When it comes to wrongful death cases, Hill Law Firm is one of the most experienced and proven firms in San Antonio. We understand that the loss of a loved one or family member is one of the most painful experienced someone can endure. When that loss is unexpected, there is uncertainty, questions, and a lack of closure. You cannot bring back a loved one or replace what their relationship meant. But you can hold negligent parties responsible and recoup certain costs.
If you are the surviving family member of someone who died, contact our office today and set up a free consultation with an experienced San Antonio wrongful death attorney.
What is Wrongful Death?
We are often asked by clients to explain the concept of wrongful death. A wrongful death claim is an action that allows a party to sue for the injuries or negligent actions that killed someone. The Texas Wrongful Death Act is in Chapter 71 of the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code. The elements of a wrongful death action include showing that:
- Death was caused in whole or in part by the conduct of another person or company.
- The person or company was negligent or legally responsible for death through their actions.
- There are surviving beneficiaries or dependents.
- Monetary damages have been suffered as a result of death.
Benefits of Hiring a Wrongful Death Attorney
Wrongful death claims are similar to personal injury claims in that they both generally require proof of the defendant’s negligence. For the most part, if the decedent would have been able to file a personal injury claim, loved ones can file for wrongful death now.
Hiring a lawyer can make it easier to collect evidence and build a strong case for wrongful death against one or more defendants in San Antonio. A lawyer will know how wrongful death cases work and what they need to succeed. Your attorney can handle the legal side of your case while you focus on healing.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in San Antonio?
Most states have rules for who may and may not file wrongful death claims after losing loved ones. Typically, the parties with the right to file are those who were the closest to the deceased person, such as a spouse or adult child. In some states, the right may pass to more extended family members if the decedent had no surviving spouse or children.
In Texas, parents, children, and spouses may file a wrongful death claim. These parties will have the initial right to file, followed by a representative of the estate. They may file as individuals or together as a group. Adopted children and adopted parents also have the right to file.
Under current Texas law, same-sex spouses, as well as siblings, and grandparents may not bring a wrongful claim. If the surviving spouse, child or parent does not file for wrongful death within three months, the courts will open the floor for another party to file: the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. The personal representative, or executor, may file the claim as long as surviving family members do not specifically request him or her not to file one. The deceased person’s will may have named a personal representative, but if not, the courts will assign one.
What is the Statue of Limitations for Wrongful Death in San Antonio?
In most cases, the surviving family members have two years from the date of the death to file a claim against a negligent party. Failing to meet this deadline means that they may lose the right to file a claim. That is why it is imperative to seek legal counsel immediately after a death to secure the ability to file.
Proving Negligence in a Wrongful Death Claim
At the heart of most wrongful death claims is negligence. Negligence is a legal doctrine that says if someone breached his or her duties of care to someone else, causing the latter’s injuries or death, that person will be financially responsible for damages. Proving negligence takes four main elements in Texas.
- The defendant had a duty to exercise reasonable care. The defendant must have owed your loved one a duty to act in a certain way under the circumstances.
- The defendant failed to fulfill his or her duty of care. The defendant must have breached his or her duties to your loved one, either negligently, recklessly or intentionally.
- The defendant’s breach of duty of care caused your loved one’s death. The defendant’s breach must be the proximate reason your loved one died.
- You and your family suffered losses. Your lawyer must show that you suffered compensable damages because of the defendant’s breach of duty, such as mental anguish, grief, medical costs and burial expenses.
Proving these elements of negligence may take gathering evidence of the defendant’s fault, such as statements from people who witnessed the fatal accident, police or accident reports, a reconstruction of the incident, and testimony from expert witnesses.
Things You Should Do After the Wrongful Death of a Loved One
1) Take your time with everything. The aftermath of a serious loss can be overwhelming. Do not make any difficult decisions or sign any agreements to recover compensation until you can process what has happened.
2) Call your insurance company. While you must be cautious of signing any agreements, you are required to inform your insurance company before pursuing any wrongful death claims. They will most likely ask you for a recorded statement of what happened and the events leading to the wrongful death. However, do not record anything for the insurance company until you speak to a personal injury lawyer.
3) Speak with a San Antonio wrongful death lawyer. Consulting with a San Antonio personal injury attorney can help you determine if you have a solid case. At Hill Law Firm, we offer free consultations to allow you to explore your options for legal action.
What are the Damages for Wrongful Death?
Damages in a wrongful death lawsuit compensate surviving family members or dependents after a loved one’s death. The court then determines how they are divided among the survivors. These damages include:
- Monetary loss for the care, maintenance, support, funeral services, advice, and counsel for the descendant.
- The value of contributions that the beneficiaries would have received from the decedent had the decedent lived.
- Loss of companionship and society which includes damages for loss of consortium.
- Mental anguish / pain and suffering.
- Loss of inheritance, including what the deceased would have been able to save if they had lived a normal, expected lifetime.
When death is caused by the gross negligence of the defendant, exemplary damages may be recovered. In other states, these are known as punitive damages because they are intended to punish and deter the same type of behavior in the future.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death in San Antonio
Any action or omission that fulfills the definition of a breach of duty of care could cause wrongful death in San Antonio. Our lawyers at Hill Law Firm have helped clients with a range of wrongful death cases, from fatal car accidents to surgical errors. In Texas, negligence is more common for a wrongful death rather than intentional misconduct. Common causes include:
- Motor vehicle accidents: Accidents involving cars, trucks, or motorcycles can have catastrophic effects. If a motor vehicle accident caused the death of a loved one, you may be able to sue the car manufacturer, another driver, or another responsible party.
- Medical malpractice: When a medical professional fails to provide a loved one with a proper standard of care and results in death, you have the right to pursue a lawsuit.
- Hazardous work conditions: If your loved one died due to a work accident, we can help you determine of an organization or individual is responsible for their death.
- Dangerous products: If a defective product caused the death of your loved one, our wrongful death lawyers can hold the manufacturer responsible.
- Dangerous premises: When a property owner fails to remedy a hazard, and this causes the death of a visitor, you have the right to demand compensation.
If intentional misconduct caused wrongful death, such as homicide or manslaughter, your family could also have a wrongful death claim against the defendant. A defendant could face both criminal charges for breaking the law and civil charges for intentional wrongdoing that caused the fatality. Regardless of the type of incident that tragically took your loved one’s life, contact us for a free consultation about your options.
Contact Our Experienced San Antonio Wrongful Death Attorneys
Hill Law Firm has represented people all over the state of Texas and the nation in wrongful death lawsuits. We collaborate with investigators, experts and sometimes other lawyers to evaluate the various facts associated with your wrongful death lawsuit to ensure you receive the best possible representation.
A San Antonio wrongful death lawyer at Hill Law Firm is here to answer any questions you may have regarding your potential wrongful death lawsuit. Call our office today at (210) 960-3939 for a free case evaluation and legal advice.
“I had the opportunity to work with the Hill Law Firm on a wrongful death case in San Antonio. I was impressed with Mr. Hill’s knowledge of the law, rapport with the client and the client’s family members, and his expertise in negotiation. Their staff was professional and courteous and attended to each and every request that was made on his firm. I highly recommend Justin Hill in contested litigated matters.” – Tyler