Houston Wrongful Death Lawyer

It is Devastating.  A loved one is gone too soon and it wasn’t their fault.  Losing somebody is hard, especially when it wasn’t their fault. Unexpected deaths are shocking and debilitating. The day to day grieving makes it hard to complete the smallest tasks and it takes months for the true weight and effect of the loss of your loved to set in.  The loss of a loved one will cripple you emotionally and can devastate you financially.

Fitts Law Firm is a personal injury, law firm in Houston Texas that handles wrongful death lawsuits against the person or business responsible for causing the death of your loved one. Even if the actions were not intentional, people and businesses should be held responsible under Texas law for their actions which caused the death of your loved one. 

What Happens if a Potential Criminal Case is Pending?

In some circumstances, a criminal case is pending, but a wrongful death lawsuit is different. A wrongful death lawsuit is different than a criminal case because the wrongful death claim only focuses on the financial recovery for the loss of a loved one.

A pending criminal suit is only intended to penalize the person who caused the death. Typically,  criminal lawyers handle the criminal charges.  Criminal lawyers and District Attorneys often handle criminal cases.  Personal Injury Lawyers, such as the Fitts Law Firm, handle the civil side of the case, called a Wrongful Death claim or lawsuit.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits Explained

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim or lawsuit, filed by a family member, or an authorized agent of the estate of a person who is deceased. The lawsuit is filed against the people or business responsible for causing the death of a loved one.  The relatives of the deceased are able to seek financial compensation or damages because of the death of their loved one.  Texas law allows the following people to bring a claim for a wrongful death lawsuit.

Who can bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas?

  • Spouse (formal or common law married). A spouse can bring a claim even if they are separated or if they remarried after the death of the decedent
  • Children of the decedent. Both biological or adoptive children
  • Parent of the decedent including adoptive parents
  • Executor administrator of the estate of the deceased

Note: siblings cannot bring a claim for a wrongful death claim in Texas.

What happens if I my friend or a family member caused the death? Remember, it’s not personal. 

Many wrongful death actions arise from an accidental set of circumstances.  Tragic events can happen around the pool, at the ranch, on the lake, not just on the job or while on the clock.  Just because you know the person who caused the death, it does it mean they’re not responsible. That person or company probably has insurance for tragic events such as these. So remember, it’s not personal if you decide to make a wrongful death a claim against somebody who contributed to, our caused, the death of your loved one. We have handled several cases where the parties or defendants were either family friends or relatives. It is a tragic situation, but often necessary because the claimants need the money in the form of damages to move on with their life and get back on their feet after such tragic situations.

What Damages are available in a Texas Wrongful Death claim?

There are a number of elements of damages that wrongful death beneficiaries are allowed to sue and recover in Texas. One of the reasons why you need an experienced law firm who has handled many previous wrongful death cases is because these firms, such as the Fitts Law Firm, understand every element of wrongful death damages.

Pecuniary Losses in Wrongful Death

Wrongful death beneficiaries are entitled to recover pecuniary losses, which include the earning capacity, advice and counsel, services (such as household, domestic services, spousal and parental), care, maintenance and support that would’ve been provided from the defendant.  So if your spouse passed, you would be entitled to all the benefits you would’ve received during the lifetime of your spouse had they not passed away.  

Psychological Treatment

Also, reasonable and necessary expenses related to psychological treatment stemming from the death of a loved is recoverable as well.  For example, if you spent two years in weekly therapy, you could recovery from these medical bills and the time and toll the therapy had on your life

Mental Anguish

Mental anguish, which includes the emotional pain, torment and suffering a claimant would experience from the death of a family member. Typically, the jury will be instructed to consider the relationship between the plaintiff and the decedent, the living arrangements of the plaintiff and the decedent, whether they spent significant time together, and whether they had common interest and activities.

Loss of Companionship and Society

A wrongful death claimant is entitled to recover for loss of companionship and society. Loss of companionship and Society is defined as the positive benefits flowing from the love, comfort companionship, and society that the plaintiff would have experienced had the decedent lived. Parents and children are both entitled to recover loss of companionship and society.

Loss of Inheritance

Loss of inheritance is another damage component that wrongful death beneficiaries are entitled to recover.  At trial, a judge will instruct a jury to look at the present value that the decedent would have added to the estate over their normal lifetime, had they not died prematurely and lived a normal life and died a natural death.  Typically your wrongful death lawyer will need an expert to testify as to the following:

  • Present value of the contribution of the estate of their lifetime
  • The life expectancy of the person who has passed

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages or exemplary damages as they called in Texas are recoverable by a surviving spouse and the heirs of the decedents estate.  However, a parent is not entitled to recover punitive or exemplary damages from the death of a child.  Punitive or exemplary damages are intended to punish a defendant for a willful act or omission or gross negligence that caused the death.  In Texas, our experience as wrongful death lawyers has taught us that,  proving gross negligence is a very high standard to reach. This means it is very rare for a  Texas judge or jury to award a wrongful death beneficiary exemplary damages or punitive damages.

Interest and Court Costs

Pre-judgment and post judgment interest is recoverable by a wrongful death beneficiary, as well as court costs. Attorney’s fees, however, are not recoverable by a wrongful death beneficiary.

What Damages are not available in a Texas Wrongful Death claim? 

Interestingly, Texas does not permit for the recovery of funeral expenses in a wrongful death case. These expenses are considered a debt of the decedents estate and they are recoverable under a survivorship action.  Also, attorneys fees are not recoverable in a wrongful death action. That is why Houston wrongful death attorneys such as the Fitts Law Firm work on a contingent fee basis. This means we do not charge fees or expenses until we win the case.

How and where are Wrongful Death Damages Awarded? 

Wrongful death damages are typically awarded by a judge or jury after a case has gone to trial.  Depending on the strength of the case, there may be an opportunity to settle the lawsuit before it goes to trial. Mediation, before a trial often creates an avenue to settle or resolve a wrongful death claim. Mediation is a process by which both parties informally discuss the strength and weaknesses of a case facilitated by a mediator.  This discussion typically focuses on the  responsibility of the defendant and the corresponding damages caused to the plaintiff. Then the parties, along with the mediator, try to come up with a number that both parties can agree to resolve the claim, and settle the case. It is an extensive back and fourth process that can take hours, sometimes days.

Wrongful Death FAQ’s

How can I find out I can make a claim for the Wrongful Death or the Death of a loved one? 

Do you typically need to contact a wrongful death lawyer to weigh your options.  Initially you must be either the spouse, child, parent, or the executor or administrator of the estate of the decedent and the decedent must have been killed by the conduct of another person or business.

Who can file a Texas Wrongful Death Case? 

Generally, there are four classes of individuals who can make a claim for wrongful death.

  • Spouse
  • Child
  • Parent
  • Executor or administrator of the estate of the deceased

What type of circumstances can give rise to Wrongful Death Claims? 

Anytime the decedent could have brought a claim against the descendent for injury caused, that incident would give rise to a wrongful death claim. For example, car accidents, commercial vehicle, accidents, explosions, fires, workplace injuries, boating accidents, recreational accidents, hunting accidents all give rise to a potential claim for wrongful death.  

What types of damages can I recover in a Texas Wrongful Death Claim?

  • Loss of Companionship and society
  • Expenses related to physiological treatment
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Court cost and pre and post judgment interest
  • Exemplary or punitive damages in the event it can be proven that they cause of death of was willful, or gross negligence.  Practice tip: This is a very high burden to establish under Texas law.

What is loss of consortium and who can recover for this? 

In Texas, a spouse, child, or parent is entitled to recover for the loss of services they would have received from the decedent. This is basically a loss of consortium claim. In Texas, you are entitled to recover loss of consortium for the services you would have received from the decedent.

What must be proven to win a wrongful death claim? 

To prove a wrongful death claim a plaintiff must establish the following:

  • The plaintiff it’s a statutory beneficiary of the decedent.
  • The defendant is a person or a corporation.
  • The defendants wrongful act caused the death of decedent.
  • The decedent would have been entitled to bring an action for the injury, if he or she had lived.
  • The plaintiff suffered actual injuries.

How long do I have to file a Wrongful Death Claim in Texas? 

In Texas, you have two years from the date of the death to file a wrongful death petition.  There are a few rare circumstances, but you should always plan file your claim within two years after of the date of the death. 

What happens if the person who died was a child or an elderly person with no income of earning potential? 

A wrongful death beneficiary can still make a claim for the loss of a child or another elderly person even if they had no income or no earning potential. The wrongful death beneficiaries can recover for psychological treatment services related to the loss, mental anguish, loss of companionship and society and loss of inheritance.

If you have lost a loved one because of the fault of someone else, we want to fight to make it right.  Contact the Fitts Law Firm today for your free, confidential wrongful death consultation today.  We will review your claim and explain all the options available to you under Texas law. Experienced, Compassionate Wrongful Death Attorneys Protecting YOUR rights.

Call Today 1-800-99-FITTS.

Get the Maximum Compensation for Your Claim Today, Complete the Form for a Free Case Review