Losing a loved one in an accident is an incredibly difficult experience, one that changes the lives of everyone involved forever. Grief and trauma can have a serious effect on the quality of life that the surviving family members live.

When the loved one has been killed in an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you have every right to be angry, and you have every right to hold the party responsible accountable for their actions by filing a wrongful death claim.

While a wrongful death claim will not ease your grief, it can provide you and your loved ones with financial support and security while you process your grief and handle the loss. It also makes an example of the at-fault party, which may prevent their negligence from harming other individuals in the future.

Many families have never had to even consider what to do in the event of losing a loved one, and this can leave them feeling unsure of the process and the first steps that need to be taken.

Here at Abraham Watkins, our team should be your first port of call. With over 70 years of experience serving the state of Texas, our team of skilled and compassionate attorneys can help you begin the process of pursuing compensation and the recovery of any damages.

We offer a free consultation and case evaluation, and we work on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no up-front costs for you to seek our advice or to have us begin pursuing your case. We aim to take all of the stress and weight of your case off your shoulders, leaving you with space to process what has happened, confident in the knowledge that an experienced law firm is handling the rest.

Our Austin wrongful death lawyers have a long history of successful cases under their belts. We have fought for numerous clients in similar situations, winning favorable outcomes and helping families seek justice and compensation in countless cases.

Call us today to arrange a free initial consultation with an Austin wrongful death lawyer today at 713-535-9319.

What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death, and What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

Sec. 71.002. CAUSE OF ACTION. (a) An action for actual damages arising from an injury that causes an individual’s death may be brought if liability exists under this section.(b) A person is liable for damages arising from an injury that causes an individual’s death if the injury was caused by the person’s or his agent’s or servant’s wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.

Under Texas law, a wrongful death is any death that has been caused by a person’s actions if they were negligent, careless, or unskillful. Essentially, this means that if the liable party owed you a duty of care, a legal obligation to act reasonably to prevent you from harm, and they acted in a way that was not reasonable and the victim dies as a result, it was a wrongful death.

A wrongful death usually takes two forms. The first is when the victim is killed during the actual accident. An example of this would be if a commercial truck driver was drunk and lost control of his truck, and the truck hit a pedestrian and killed them on the spot.

The second is when the injuries caused in an accident later on lead to the victim’s death. An example of this would be if a victim suffered from head trauma and these injuries took several weeks before the victim passed away.

In the second case, there are usually more damages that need to be recovered, such as the cost of the medical care the victim received to try and save their lives.

There are a huge variety of different causes for a wrongful death. Common examples are car accidents and property liability.

Criminal and Civil Cases

One thing that is important for the families of lost loved ones to understand is that a wrongful death claim is a civil case. This means that it is not related to the criminal aspect of a case. Wrongful death claims allow for someone to pursue financial compensation and potentially pursue punitive damages that punish a party.

If there was a criminal aspect to the death of your loved one, this would be a separate criminal case to charge the guilty party.

There are many examples where an incident will warrant both a civil and criminal case, such as drunk driving accidents.

The burden of proof in a wrongful death claim is lower than the burden of proof needed to convict a party of a crime. The victim does not need to be convicted of the crime in order to win your civil case, and they may still be liable for all your damages if they acted negligently, even if they are not found guilty of a crime.

The Four Important Elements Used to Prove Negligence in the Austin Wrongful Death Claim Process

In a wrongful death suit, your attorney will need to be able to prove the four elements of negligence for the case to be strong and valid. In this regard, claims for wrongful deaths are similar to personal injury cases.

The four elements of a negligent case are:

Duty of Care

The first element is extremely important. In order for the party to have acted negligently, they must have owed your family member or loved one a duty of care at the time of the accident.

A duty of care is a legal obligation to act in a reasonable manner when doing otherwise may put another individual in danger. The most common duty of care is the one that you assume to all other users of the roads when you get behind the wheel of any vehicle in Texas.

Other common examples are the duties of care that a doctor automatically assumes to his patients, the duty of care private property owners owe to visitors to their property, the duty of care that the manufacturer of products owe to their customers, and the duty of care that employers owe to their employees when their work involves safety elements, such as construction workers.

Breach of Duty

The second element, once it has been proven that the at-fault party owed the victim a duty of care, is to prove that they breached that duty of care with their actions. To breach the duty of care, a person or entity must act unreasonably while they owe a duty of care. To prove this, their actions will be compared to that of a reasonable person in the same situation.

For example, if someone was on their phone while driving without using hands-free, and they crashed and caused an accident, their actions will be compared to a reasonable driver’s. A reasonable driver would not drive while on the phone. This means the at-fault driver’s actions can be shown to be different from how a reasonable individual would have acted.

Causation

The next element that will need to be proved is that the unreasonable behavior led to the accident and that the accident directly caused the injuries or death of the victim. For wrongful death cases where the individual is killed in an accident, this is easy to prove.

For victims that have died later on from injuries caused by an accident, your attorney will need to examine medical records and may need to speak to medical experts to obtain expert testimonials from them. This is because insurance companies may try to claim that the victim died from other causes, such as a previous condition or the incompetence of medical staff.

Damages

The last element to prove is to evidence that the injuries caused by the accident, or the wrongful death of the victim, has led to either the victim or the victims family members and loved ones suffering economic and non-economic damages. These include medical expenses and medical bills, loss of companionship, loss of consortium and pain and suffering.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are a unique type of damages. They can only be awarded by a Judge, so you will not be able to pursue them if you settle with the other party outside of court.

Punitive damages are reserved for situations where the Judge believes the at-fault party has acted maliciously or with gross negligence and that they should be made an example of.

If you believe that the at-fault party acted with a complete disregard for the safety of your lost loved one, you should discuss the pursuit of punitive damages with your attorney.

Examples of Wrongful Death Claims an Austin Wrongful Death Lawyer Deals With

Commercial Trucking Accidents

Commercial drivers in Austin, and throughout the entire state of Texas are held to a higher standard than traditional drivers. This is because a fully loaded commercial truck or 18-wheeler may weigh 30-40x that of a normal passenger car, which means when things go wrong, they have a strong potential to cause catastrophic injuries and death.

Commercial trucking companies need to monitor their drivers’ hours, ensure drivers take adequate breaks, ensure their drivers are trained, and ensure that their vehicles are maintained to a high standard.

Commercial trucking drivers themselves are also under more scrutiny. An example would be the blood alcohol limit. Trucking drivers have a lower legal blood alcohol limit than normal drivers.

Commercial trucking accident cases are often complex and may involve several parties. Liability may lie with the driver, and the trucking company, and cases will need to be pursued against both.

In rare cases, even mechanics may be held liable if parts have failed due to their negligence.

Car Accidents

Car accidents are the biggest cause of personal injury in the entire U.S. There are countless reasons why a car accident may happen. It may be down to reckless driving, such as speeding or tailgating, or it may be distracted driving, such as eating at the wheel or being on a mobile phone.

There may also be road conditions, such as potholes and badly maintained roads, which means liability may lie with a government body.

There are also a worrying amount of drunk driving accidents every single day in the state of Texas, with one happening around every 20 minutes. Drink-driving accidents are often much more serious due to the fact that alcohol impairs judgment and reduces reaction times.

Faulty or Defective Products

As the manufacturer of consumer products, companies owe a duty of care to the customers that buy and use their products. They have a duty to carry out extensive testing for defects that could lead to injury or death. They also have a duty to recall products immediately if defects have been found in the product that is already on the market.

Workplace Accidents

You have rights under federal law that entitle you to a safe work environment. These laws mean that all employers owe their employees a duty of care. This includes things like maintaining safety equipment and training and ensuring that workers are not asked to carry out tasks that they are not trained to carry out.

If your loved one has lost their life because their employers did not maintain the correct health and safety procedures or because your loved one was pressured into carrying out a task they were not trained to carry out, the employer is likely liable.

Premises Liability

Any party that owns a private property or business premises must be aware they owe a duty of care to visitors to the property. This duty should include ensuring that excavations or hazards are clearly signposted. A common premise liability hazard is a swimming pool. The pool should be clearly signposted to prevent drowning accidents, and if the pool is empty, there should be signage warning people of the empty pool in case they fall and injure themselves.

Other Reasons

While this list includes some of the most common wrongful death reasons, it isn’t a comprehensive list by any means. If you have lost a loved one, and you are unsure of whether or not it was down to negligence, you should contact one of our team today. We promise to offer some free, unbiased legal advice and listen compassionately to your case.

How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Austin, Texas?

The statute of limitations, a legal time limit that details how long you have to make a claim following a personal injury or wrongful death, is a law in place that protects defendants from being sued many years down the line when the evidence will not be sufficient to hold them liable.

In Texas, the time limit begins at the moment of death. You have two years to make your claim, meaning you will either have two years from the date of the accident if your loved one was killed immediately or two years from the date they died from their injuries.

You should never wait this long, however. With all cases that require as much evidence as a complex wrongful death claim, the sooner your attorney is involved, the better. The closer to the incident they are told about it, the easier it will be for them to investigate and secure the evidence that will strengthen your case.

It also gives your Austin wrongful death attorneys more time to prepare expert witness testimonials and speak to any eyewitnesses to the scene, as well as calculate the damages you are going to pursue.

Do I Need to Hire an Austin Wrongful Death Attorney to Seek Compensation?

Under Texas law, you do not need legal representation to pursue a wrongful death case, but it is highly recommended.

The laws surrounding personal injury and wrongful death are complex, and you will not have the knowledge that a skilled attorney with many years of experience will have. You may also be up against an insurance company that employs a strong legal team who have the sole purpose of defending them against claims like yours.

Wrongful death claims can take several years, and you will be responsible for pushing the case by yourself if you do not have representation. You may be currently dealing with the immense grief and emotional trauma of losing a loved one, and your focus should be on your family and processing your grief. With an attorney taking over the case, you are given the space to do this.

Over our 70 years of service to the state of Texas, our team has handled a lot of wrongful death cases, and this means we have a lot of past experience and previous cases under our belt. When it comes to tweaking and tailoring a bespoke strategy for your case, this previous experience can prove invaluable.

If you are concerned about the up-front costs and are fearful you will be left with expensive legal fees if you lose, remember that we work on a contingency fee basis, and we offer a free case evaluation to all potential clients. We believe that all victims should have the opportunity to hold those responsible for their loved one’s wrongful death accountable.

If we cannot win your case, you do not have to pay. If we do, we take our fees from your settlement.

Austin Wrongful Death Lawyer FAQ

Who can sue for wrongful death in Texas?

Only the immediate loved ones of a deceased victim can make a claim. This list includes parents, children and spouses. A personal representative of the deceased person’s estate may also claim on behalf of the family members.

How long do you have to sue for wrongful death in Texas?

The statute of limitations in Texas allows for victims of personal injury and wrongful death to make claims for up to two years. In wrongful death claims, the two years start from the date of the death of the victim, not the accident.

What constitutes wrongful death in Texas?

In accordance with Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §§ 71.001 to 71.003, wrongful death occurs when an injury is caused by another’s “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default,” and that injury leads to a person’s death.

Speak to an Austin Wrongful Death Lawyer at Abraham Watkins Today!

Losing a loved one in an accident is a tragedy that can destroy the lives of loved ones and family members. When the accident occurs due to negligence, the addition of the anger felt towards the at-fault party can make it an extremely emotional time for the victims’ loved ones.

There is no amount of financial compensation that can bring the loved one back, and no financial compensation will make the grieving process easier. However, during this time, family members and loved ones may need time off work and if the loved one was a source of income for the family, a wrongful death claim does provide financial security during this difficult period.

At Abraham Watkins, our attorneys have a wealth of experience in wrongful death cases. We provide a free initial consultation and case evaluation to all clients, giving honest and impartial advice. If you choose to go ahead, our team will investigate your claim and build the strongest possible case for you.Call us today for a free consultation at 713-535-9319.

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We offer a free consultation to prospective clients. If you have been injured and wish to speak to one of our attorneys in a no-cost consultation, please call us at (713) 222-7211. or toll free at 713-222-7211

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