Wrongful Death Lawyer in El Paso
If your loved one dies in an accident that was the result of another party’s negligence, you are right to think that you should be able to recover financial compensation for many of the costs that the death is now imposing on your family. Any person who is currently dealing with a death of a family member that relates to another party’s negligence should seek the help of an experienced El Paso wrongful death lawyer to determine the next steps that should be taken.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), motor vehicle accidents are one extremely common form of wrongful death because the state saw 4,489 such fatalities last year. Workplace fatalities can be another common cause of wrongful death because the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) reported 468 such fatalities in its most recent report.
Texas Wrongful Death Laws
Under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 71.002, wrongful death refers to an injury causing a person’s death when an injury is the result of another person’s or their representative’s wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.
State law under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 71.004 also provides that wrongful death actions are exclusively for the benefit of surviving spouses, children, and parents of deceased people who are able to bring such actions individually or for the benefit of all of the parties. If none of these individuals begins an action within three months of a death, then the deceased person’s executor or administrator may bring an action unless the surviving spouse, children, and parents specifically request that they not do so.
Siblings cannot file any wrongful death claims in Texas. Only the aforementioned parties can file such actions, but siblings could privately be entitled to recover compensation when family members are willing to share awards.
Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code
Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 71.009 also states that any death resulting from a wilful act, omission, or gross negligence of a defendant could mean an award of exemplary damages (which are better known as punitive damages) could be recoverable in addition to the actual damages.
Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 71.021 is also known as the Texas Survival Statute and states that a cause of action for personal injury does not subside because of the death of an injured person or because of the death of a person liable for an injury, meaning that a personal injury action can survive to and in favor of a deceased person’s heirs, legal representatives, and estate against a liable person and the person’s legal representatives, so such a lawsuit could proceed as if the liable person were alive.
Under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 16.003, a person must bring suit within two years of the death. A cause of action will accrue on the date of the death of an injured person, which could be far later than the date of an actual accident in some cases.
Common Causes of El Paso Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful deaths are the result of many different kinds of behavior. It is important to secure legal representation for the handling of these claims so you can be sure that your attorney has the evidence necessary to prove another party bears responsibility for your loved one’s death.
A few of the most common kinds of wrongful death claims involve the following:
- Workplace Accidents
- Car Accidents
- Truck Accidents
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Bicycle Accidents
- Pedestrian Accidents
- Airline Accidents
- Uber, Lyft, and Rideshare Accidents
- Maritime and Offshore Accidents
- Medical Malpractice
- Defective Product Accidents
- Premises Liability Accidents
- Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse
- Dog Bites
Criminal Cases vs. Civil Wrongful Death Cases
It is important to understand that wrongful death claims take place in civil courts. Some wrongful death cases also result in criminal charges against defendants, which are handled in criminal courts.
The two paths are very different because prosecutors in criminal cases must prove the guilt of a defendant beyond a reasonable doubt, and this is one of the highest standards of proof in the law. A civil claim will only require a plaintiff to prove a defendant’s liability by a preponderance of the evidence, essentially meaning that a defendant was more likely than not responsible for a death, a much lower standard of proof.
This distinction is important because family members should not necessarily lose hope if a defendant ends up being found not guilty in a criminal case because they may still end up being held liable in the civil case. Remember the infamous case of O.J. Simpson, who, while being found not guilty of murdering his wife, Nicole Brown, and her companion, Ronald Goldman, had a civil jury later found him liable for both the wrongful death of and battery against Goldman and battery against Brown, ordering him to pay $33.5 million in damages.
Wrongful Death Damages in El Paso
A wrongful death case can result in plaintiffs receiving awards that are better known as damages. Damages usually include economic damages, which are pecuniary or actual financial losses families are dealing with, and noneconomic damages that refer to nonpecuniary losses or damages affecting a person’s mental well-being, lifestyle, and enjoyment of life.
Economic damages could include:
- Loss of an inheritance
- Loss of a decedent’s earnings
- Lost benefits such as retirement and medical or health insurance
- Loss of a decedent’s household, parental, and spousal services
- Any funeral and burial expenses paid by surviving family members
- Mental health care expenses for surviving family members
Noneconomic damages might include:
- Pre-death pain and suffering
- Surviving family member’s emotional distress and mental anguish
- Loss of a decedent’s care, support, guidance, companionship, and love
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of counsel
The financial compensation that family members receive in wrongful death cases is not subject to a decedent’s debts. This means that if a loved one has certain debts their estate has to deal with, a wrongful death settlement or jury award cannot go towards those expenses.
El Paso Wrongful Death Lawyer
Again, punitive damages are also possible in certain cases, although they are relatively rare. The El Paso Wrongful Death Lawyer establishes that exemplary damages are supposed to be penalties or punishments rather than being for compensatory purposes, meaning the point of punitive damages is to punish defendants for conduct that the court wants other people to avoid partaking in.
Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 41.003 states that exemplary damages require proof of clear and convincing evidence that the harm involved was the result of fraud, malice, or gross negligence.
Gross Negligence in El Paso
Under the law, gross negligence is an act or omission that, when it is viewed objectively from the standpoint of a person at the time of the occurrence, involves some extreme degree of risk, considering both the probability and magnitude of possible harm to others and of which a person had some actual, subjective awareness of the such risk involved, but nevertheless proceeded with conscious indifference to the rights, safety, or welfare of others. Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 41.008 provides that exemplary damages cannot be more than the greater of two times the number of economic damages plus an amount equal to any noneconomic damages up to $750,000 or $200,000.
These damages are only applicable in wrongful death cases when the cases actually go to trial. Many insurance companies do whatever is possible to settle such cases before they can go to trial because trials will be extremely expensive.
An insurer could try to contact you and offer a lump-sum settlement to resolve a case before you have had the chance to call a lawyer, but you need to know that there is no obligation for you to accept any offer. In reality, most initial offers are only a fraction of what people are actually entitled to, so accepting such offers could make you regret your decision if you later learn that you will require more money and the settlement you agreed to prohibits you from pursuing any additional damages.
Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with an El Paso Wrongful Death Lawyer
Was your loved one killed in any kind of accident caused by another party’s negligence in the greater El Paso area? Cesar Ornelas Injury Law understands the extreme difficulty families face in handling these cases, and we can immediately step in and handle all of the paperwork so you can take all the time you need to grieve.
Our firm is extremely sympathetic to all families who are dealing with the recent losses of loved ones, so we can provide compassionate and caring legal representation that will make sure that you are able to exercise all of your legal rights and recover every last dollar that is available to you. Call us at (888) 237-2794 or (210) 405-6503 or contact us online to take advantage of a free consultation that will let us further discuss what options you might have and explore the most beneficial ways of holding negligent parties fully accountable.