Houston Wrongful Death Case Process

The law provides remedies after the death of a loved one. In a wrongful death lawsuit, survivors can seek damages for their economic and non-economic losses. Unless the wrongdoer has also committed a crime, a wrongful death lawsuit may be the only way for a survivor to get justice for a loved one’s death. Understanding the Houston wrongful death case process can help you determine whether pursuing a claim is right for you.

Of course, while there is a general pattern for claims, not every step applies to every case. For example, many defendants will have insurance that covers a claim, but not all will. Those plaintiffs will skip any elements linked to filing a claim with the wrongdoer’s insurer. Consult with an attorney to get a more accurate breakdown of how the process will work in your case.

Wrongful Death Cases in Texas

Texas recognizes two causes of action based on the death of a person. The first is a survival action. The heirs, estate, or personal representatives of a deceased person can bring a lawsuit on behalf of the deceased for the damages they suffered from an injury prior to their death. The lawsuit can be based on an incident that eventually led to death or for a personal injury entirely unrelated to death.

The other action is a wrongful death suit. Texas Civil Practice & Remedies § 71.002 provides that family members have a cause of action for damages arising from an individual’s death. Parents, children, and spouses can bring a wrongful death lawsuit. If they choose not to do so, a personal representative for the deceased’s estate can do so at least three months after the death unless the family members object to the lawsuit.

The first unofficial step in the wrongful death case process is determining who will bring the lawsuit. Multiple people bringing a claim could have an impact on the total amount of damages available. When possible, family members may want to coordinate their approach in the process of filing Houston wrongful death claim.

Assessing Negligence

Determining if another person’s negligence led to the death is an essential element in a wrongful death claim. Without negligence, there is no claim, regardless of how untimely or awful a death was. In complex accidents, determining fault can be complex, as well.

Before bringing a wrongful death lawsuit, attorneys will investigate the accident and gather evidence to establish negligence. They may do this before talking to the insurance company or simultaneously with insurance settlement negotiations since the insurance company will also be investigating the claim. An attorney can use the discovery process to get access to their investigation information.

An investigation not only reveals if the initial defendants are responsible but may also identify other potential defendants. Identifying defendants is a critical part of the process in Houston wrongful death cases.

Determining Damages

Calculating damages means investigating both the economic and non-economic damages that the survivors experience as a result of the death. Several factors can influence potential damages, but this step is essential to the case process.

Sometimes—usually in clear-cut cases of negligence—an insurance company may offer a decent settlement and may be willing to negotiate a higher payment amount. If those amounts get into the projected settlement range, then the process may end with negotiations.

Filing a Lawsuit

If negotiations are unsuccessful, filing a lawsuit is the next step. It can take a while to get to this step, but, with few exceptions, plaintiffs must do so within two years of the date of death. Filing a lawsuit can encourage additional settlement offers. It may prompt people to seek resolution through alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation or arbitration.

If those are unsuccessful, then the court will set a date for trial. At trial, a plaintiff’s attorney will present witnesses and evidence to support their client’s claims that the defendant’s actions led to the death of their loved one.

Contact an Attorney About the Houston Wrongful Death Case Process

Wrongful death cases can be complex, especially since survivors are dealing with the loss of a loved one. It can be tempting to put the process off until later. However, the steps to get to trial can be time-consuming, and Texas has a two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death claims. To find out more about the Houston wrongful death case process, schedule a consultation with our team. We can begin investigating the claim and advise you about your potential remedies.

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