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- Wrongful Death
Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Houston, Texas
Wrongful death suits are civil cases that are often brought to court after a criminal trial has been completed. These suits are usually brought by a surviving family member wishing to be awarded damages from the person or persons accused of the negligent or willful act that resulted in their loved one’s death.
Historically, wrongful death suits were designed to support widows and orphans financially, as well as to encourage safety among the general populace. Now, wrongful death suits may benefit any of the beneficiaries of the deceased. Losing a loved one can be one of the most difficult challenges that a family must face. The compassionate Houston wrongful death attorneys at Lapeze & Johns, PLLC, hope to make this time a little easier for you and your loved ones.
Even if a defendant is acquitted of murder, he or she may face a wrongful death suit. A defendant is found guilty in a wrongful death suit if the plaintiff is able to prove the defendant is responsible for death by a “preponderance of evidence” – meaning that guilt can be found on compelling evidence and its probable accuracy. This is different from the evidence needed to prove guilt in criminal proceedings. In a criminal case, the prosecution would need to prove a defendant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. To prove wrongful death in a civil suit, the defendant must have created and been responsible for a direct line of events that led to death.
Wrongful death suits may be brought to court only if the following components are present:
- A human’s death was caused by negligence or intent to harm.
- Family members are suffering financially due to the death.
- A representative for the deceased person’s estate has been appointed. The representative for the estate is usually who files a suit on behalf of surviving beneficiaries.
Navigating Wrongful Death Proceedings
Medical malpractice, criminal behavior, and vehicular accidents can each lead to wrongful death suits. These suits seek compensations to cover the losses the surviving family members have or will face due to the death of the decedent. These losses relating to the wrongful death may include the family’s pain and suffering, medical expenses, funeral and burial expenses, lost inheritance, and lost income or value of services of the deceased.
The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim can vary by state. The general rule is that the filing must occur within two years of the action that caused death. In some states, there is a limit on the financial damages that can be recovered in certain suits. Medical malpractice suits are one area of wrongful death law that may see a cap on the financial damages awarded, due to the nature of the work.
Punitive damages may also be awarded if the defendant’s actions are proven to be exceedingly reckless. Punitive damages are a means of punishing the defendant financially for his or her actions. Any financial award arising from these damages is distributed among the deceased’s beneficiaries.
Wrongful death cases that leave orphans in their wake are particularly complex. These cases may involve factors such as the future support of a child and efforts to lessen the emotional burden of losing one’s family. For example, a wrongful death suit from 2013 awarded a young Californian girl more than $150 million in damages after she watched her family die in a fiery semi-truck crash. The driver of the truck and the trucking company were both found liable for the death and were obligated to pay the damages.
Consulting a wrongful death lawyer is the most reliable way to learn your state’s particular laws and guidelines regarding wrongful death. The Houston wrongful death attorneys at Lapeze & Johns, PLLC, have the experience needed to make the process as painless as possible while providing the legal knowledge needed to take your case from start to finish.
If you or a loved one are facing or filing a wrongful death suit, speak with our Houston wrongful death attorneys today for a FREE consultation.