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Houston Wrongful Death Lawyer

Houston Wrongful Death Lawyer

Your loved one was at work, and the machinery they were using malfunctioned and yanked them in, causing them to lose their life. Or perhaps your family member was en route home one night from work, and a drunk driver struck them, taking their life in an instant. These are just two scenarios among many that each Houston wrongful death lawyer on our team has seen result in a person’s premature demise.

The surviving spouses, children, parents, and others often come to us at Barrera Law Group LLC looking for help after these sudden losses. They do so because they want to hold the responsible parties accountable, especially when what happened forever deprived them of a loved one’s companionship or counsel, left their estate owing exorbitant final bills, took away the main contributor to their household’s income, and so much more with little to no notice.

Our law firm serves Houston and residents in surrounding communities. And our work together begins with a free, no-risk, no-obligation consultation. So, contact us to schedule that confidential meeting with one of our attorneys today.

What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death

No one wants to lose someone close to them, so anyone’s passing can seem inappropriate or wrong. However, the definition that dictates whether a person’s passing is wrongful is codified in Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Chapter 71. The Texas Wrongful Death Act describes how a fatality must arise from a “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default” to meet the criteria of this state statute.

Leading Causes of Wrongful Deaths in Houston

A passing that is wrongful is one that was avoidable had the perpetrator who caused the harm leading to a person’s demise only acted differently. As such, there are many different types of accidents or incidents that can lead to close relatives of the decedent filing wrongful death lawsuits, including:

  • Premises liability situations, such as dog bites, slips and falls, and negligent security scenarios
  • Motor vehicle accidents, which may include motorcycle crashes, pedestrians being struck, car wrecks, and tractor-trailer collisions
  • Product liability incidents, like defective drugs or dangerous consumer goods, like kids’ toys
  • Offshore accidents, including oil rig explosions
  • Medical malpractice, including anesthesia, medication, or surgical errors
  • Workplace accidents, such as caught-in or struck-by injuries, falls, burns, or toxic exposure
  • Airplane, train, or boat accidents
  • Nursing home abuse and neglect

What Rights Does Texas Law Afford You When a Relative Dies Due to Someone Else’s Negligence?

Our state’s laws clearly state that surviving family members are eligible to pursue a civil lawsuit against the person or entity responsible for causing the preventable fatality.  However, one family member cannot sue another for a wrongful death.

How Much Can You Recover in a Texas Wrongful Death Case?

There’s no cap on economic damages or actual losses like end-of-life medical costs or burial and funeral expenses; you can demand after a loved one suffers a wrongful death. However, there is a cap on noneconomic damages for pain and suffering or mental anguish your deceased family member may have suffered before their death and losses you, as their surviving family member, have endured due to their premature passing.

A noneconomic damages cap of $250,000 exists if the named defendant is a medical provider or hospital. If both are listed, then the cap is $500,000 for both.

Additionally, should you be eligible for punitive damages, you’re only entitled to:

  • $250,000 or twice the amount of economic damages (whatever is greater)
  • Whatever amount the jury calculates the noneconomic damages to be, so long as they’re under $750,000

Who Can File Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Houston?

Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Section 16.003 spells out how the decedent’s surviving family members, including the following or that person’s personal representative (the estate administrator), can file suit for wrongful deaths:

  • Spouses: The right to file suit applies to spouses, even if they were separated at the time the fatal incident occurred or remarried soon after the death. These rights also extend to those individuals involved in common law marriages.
  • Children: The right for kids to bring a wrongful death case applies to both biological and adopted children, even if they are adults. However, should an adoptive child be a party to a lawsuit for their adoptive parent, they’re unable to do the same for their biological one(s) should they prematurely die in a preventable accident.
  • Parents: All types of parents, including expecting, biological, and adoptive are eligible to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas; however, stepparents are generally unable to do so.

A decedent’s personal representative, which is the person selected by the wrongful death victim or appointed by a Harris County Probate Court judge, can also file a lawsuit; however, they can generally only do so if three months have elapsed since the decedent’s passing and no immediate family members intend to take legal action.

Do There Have To Be Criminal Charges for a Wrongful Death Case To Be Filed?

No, a wrongful death is a personal injury or tort, and happenings within the civil legal system do not have a direct impact on criminal cases (and vice versa). In other words, you can still sue an insurer for a defendant or file a lawsuit against them in a personal capacity for fatal injury-related costs without that happening, even if prosecutors never pursue criminal charges against them for their actions.

It’s also worth noting that criminal charges being filed against the defendant and prosecutors securing a conviction against them may only be admissible in a civil case under specific circumstances. You can expect your attorney to go into greater detail about whether you can use this information in building or trying your case should the need arise during your initial case review consultation.

What Is the Statute of Limitations That Applies to Texas Wrongful Death Cases?

The same Texas statute referenced above explains how our state gives surviving family members two years from “the cause of action of death” to file suit and recover compensation for losses associated with their loved one’s preventable death. There are a few exceptions to this rule, which are spelled out in Sections 16.010, 16.0031, and 16.0045 of our state’s codes.

Some circumstances that may allow for an extension of the established statute of limitations include:

  • It was unclear if negligence occurred and who the liable party was: If you were unclear as to whether someone engaged in harm and, once it became clear that they had, you had to identify them and track them down. The deadline for filing suit may not commence until after the wrongdoing is pinpointed and the perpetrator of such acts is tracked down.
  • You were of unsound mind when the death occurred: Say you were in the vehicle with your spouse and a car wreck claimed their life. If your injuries as the husband or wife immediately rendered you unconscious and doctors placed you in a subsequent medically induced coma, rendering you unable to make any decisions until sometime later, that statute of limitations may not have begun until you regained consciousness and became of sound mind once again.
  • The decedent left behind minor children: The statute of limitations begins winding down once a child reaches majority age (18). Until then, a parent or guardian can bring a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf; however, if they do not, then the minor child may be entitled to do so up until their 20th birthday.

Statutes of limitations may also be a little different depending on the defendant, especially if it’s a government entity.

Suing Government Entities for Wrongful Deaths

Texas subscribes to the sovereign immunity doctrine, which aims to protect local and state government agencies from being sued without them first giving their consent. This is why many attorneys steer clear of aiding victims or their surviving loved ones with filing such claims because of the complexities of doing so. However, our attorneys don’t because we know exceptions to rules like this exist as spelled out in the Texas Torts Act, such as:

  • Sovereign immunity is waived in certain types of cases, like when government employees engage in negligence on the job, including causing a wrongful death.
  • Personal injury victims, including decedents’ surviving loved ones, are entitled to seek compensation for their damages stemming from government employees’ negligence.

Even though the Texas Torts Act preserves your right to take legal action and request compensation, the procedures one must follow in doing so can be different from other civil cases. This is particularly why it’s necessary to have experienced legal counsel guiding you through this process. You can expect government agencies’ in-house lawyers and insurers to pull out all the stops in defending themselves to keep any potential payouts low, so having an attorney on your side to advocate for the best possible settlement is key.

What Fees Does a Houston Wrongful Death Lawyer Charge?

At Barrera Law Group LLC, we don’t believe that your lack of knowledge of our state’s laws or your inability to pay upfront for legal representation should negatively affect whether you’re able to file suit to hold liable parties accountable for taking your close family member’s life. As such, our office regularly takes on cases like these on a contingency basis.

Taking on a case on a contingency basis means we enter into an agreement to handle your case without you having to pay any initial retainer. We, instead, collect payment as a small, pre-agreed-to percentage of your final award if (and only if) we win your case for you.

What Wrongful Death Lawyers Do

From your initial conversation with legal counsel, even before you establish an attorney-client relationship with them, we let you know what Texas laws are and, thus, what your rights are in your case. And, as we referenced above, the minute you hire our law firm, Barrera Law Group LLC, we handle every aspect of the case from start to finish. This includes:

  • Build your case: This begins with us securing any and all records (such as the ones we discuss in the next section) necessary to establish liability and document losses sustained. Also, when necessary, it includes bringing in outside experts like crash scene reconstructions as well as specially trained nurses, doctors, and engineers to identify when the negligence occurred and establish how it caused the now-decedent’s fatal injuries. This also includes securing insurance information from the insurer representing the liable party, including coverage limits.
  • Interact with insurers: As you might be aware, insurers start calling victims of potentially catastrophic accidents and, in some cases, the loved ones they leave behind very soon after fatal accidents occur to attempt to settle those cases quickly at a lower amount. Anything you say during those calls can potentially be detrimental to your ability to secure a financial recovery. That’s why we handle conversations with insurance adjusters from the start on your behalf since we have experience knowing what to say to avoid affecting the integrity of your case.
  • Negotiate an out-of-court settlement: Following a death, insurers will try to negotiate a settlement when their insured’s liability is clear. In other cases, if they deny liability, attorneys like ours may have to prepare a demand letter explaining how the other party breached their duty of care and caused their client’s fatal injuries, along with details explaining losses the surviving family members sustained and remit it to the insurance adjuster for consideration.
  • Litigate your case in Harris County Civil Courts at Law: Should the at-fault party’s insurance company deny liability for what happened or be unwilling to offer maximum compensation for what you’ve been through, it may be necessary to try the case in front of a judge or jury in a Houston area courtroom. While situations like these don’t happen often, our attorneys are skilled litigators who will pursue justice on your behalf in court if necessary.

Documents You Should Bring with You to Your Initial Consultation With a Wrongful Death Attorney in Houston

While we know that it can be a challenging time to think about much of anything, it can be helpful if you compile the following documents and bring them with you to your first meeting with your lawyer. Having this information on hand will allow them to better assess your case’s merits, including how much compensation you may be able to recover by filing a claim. Bring the following documents with you if you can, or else we can secure them for you if you hire us:

  • The police or incident report in the case
  • Contact information and statements, if applicable, for any eyewitnesses to the incident
  • Any photographs or videos from the scene of the deadly injury incident showing what caused your family member’s fatality
  • Pre-incident and end-of-life medical records for the decedent
  • Your family member’s death certificate
  • The coroner’s report (if an autopsy was performed)
  • Pay stubs, tax documents, and any other financial records demonstrating your loved one’s earnings, investments, savings, etc.

Acting fast to build is critical when building a wrongful death case. It gives you the best chance of preserving the evidence needed to build a strong case. Contact Barrera Law Group LLC to schedule a consultation with a Houston wrongful death lawyer today to learn about your right to secure a settlement in your case.

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