Lewisville is a crowded suburb of one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation. Sadly, the crowded roadways in Lewisville lead to many tragic accidents. If your loved one was killed in a Lewisville accident, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
At Hartley Law Firm, we help Lewisville accident victims and their family members pursue justice. The compensation you receive from a wrongful death claim can’t bring back your loved one, but it can help alleviate some of your financial stress. Here, we’ll discuss when you can file a lawsuit and what you should know regarding the legal process.
What Is a Wrongful Death?
In Texas, a wrongful death occurs when someone intentionally or negligently causes the death of another person. Wrongful death includes these elements:
- An injury causes a person or a fetus to die;
- The injury was caused by someone’s intentional or negligent action; and
- The injured person could have filed a personal injury lawsuit had he or she lived.
You can think of a wrongful death claim as an extension of a personal injury lawsuit, requiring the same proof of intent or negligence. However, the damages available in a wrongful death case are somewhat different from those in a personal injury case.
Criminal Prosecution vs. a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Wrongful death is a civil claim that has a lower burden of proof than a criminal charge. This means that even if someone was criminally acquitted for your loved one’s death, they may be responsible for civil damages.
Criminal prosecution requires a prosecutor to prove someone was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, while a civil claim requires proof only a preponderance of the evidence (which means they more likely than not acted in a way to cause the death). A criminal prosecution seeks to put a defendant in prison while a civil wrongful death suit seeks compensation for the harm the family suffered.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Since a claim serves to compensate survivors for the loss they suffered, only immediate family members can file a wrongful death claim. These people may file a claim in Texas:
- Surviving spouse;
- Surviving child;
- Surviving parents; and
- A personal representative of the deceased’s estate, if survivors have not filed a claim within three months of the death.
Surviving children can be adults or minors and include adopted children. Likewise, adoptive parents may sue for their child’s wrongful death. An individual survivor or a group can file a claim on behalf of all immediate survivors of the deceased. Also, survivors can request that the personal representative not file a wrongful death suit if they don’t want to pursue the action.
What Compensation Is Available?
A wrongful death lawsuit can compensate the surviving family members for expenses incurred because of their loved one’s death, as well as for their pain and suffering. Wrongful death compensation can include the following:
- Burial expenses;
- Pain and suffering of surviving family members;
- Lost future wages that the deceased would have provided;
- Lost inheritance the deceased could have provided;
- The value of lost maintenance, caregiving, and emotional support; and
- Punitive damages.
Punitive damages are available only in situations where the defendant acted in a willfully violent or grossly negligent way. When a court awards punitive damages, it does so to punish the defendant for terrible behavior and to try to deter others from committing such acts.
The court divides damages among the survivors, and this compensation does not go toward the debts of the deceased.
When Should You Contact a Lawyer?
You should contact a Lewisville wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible, even if you aren’t sure whether your loved one’s death was due to someone’s negligent behavior. An attorney can help you evaluate the circumstances of the death and find additional evidence to determine who was responsible.
You normally have only two years from the date of the death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, there are exceptions to this statute of limitations when:
- A child files the wrongful death lawsuit;
- You weren’t aware of and could not have learned of the negligent action during the two-year statute of limitations;
- You were mentally or physically impaired, which prevented you from filing a lawsuit during the two-year period; or
- There was a fraud.
It can take time to investigate the circumstances of your loved one’s death and negotiate with insurers, so you should contact a Lewisville wrongful death attorney as soon as you feel ready to talk about your loss.
Contact an Experienced Lewisville Wrongful Death Attorney
Lewisville wrongful death lawsuit attorney Austin Hartley at Hartley Law Firm has passionately advocated for the needs of accident victims for years. He shows compassion to grieving family members while offering them the skilled legal representation necessary to pursue maximum compensation for their loss. His Lewisville wrongful death law firm offers a free consultation and works on contingency to alleviate the financial burden of hiring an attorney.
Our experienced lawyer also handles other types of injury cases, including:
- Auto Vehicle Accidents
- Trucking Accidents
- Property Liability
- Lyft and Uber Accidents
- Motor Vehicle Accidents
Contact Austin for a consultation, where he can discuss Texas wrongful death law with you and answer your questions.