Brian White | November 16, 2023 | Wrongful Death
When one person injures another through misconduct, a personal injury claim generally arises. If the victim dies from their injuries, a wrongful death claim arises. Texas, like other states, has a wrongful death statute that governs the filing of wrongful death claims everywhere in the state, including Houston. So how does one file a wrongful death lawsuit?
Who Is Eligible To File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas?
In Texas, any or all of the victim’s surviving spouse, children, and/or parents can file a wrongful death lawsuit. If any of these parties do so, and if they win, the court will apportion damages among all of them.
Wrongful Death Damages are Different From Personal Injury Damages
Wrongful death damages can include:
- Lost financial support;
- The value of household services the victim would have provided if they had lived;
- Emotional distress and mental anguish experienced by the survivors and;
- Lost love, companionship, comfort, and society.
Once in a while, a court will also award exemplary (punitive) damages.
A survival action is an action filed by the beneficiaries of the victim’s probate estate. The amount at stake is the amount the victim could have won in a personal injury lawsuit had they survived the accident.
This includes medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and more. This amount will be reduced or eliminated if the victim dies instantly.
Steps To Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
The following are typical steps you will need to take to appropriately file a wrongful death lawsuit. You might need more, depending on the facts surrounding your claim.
Step 1: Talk to a Houston Wrongful Death Lawyer
Wrongful death claims tend to be complex. They also involve high amounts of compensation, which will motivate the defendant to fight hard to avoid paying. You’re probably going to need a Houston wrongful death lawyer. Remember that in most cases, you have until two years after the victim’s date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Step 2: Obtain the Death Certificate
You must prove that the victim actually died. Typically, that means you must produce an official death certificate, which (i) certifies that the victim is dead and (ii) specifies the cause of death. You can obtain a death certificate at the county clerk’s office in the county where the victim died. You can also request one online from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Step 3: Determine Whether the Victim Left a Will
If the victim left a last will and testament, it should name the victim’s choice for the executor (personal representative) of their probate estate. If no eligible surviving family members file a wrongful death lawsuit within three months of the date of the victim’s death, the executor can file the lawsuit on behalf of the victim’s estate. If the victim did not leave a will, the court can appoint an executor (even if the victim was a child).
Step 4: Investigate the Victim’s Death
Determine whose fault (if any) the victim’s death was. You will probably need to prove fault to win a wrongful death claim. One major exception is if the wrongful death claim is based on product liability.
Step 5: Identify Eligible Survivors (Spouse, Children, and Parents)
You must verify the existence of eligible survivors, and notify them of their status, for a wrongful death action to proceed. Any of these parties might seek to join a wrongful death lawsuit that another relative filed.
Step 6: Inventory Damages
You cannot win compensation unless you specifically claim every item you expect compensation for. Inventory all losses, including intangible psychological losses, suffered by eligible survivors (for a possible wrongful death lawsuit) and the victim (for a possible survival action).
Step 7: File Your Claim
Depending on the circumstances, you can file a third-party claim against the at-fault party’s liability insurance company, or you might file a claim directly against the defendant in court.
Schedule a Free Initial Consultation With a Houston Wrongful Death Lawyer
Successful wrongful death claims can bring in a lot of money. To obtain the compensation you deserve, however, you’re probably going to need to seek the assistance of a Houston wrongful death lawyer. Almost any wrongful death lawyer will be happy to represent you on a contingency fee “no win, no pay” basis, as long as they believe in your claim.
Contact the Houston Personal Injury Lawyers at Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers For Help
Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers
3120 Southwest Freeway, Suite 350
Houston, TX 77098
Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers – East Fwy
11811 East Fwy, Suite 630-06
Houston, TX 77029
Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers – South Loop
2600 S Loop W, Suite 293
Houston, TX 77054