How Is Compensation Divided Among Survivors?
A question you may wish to ask a lawyer is how much compensation you will receive if there are other surviving family members? The answer is that it depends. Every case is different in how compensation is apportioned. In certain circumstances, you may each receive equal portions. However, this is not necessarily the most equitable result, particularly any relatives who were financially dependent on the deceased.
If your wrongful death case is decided by a jury, then the jurors determine how much compensation your family gets and how much goes to each person. However, a majority of wrongful death cases are settled out of court. When we negotiate a wrongful death settlement on your family’s behalf, then you and your family members can agree to appropriate portions.
We often work with family members to determine fair outcomes, and when you and the other adults agree, this is a smooth process. If you and other surviving adults disagree on how much each of you should receive, then it may be necessary for other survivors to be represented by different wrongful death law firms.
What Happens If a Family Member Dies Before Their Personal Injury Claim Was Settled?
If your loved one was severely injured in an accident and died halfway through the claims process, their case does not die with them. Instead, it can be carried on by family members. Additionally, the family will now file a wrongful death lawsuit. Though these two lawsuits are separate, they’re often wrapped into one trial or settlement.
The newly appointed “head” of the wrongful death claim, (called an executor), has full say over the claim. They’re in charge of hiring a wrongful death attorney, talking to the insurance companies, etc. They also decide how much money they’re willing to accept during the settlement process. When the wrongful death suit is settled, the money won will be given to the executor. However, that money must pass to different parties (other family members) as directed by the deceased’s will.
To be clear, if the victim dies of an unrelated cause (like cancer), it remains a personal injury case (as opposed to a wrongful death case). Wrongful death only applies if the deceased died from accident-related causes.
Wrongful Death Damages in Texas
Another reason it is important to talk with a wrongful death lawyer is that the damages involved in a wrongful death case differ from those associated with typical personal injury claims. There is some overlap, but at Anderson Injury Lawyers, we can explain the differences.
Wrongful death compensation in Texas can include:
- Loss of decedent’s income
- Loss of potential inheritance
- Loss of decedent’s household services
- Loss of decedent’s parental guidance and services
- Loss of decedent’s spousal services
- Loss of decedent’s care, support, companionship, and love
- If paid by a surviving family member, funeral and burial expenses
- Surviving family members’ emotional distress and mental anguish
- Surviving family members’ mental health care expenses
Under Section 71.010, a jury can award damages in an amount that is proportionate to the injury you and your loved ones have suffered due to the death. It is important to remember the compensation is for your family’s injuries—not the harm your deceased family member suffered.
Also, your case may end with a wrongful death settlement and not a jury’s decision. In many wrongful death cases, our attorneys aggressively negotiate a fair amount of compensation with the at-fault party’s insurer to settle the claim instead of going to trial. This may be the most efficient way to obtain fair compensation. However, a settlement is not always possible, in which case, we will advise you regarding the process and timeline of pursuing compensation through trial.
Another important factor regarding wrongful death compensation is that it is not subject to your loved one’s debts. When your parent or spouse passes away, there may be several debts the estate is responsible for, such as credit card debt, mortgage payments, and utilities. Your wrongful death settlement or jury award will not be used to pay those.
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Additional Information About Wrongful Death Law
Punitive Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim
In Texas, you and your family may be able to pursue additional damages known as punitive damages or exemplary damages. These are not meant to compensate you for an emotional injury or financial loss. Instead, these are meant to punish the wrongdoer and discourage similar behaviors from others.
You cannot receive punitive damages when your loved one’s death is the result of ordinary negligence. Instead, you must prove that the death resulted from another person’s gross negligence, often referred to as recklessness, omission or failure to act, or an intentional act. If another individual’s recklessness or intentional misconduct caused your parent, spouse, or child’s death, speak with a wrongful death attorney about exemplary damages.
The Texas Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Claims
The timeframe to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas is not unlimited. A statute of limitations imposes a deadline on how long you have to make a claim. Typically, you have two years from the date of your loved one’s death to file the lawsuit. If you fail to file the lawsuit within the two-year-period, then your case will most likely be dismissed.
There is an exception to the statute of limitations known as the discovery rule. It is possible for you and your family to learn of your loved one’s death, but not know that their passing was the result of someone else’s wrongdoing. It may even be that the at-fault party takes steps to hide their responsibility. Or, you and your family may not learn of your loved one’s death for some time after the responsible incident. If weeks or months passed before you and your family reasonably learned you might have a legal claim, talk with a wrongful death attorney immediately. You need to determine if you have the necessary time to file.
Contact Our Wrongful Death Law Firm Today
It is imperative that you avoid talking with an insurer or someone else’s attorney without your own counsel. You could say something that harms your case, or you may be steered toward accepting a settlement that is less than what your family deserves. To improve your chance of receiving the maximum amount of compensation possible for your wrongful death claim, we recommend speaking with our Fort Worth wrongful death attorneys at Anderson Injury Lawyers right away.
Let us make sure you are protected, properly informed, and working towards what your family deserves. You can reach us by calling 817-294-1900. We accept calls 24/7. You also can submit your information online to set up a free, no-risk consultation.
If you suffered harm in an accident or any incident caused by negligence, contact Anderson Injury Lawyers right away. We offer individualized attention, over 25 years of experience, and everything you need to get everything you deserve.
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