Odessa Wrongful Death Lawyer

Wrongful Death Lawyer in Odessa 

The unexpected death of your loved one can be an extraordinary ordeal for any family to have to deal with, and matters only become more complicated when the family learns that the death was the result of some other party’s negligence. In such cases, an Odessa wrongful death lawyer can be extremely beneficial in helping families obtain necessary financial compensation to cover many of the costs the family is now dealing with because of the death.

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) found in its most recent report that motor vehicle crashes were one of the top 10 causes of death among people ages one to 54 in the United States, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stating that about 100 people die in such crashes every day and more than 32,000 die every year. 

Fatal Injuries in Odessa

The most recent statistics from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show 608 total fatal occupational injuries in Texas, with 283 being transportation incidents, 96 being slips, trips, or falls, 86 being the result of violence, 63 involving contact with objects or equipment, and 60 involving exposure to harmful substances or environments.

If your family was affected by a wrongful death, reach out to our firm for help right away. 

Texas Wrongful Death Laws

A wrongful death under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 71.002 is any kind of injury that causes a person’s death when the injury is the result of another person’s or their representative’s wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default. Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 71.004 further notes that a wrongful death action will be for the exclusive benefit of surviving spouses, children, and parents of deceased people.

Such parties can bring such actions individually or for the benefit of all of the parties. Siblings of deceased individuals are thus not able to file wrongful death actions.

When surviving spouses, children, and parents do not begin an action within three months of a death, then a deceased person’s executor or administrator can bring an action. The only exception is if a surviving spouse, children, and parents specifically request that they not do so.

A death that results 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) in addition to actual damages under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 71.009. 

The Texas Survival Statute

The Texas Survival Statute in Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 71.021 establishes that a cause of action for personal injury will not subside because of the death of an injured person or the death of a person liable for an injury. Personal injury actions survive in favor of a deceased person’s heirs, legal representatives, and estate against liable people and their legal representatives. This means a personal injury lawsuit can proceed as though the liable person were alive through a survival action.

People must bring suits within two years of the day a cause of action accrues for death under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 16.003. A cause of action will accrue on the date of the death of an injured person, and this date may be much later than the date of an actual accident.

Common Causes of Wrongful Death Cases

A wrongful death may occur in several different types of situations. Undoubtedly one of the most common causes of wrongful death in Texas is motor vehicle accidents.

This means that any family that loses a loved one in a car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident, bicycle accident, or pedestrian accident should quickly seek legal representation. Other common causes of wrongful death claims can include, but are not limited to:

Criminal Wrongful Death Cases vs. Civil Wrongful Death Cases 

People who are dealing with a wrongful death can often see a negligent party facing criminal charges for the death of their loved ones. A criminal case will be much different from a civil wrongful death claim.

This means that in a criminal case, a prosecutor is going to have to prove a negligent party’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, which is one of the toughest standards of proof. A civil claim, on the other hand, only requires a person to prove a negligent party’s liability through a preponderance of the evidence, which means they were more likely than not responsible for the death, and this is a far lower standard of proof. 

What this means for families is that they should not become dismayed if a person is acquitted of criminal charges because being found not guilty does not necessarily mean that person cannot still be found liable. Consider O.J. Simpson, who was infamously found to be not guilty of murdering his wife, Nicole Brown, and her companion, Ronald Goldman, but later had a civil jury later found him liable for both the wrongful death of and battery against Goldman and battery against Brown, which resulted in a judgment of $33.5 million in damages. 

Wrongful Death Damages

When a wrongful death case does result in a determination of liability, then a family may be awarded compensatory damages. Such awards usually include economic damages, or the actual financial losses a family is dealing with, and noneconomic damages, which are more subjective intangible losses.

One of the most common kinds of economic damages in these cases are funeral and burial expenses that were paid by surviving family members. Other kinds of economic damages might include:

  • Lost benefits such as retirement and medical or health insurance
  • Loss of an inheritance
  • Loss of a decedent’s household, parental, and spousal services
  • Loss of a decedent’s earnings
  • Mental health care expenses for surviving family members

Noneconomic damages often include loss of consortium claims, which relate to a surviving spouse’s loss of love, companionship, comfort, services, support, or intimate relations. Some of the other kinds of noneconomic damages can include:

  • Loss of a decedent’s care, support, guidance, companionship, and love
  • Surviving family member’s emotional distress and mental anguish
  • Pre-death pain and suffering
  • Loss of counsel

It is important to understand that any financial compensation a family receives in a wrongful death case will not be subject to the decedent’s debts. In other words, when a loved one leaves behind debts that their estate must deal with, the wrongful death settlement or award will not be able to go towards such expenses.

Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code

Punitive damages or exemplary damages are also possible in a limited number of cases. Exemplary damages under the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code have the intention of being penalties or punishments for defendants rather than being compensation for victims, so the larger point of such awards is to deter other people from behaving similarly.

Exemplary damages must involve proof by clear and convincing evidence that harm was the result of fraud, malice, or gross negligence under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 41.003. Fraud under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 41.001(6) means any fraud other than constructive fraud. 

It is important for people to keep in mind that exemplary damages are largely applicable only when cases actually go to court. Insurance companies for negligent parties often try to keep cases out of court because the costs of going to trial can be substantial.

In many cases, insurance companies will contact family members before they have even had the chance to think of retaining legal counsel and may offer lump-sum settlements to resolve the cases. While you may find such offers tempting, you have the right to decline these settlement offers, and it is often in your best interest to do so because the amount you are getting an offer for is almost assuredly much less than what you are actually entitled to.

Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with an Odessa Truck Accident Lawyer

If your loved one died in some type of accident that was the result of another party’s negligence in the greater Odessa area, do not delay in seeking legal representation for assistance in making sure you get proper handling of your wrongful death claim. You can count on Cesar Ornelas Injury Law to take all of the necessary steps to protect your legal rights and fight to make sure you recover every last dollar that is available to you.

Our firm understands how difficult these types of cases can be for families, and we will help make sure that your case is progressing while you take the time you need to grieve, so you do not have to worry about making continuous court appearances. You can call (888) 237-2794 or (210) 405-6503 or contact us online to receive a free consultation so we will be able to really address all of the factors relating to your case and take the necessary steps to help you get some measure of justice.

GET A FREE CONSULTATION

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured, please fill out the form below for your free consultation or call us at: (888) 237-2794

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