorcycle helmets that do not perform according to standards.
- Dangerous drugs or medical devices, like prescription medicine that causes lethal side effects or sleep apnea machines that send shards of plastic into a patient’s airways.
- Swimming pool drownings and other accidents, like fatal diving or jumping accidents.
- Slip and fall accidents that cause fatal spinal cord or brain injuries when the victim hits the floor or strikes something on the way down to the floor.
Wrongful death actions are not limited to these situations. Contact us if you have questions about whether the death of your loved one qualifies for wrongful death compensation.
Fatalities Resulting from Criminal Activity
If your loved one died because of someone else’s criminal activity, like an assault or a shooting, the criminal case against the defendant does not prevent you from seeking monetary damages for your loss. The criminal charges are entirely separate from your right to compensation.
Criminal courts seldom seek restitution for the victims. Instead, their function is to punish wrongdoing. The job of a Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer, on the other hand, is to try to hold the wrongdoer financially accountable to the survivors.
Who Can Be Liable For a Wrongful Death?
Liability will depend on the circumstances of the wrongful death claim.
In a case of fatal medical malpractice, you might have a claim against more parties than just the doctor. Facilities like hospitals, surgical centers, catastrophic injury rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes can be responsible for lethal medical malpractice.
Many different healthcare professionals besides doctors can be liable. For example, nurses, hospital administrators, technicians, physician assistants, midwives, and therapists can be accountable when their negligence causes someone’s death.
Motor Vehicle Collisions
Negligent drivers are not the only ones who could be to blame for a car accident fatality. For example, manufacturers of flawed products like tires or brakes could be held financially responsible if the failure of their product caused or contributed to the death.
Likewise, automakers could be responsible if there was a defect in the design or manufacture of the vehicle.
A mechanic shop that performed substandard repairs that caused a collision can be liable. In addition, the government can be responsible if their failure to maintain roads or sidewalks causes a fatality.
Bicycle and Pedestrian Accidents
A motorist who negligently strikes a bicyclist who was legally in a bike path, or some other location, can be the subject of a wrongful death lawsuit. In pedestrian accidents, the liable parties can include the driver of a vehicle that struck the walker, another pedestrian who caused the decedent to fall on the sidewalk or in the path of oncoming traffic, or the city for failure to maintain safe sidewalks or replace manhole covers.
The inventor, designer, manufacturer, distributor, marketer, or retailer of a defective product could face legal consequences for people who get harmed and killed by the item.
Dangerous Drugs or Medical Devices
Like defective products in general, everyone in the chain of development, manufacture, and sale of dangerous drugs or medical devices can get sued if the object causes someone’s death.
Swimming Pool Drownings and Other Accidents
Usually, the swimming pool owner will be liable for the death of someone who drowns or suffers a fatal injury. This could be a homeowner with a residential pool, a neighborhood association in the case of a community pool, a city with a public swimming pool, a fitness center, waterpark, or a hotel.
If the fatal injuries were the result of horseplay, the party who engaged in the wrongful act could be responsible financially. In addition, when inadequate supervision is the issue, the party or organization charged with providing supervision can be liable.
Slip and Fall Accidents Causing Fatal Spinal Cord or Brain Injuries
The property owner is usually liable when a slip and fall accident causes a person’s wrongful death. However, tenants can be responsible as well. For example, if a fatal accident occurred inside a store at a shopping mall, the store owner, shopping mall owner, and management company can be responsible.
How Damage Caps in Texas Impact Wrongful Death Recoveries
If the jury awards punitive damages because the act involved an intentional wrong or gross negligence, their verdict might get reduced because of Texas Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 41.008. This statute only applies if the jury awards more than $200,000 in punitive damages or two times the amount awarded in economic damages plus an equal amount of non-economic damages with a maximum of $750,000.
Let us say your loved one died because of an exploding defective airbag in their car. The jury awarded $250,000 in economic and $750,000 in non-economic damages. The punitive damages could be $500,000 (twice the economic damages) plus $750,000 (the non-economic damages) for a total of $1,250,000.
Medical Malpractice Damages Caps
Texas law is less than generous in fatal medical malpractice cases. Under Texas Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 74.303, the total compensation awarded in a malpractice case that results in the patient’s death is $500,000. This limitation includes all the economic and non-economic losses. In addition, the damages limit gets adjusted annually for inflation.
Imagine that, due to an anesthesiologist’s mistake in surgery, a patient was deprived of oxygen to the brain and suffered permanent damage to brain tissue, rendering them incapable of ever regaining consciousness. After six months, much of which was spent in the intensive care unit, the patient died. Despite the patient’s astronomical medical bills, the most the family can receive in damages is $500,000.
The family might be left with unpaid medical bills and nothing to show for the tragic loss of their loved one. Unlike in a standard wrongful death case, the jury in a fatal medical malpractice case is not allowed to award damages equal to the loss suffered.
Texas Law Limits Your Time to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
You only have two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas under Texas Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 16.003. The clock starts to run on the date of death, which can be later than the date of the accident.
For example, an individual suffered a catastrophic brain injury in a multi-vehicle collision. They never regained consciousness but remained in a coma and then vegetative state for 18 months. The family has two years from the date of the death to file the lawsuit for wrongful death compensation.
People who do not work with a wrongful death lawyer on their claim often get tripped up on this filing deadline also called the statute of limitations. They might mistakenly assume that the filing deadline does not apply if they want to settle their claim instead of going to court. Unfortunately, if you miss the deadline, the insurance company will not have to pay you any money from that point forward.
We Deal with the Insurance Company for You
When you are dealing with the wrongful death of a close relative, you have dozens of extra tasks to deal with, as well as the emotional distress of your loved one dying before their time. You need the opportunity to be present for your family and yourself. Handling a claim on your own will get in the way of this grieving and healing process.
When a Fort Worth wrongful death attorney handles your claim, you will not have to trouble yourself with keeping track of procedural rules like the filing deadline, responding to the insurance company’s every demand, and negotiating a fair settlement. When you have a lawyer, the defendant, and their insurance company are not allowed to contact you directly. They will have to go through your lawyer with their communications.
Here are some of the services we can provide for our wrongful death claim clients:
- Emails, phone calls, letters. The insurance company is not supposed to contact you by email, telephone, or written letters once we notify them that we are handling the case. If you receive additional communications afterwards, you merely need to let us know, and we will respond on your behalf.
- Investigate. We will investigate the wrongful death claim to ensure we take action against all the liable parties.
- Field offers of settlement. We will let you know when we receive wrongful death settlement offers, but you will not have to formulate a response. We take care of that task for you.
- Negotiate. You do not have to negotiate with the billion-dollar insurance company. Instead, we will work directly with them to achieve a fair settlement of your claim.
- Demand letter. We will lay out your case in a demand letter to the insurance company, telling them why their insured is liable, how the death harmed your family, and how much money they need to pay to settle your claim.
- Place an economic value on your claim. With our experience and access to jury verdicts in cases like yours, we can perform a meaningful critical analysis of the financial value of your case. Without this experience or data, you would have to guess whether a settlement offer is fair or not.
- Keep the claims process moving along. Insurance companies try to hold onto their money as long as they can. They make a lot of money by investing resources instead of paying claims. We can keep after them if they try to drag their feet.
- Protect you from questionable practices by the insurance company. For example, when a family does not have a wrongful death lawyer handling their claim, the defendant’s insurance company might wrongfully deny liability, blame the victim for their own death, or make a lowball offer.
- Provide the information the defendant’s insurance company needs. People who try to handle their wrongful death cases without an attorney must provide stacks of documentation and other items to the liable party’s insurance company. We can take care of this for you.
- Review and evaluate documents before you sign them. You will have to sign papers when you settle your claim. We will review them and make sure you do not sign away more rights than you should.
- Keep track of the statute of limitations. People handling their claims usually do not know about the filing deadline. Insurance companies know this, which is why they drag out the processing of these claims. If the plaintiff misses the filing deadline, their case is over, and they have no legal claim to compensation.
- File a lawsuit if appropriate. For example, if the filing deadline is approaching and the case has not been settled, or it becomes clear that the defendant will not settle for a reasonable amount, we could file a lawsuit to protect your right to compensation.
- Perform the pre-trial work, like discovery and filing motions. This is because so much information gets exchanged during the pre-trial phase, starting when the lawsuit is filed. We take care of these matters for you.
- Prepare for and handle the trial. We handle the preparation, including trial strategy, witnesses, exhibits, evidence, jury instructions, and everything else necessary to present your case to the jury. Please be aware that we can still negotiate with the defendant after filing the lawsuit and even during the trial.
These are all tasks you would have to perform on your own if you were trying to handle the case yourself.
Elements of Wrongful Death in Texas
If a person dies from injuries for which they could have sought money damages against the at-fault party if they had survived, the legal beneficiaries are allowed to pursue wrongful death damages. The cause of death must be a preventable accident, in other words, negligence or intentional wrongful act.
Let a Fort Worth Wrongful Death Attorney Get Started Pursuing Compensation for You Today
It will cost you nothing to talk to a Fort Worth wrongful death lawyer and find out if we can help your family through this personal tragedy. At Domingo Garcia, we provide compassionate, respectful, and attentive service. We truly want to help you rebuild your lives. Contact us today to get started.