In movies and television, when someone is killed by another, the police immediately investigate the crime and there is a courtroom trial right after the arrest. The answer is simple: guilty or not guilty. Additionally, the family’s peace of mind is based solely on the verdict of a dramatic criminal trial. In reality, the process is more complex. Criminal trials may not be enough to assure the family’s healing and financial security, or they may be inapplicable altogether.
If you lost a loved one and can attribute that loss to the negligence, misconduct, or intentional actions of another, a criminal case may be filed by the state of Texas. Some of those situations are more accidental, like automobile collisions, and the state may choose not to file criminal charges at all. Neither of these choices account for “pecuniary loss,” such as funerary and medical expenses for the deceased, or the loss of that person’s support, services, and prospective inheritance. If money is a reality of life, it is most certainly a reality of death. Filing a wrongful death lawsuit may help alleviate the financial suffering of a difficult loss, especially if that loss could have been avoided.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
In Texas, there are many rules regarding which family members can file a wrongful death claim. While children can file a claim even if they are over the age of 18, siblings of the decedent are not eligible to file. Each family member must prove the personal and economic losses they suffered, so hiring a lawyer can be extremely helpful.
What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death?
Several elements must be present for your wrongful death case to be successful. These are broken down in Chapter 71 of Texas’ Civil Practice and Remedies Code, but we can take a more simplified look.
- Someone in your immediate family dies.
- That person’s death is caused by the “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default” of another party.
- You are suffering financially because of this death.
Causation can arise from a variety of different circumstances. Medical malpractice, automobile or aircraft accidents, exposure to dangerous conditions or substances, criminal behavior, and irresponsible supervision can all lead to a wrongful death claim.
Responsibility and Rewards
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the Plaintiff, or whoever initiates the lawsuit, is responsible for proving the negligence or carelessness of the Defendant. One benefit of filing a civil case is that the burden of proof is lower than that of a criminal trial. While criminal cases must determine guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, civil cases can be decided using preponderance of the evidence.
In Texas, if you and your legal team are able to convince the fact finder of your case that the probability of your claim being true is over 50%, you and your family will be entitled to recover your financial losses. You can be compensated for the decedent’s lost wages, as well as the loss of their care, services, support, advice, love, companionship, and comfort. You may also recover any money the deceased may have saved and left to you if they were able to live a full life. Sometimes, if the act that caused the wrongful death was intentional or grossly negligent, Texas will award exemplary or punitive damages to make sure this type of behavior never happens again.
With so much at stake, it is important to work with the right attorney. At MR Civil Justice, we understand the importance of seeking justice and will fight to help you get everything you are entitled to. Request a free consultation today or call us at (214) 739-0100.