If you or a loved one has been affected by a wrongful death in Texas, it’s crucial to understand your rights and the potential compensation available to you. At Abraham Watkins, we handle wrongful death cases and have a proven track record of success in securing fair compensation for our clients. Our experienced attorneys are here to guide you through the legal process and fight for the justice you deserve. Contact us today at 713-535-9319 for a free consultation.

Eligible Claimants in a Texas Wrongful Death Lawsuit

A wrongful death lawsuit, a legal action brought forward when someone dies due to the negligence or misconduct of another, is a difficult matter. In Texas, specific individuals are recognized by law as eligible claimants in a wrongful death lawsuit, namely the surviving spouse, parent, or child of the deceased. This means that only these immediate family members can seek compensation for the profound losses they’ve suffered due to their loved one’s untimely death.

The eligibility of these claimants remains intact irrespective of certain circumstances. For instance, a spouse remains eligible to file a claim regardless of separation at the time of death or remarriage following the death. Similarly, parents can file on behalf of a deceased child, whether they are biological or adoptive. It’s important to note that grandparents, siblings, and other relatives are not eligible to file a wrongful death claim in Texas. However, there may be exceptions in certain circumstances, so it’s always best to consult with a qualified attorney to understand your specific situation.

Surviving Spouse

The loss of a spouse is a devastating experience, leaving the surviving partner to face the world alone. Amid this grief, following a loved one’s death, the surviving spouse has the right to bring forward a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas and is eligible to receive compensation. In some cases, the surviving spouse may even be entitled to a larger share of the inheritance in a wrongful death settlement, providing them with much-needed financial support.

This right is extended to spouses in both formal and informal marriages. In a formal marriage, the spouse must have a marriage license and a ceremony performed by an authorized person. But even in an informal or common-law marriage, the surviving spouse can file a wrongful death suit, as long as they can provide proof of marriage either during the suit or in a separate legal proceeding.

Children of the Deceased

Children, whether biological or adopted, also have the right to seek justice for the wrongful death of a parent. Regardless of their age, children are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas, and they can seek compensation for damages such as lost income capacity, emotional pain and suffering, and loss of inheritance.

For minor children, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim does not start until they reach the age of 18. However, a claim can be initiated earlier by a parent or guardian. In such cases, a trust must be established to manage the wrongful death settlement funds until the child reaches the age of majority.

Parents of the Deceased

The loss of a child is unbearable, and the grief that follows is profound. Thankfully, the law acknowledges this pain and allows biological and adoptive parents to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas on behalf of their deceased child, regardless of whether the parents are divorced. The parents must prove the defendant’s negligent or reckless actions caused the death of their child to file a wrongful death claim.

In Texas, parents may file a wrongful death claim for the loss of their child and may claim compensation for a broad range of damages, including:

  • medical bills;
  • funeral costs;
  • lost income if the child contributed to the family’s financial support; and
  • non-economic damages like emotional pain and suffering, and loss of companionship.

Factors Affecting the Division of Wrongful Death Settlements

The division of a wrongful death settlement is not a straightforward process. Several factors influence how the settlement is divided among the eligible claimants. The relationship between the deceased and the claimants, notably as a spouse, child, or parent, can influence the proportion of the settlement each claimant receives, along with the claimants’ financial dependency on the deceased.

The types of damages in a wrongful death lawsuit, such as economic damages (lost wages and benefits, medical and funeral expenses) and non-economic damages (loss of companionship, pain, and suffering, loss of consortium), can also impact the distribution of the settlement amounts.

The division of wrongful death settlements can also be influenced by the claimants’ distribution preferences and the guidelines provided by state law, indicating who is eligible to receive compensation and in what proportion. It’s, therefore, crucial to consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney such as Abraham Watkins to understand how these factors may apply in your case, especially when it comes to how are wrongful death settlements distributed among the claimants.

The Role of the Court and Jury in Dividing Wrongful Death Settlements

In a wrongful death lawsuit, the court and jury play a significant role in determining how the wrongful death settlement payout is divided. A jury often designates how the proceeds from a wrongful death settlement are distributed among family members, taking into account factors such as the existence of minor children and the agreement capabilities of adult beneficiaries.

The court also takes into account various factors when dividing wrongful death settlement money, including:

  • the deceased’s age;
  • the deceased’s income;
  • the deceased’s earning potential;
  • the age of surviving family members;
  • the relationship of surviving family members to the deceased; and
  • the financial dependency of surviving family members.

These factors help determine how the settlement money should be divided among the surviving family members.

In some cases, the distribution of wrongful death settlements may be guided by the decedent’s will or, in the absence of a will, by state intestacy laws that dictate asset distribution. This highlights the importance of having a personal representative or executor to manage the estate, including distributing settlement funds in line with the decedent’s will or state law.

Out-of-Court Settlements: How They Impact the Division of Compensation

Out-of-court settlements play a significant role in wrongful death cases. These negotiations involve back-and-forth discussions between the involved parties, aiming to reach an agreement on the settlement amount without going to trial. Here, an attorney’s role is crucial as they:

  • prepare compelling arguments backed by evidence such as police reports, witness statements, and medical records;
  • secure a beneficial settlement; and
  • effectively communicate the value of non-economic damages like emotional distress and loss of companionship.

Out-of-court settlements are preferred in many wrongful death cases as they save time and money and provide the parties with more control over the outcomes compared to a trial. If beneficiaries cannot agree on the distribution of a settlement, there are several options to consider:

  1. Court intervention may be necessary to decide the allocation.
  2. Attorneys representing different beneficiaries may collaborate to reach an agreement.
  3. Mediation with a neutral third party may be utilized.

Workers Compensation and Wrongful Death Cases

In Texas, Workers’ Compensation death benefits are claimed by eligible family members when an employee dies due to a work-related injury, unless the case involves gross negligence. These benefits prioritize immediate family members over parents, with payments only to parents occurring if there is no surviving spouse, child, or grandchild.

In the absence of eligible immediate family members, Texas Labor Code states Workers Compensation death benefits are distributed equally among surviving dependents like:

  • parents;
  • stepparents;
  • siblings; and
  • grandparents.

Biological parents and other figures such as adoptive parents and stepparents may also be entitled to Workers’ Compensation death benefits, providing they are the sole survivors and have not had parental rights terminated.

In wrongful death cases involving Worker’s Compensation with multiple beneficiaries, subrogation rights determining reimbursement and future credits must be carefully analyzed based on collective recovery. Texas law mandates that settlement distribution involving only Worker’s Compensation beneficiaries be equitable to determine the carrier’s reimbursement.

The Texas Supreme Court has established that a third-party settlement in a wrongful death case should be viewed as a single collective recovery, affecting the Workers’ Compensation carrier’s future credit across all beneficiaries, with considerations regarding wrongful death settlements taxed.

Time Limits for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas

The statute of limitations is a critical aspect of any legal proceeding, and wrongful death lawsuits are no exception. In Texas, the standard statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the date of the deceased person’s death. This means that the clock starts ticking from the date of death, and if a lawsuit is not filed within this two-year window, the opportunity to seek justice and compensation may be lost.

The statute of limitations in Texas may be tolled or extended in certain circumstances, such as when the claimant is a minor, discovers the negligence or fraud at a later date, or suffers from a mental or physical incapacity. Regardless of these tolling provisions, the statute of repose for wrongful death claims in Texas sets an absolute ten-year limitation period beyond which no claim can be filed.

Given these time constraints and the time necessary to build a strong case, it is imperative to initiate legal proceedings as soon as possible in wrongful death cases.

The Importance of Legal Representation in Wrongful Death Cases

In the wake of a tragic loss, dealing with legal proceedings can be a daunting task. Having an experienced wrongful death attorney by your side can make the process less overwhelming. Attorneys not only provide emotional support to grieving families but also handle the legal burdens, enabling clients to focus on their healing process. At Abraham Watkins, we handle the entirety of the legal process for our wrongful death clients, allowing them to grieve without the stress of litigious proceedings.

Clients are not required to pay any upfront costs for our legal services in a wrongful death claim, as remuneration is contingent upon the case’s success. Our attorneys provide essential assistance in appropriately filing a wrongful death claim and overcoming the legal challenges that may arise throughout the case.

If negotiations do not result in a fair settlement, our wrongful death lawyer team is prepared to take the wrongful death case to trial, advocating zealously on behalf of the victim’s family. We employ resources for thorough investigations, evidence collection, witness interviewing, and expert consultations, establishing the foundation of negligence in wrongful death cases. Our legal professionals possess the necessary skills to quantify both the tangible and intangible losses in wrongful death lawsuits, aiding in the pursuit of a comprehensive settlement.

Our skilled negotiation with the insurance company is aimed at protecting bereaved individuals’ interests and ensuring just compensation.

Abraham Watkins: Our Experience and Success

At Abraham Watkins, we have a proven track record of securing multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements in wrongful death cases, highlighting our success in delivering justice and compensation for affected families. Our experience spans a wide range of wrongful death cases, including:

  • catastrophic injuries;
  • admiralty and maritime cases;
  • aviation accidents;
  • auto accidents;
  • bus crashes;
  • defective products; and
  • workplace injuries.

Our attorneys are adept in proving the four elements of negligence: duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages, which are crucial for the success of wrongful death cases.

By offering free initial consultations and operating on a contingency fee basis, we ensure that our clients understand their legal options without upfront costs and reaffirm our commitment to our clients’ success. As a law firm with over seventy years of dedicated legal service, we have the skills, resources, and experience crucial for successful wrongful death litigations in Texas.

How We Can Help You

At Abraham Watkins, we provide personalized legal assessments during free consultations, helping our clients understand their legal options and decide on an effective legal strategy. We offer a full suite of legal services for wrongful death claims, managing all aspects from meticulous evidence gathering to strategic negotiations with insurance entities, all aimed at securing maximum compensation.

Our reach extends throughout the southern region of Texas, including major cities like Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, as well as areas such as Katy, Sugar Land, Galveston, Corpus Christi, and Brownsville. We also extend our legal services to other locations in the South Texas region, ensuring extensive service coverage for bereaved families in these locales.

Contact Us

In the wake of a wrongful death, the path to justice can seem daunting. But you don’t have to navigate it alone. At Abraham Watkins, our experienced attorneys understand the complexities of wrongful death lawsuits in Texas. We know who can file a wrongful death claim, how settlements are divided, and the role of litigation and jury. Whether you’re a surviving spouse, child, or parent, we’re here to guide you through every step of the way.

Seeking justice for your loved one is not just a legal battle; it’s a testament to the enduring power of love, resilience, and the human spirit. With our experience and support, you can find closure and hold those responsible accountable. Call us today at 713-535-9319 to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards justice.

Frequently Asked Questions

How are wrongful death settlements paid out in Texas?

Wrongful death settlements in Texas are typically paid out in either a lump sum or a structured manner, with plaintiffs receiving a single payment or periodic distributions over time until the settlement is complete, and the method of payment is often determined by the agreement between the parties or the court’s decision.

Who gets the distribution of wrongful death proceeds in Texas?

In Texas, the distribution of wrongful death proceeds is based on Texas law, and the settlement money is typically paid to a surviving spouse, children, parents, or the estate, with the court overseeing the distribution process to ensure it complies with state law.

What damages are recoverable for wrongful death in Texas?

In Texas, damages for wrongful death may include losses of household income, support and companionship from the deceased, as well as mental distress, and these are some of the recoverable damages in a wrongful death lawsuit, with the amount of damages often determined by the court or a jury.

How is a wrongful death settlement divided among claimants?

The division of a wrongful death settlement is influenced by factors such as the relationship between the deceased and the claimants, the types of damages, and the deceased’s financial situation, and it is important to consider these factors when determining the distribution of the settlement among claimants, with the court often playing a role in resolving disputes over the distribution.

What is the role of the court and jury in dividing wrongful death settlements?

The court and jury play a significant role in determining how a wrongful death settlement is divided, taking into account various factors related to the deceased and the surviving family members, and their decision is based on considerations such as age, income, earning potential, and financial dependency, with the court often overseeing the distribution process to ensure it is fair and equitable.