Houston Wrongful Death Lawyer
The sudden and unexpected death of a loved one creates many emotional and financial difficulties for an entire family. When the person’s death is the result of another party’s wrongful conduct, the family has the right to seek justice through a civil claim that is separate and distinct from any criminal case against that party.
If your loved one was killed by the negligence or wrongful act of another party in Texas, you should know that you are not alone. You have legal rights and options. The Law Offices of Hilda Sibrian represents clients throughout the greater Houston area. Our experienced, compassionate attorneys are here to help you and your family to seek justice on behalf of your loved one. Call or reach us online today to learn more in a free consultation.to set up your free consultation.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 71.002(b) establish that a person is liable for damages arising from another individual’s death when the death was caused by the person’s wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness or default. This is what is commonly referred to as “wrongful death.“
A wrongful death claim is a civil claim. Families should understand that the burden of proof in a civil case is much different from criminal trials. While a criminal case will require a prosecutor to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, civil claims are established by a preponderance of the evidence.
Because wrongful death cases can be very complicated, many families are reluctant to become involved in the court process. However, at The Law Offices of Hilda Sibrian, you can count on our highly dedicated, bilingual legal team to stand behind you and guide you through the process.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 71.004(a), a wrongful death action can be pursued by the person’s surviving spouse, children or parents. Children can file wrongful death claims even when they are over 18 years of age. Siblings, grandparents, and other relatives of the deceased cannot file wrongful death actions in Texas.
If a surviving spouse was separated from the deceased, the spouse could still recover damages in a wrongful death claim. However, if the surviving spouse remarried, defense attorneys might use the marriage to try and bar or reduce recovery.
If a spouse, child, or parent of the deceased dies before a wrongful death case concludes, the right to recovery dies with them. Beneficiaries of those parties do not have any legal rights to wrongful death damages.
Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 71.021 also allows for the heirs, legal representatives and estate of the deceased to file what is known as a survival action to recover damages the deceased could have sought if he or she had survived, including pain and suffering damages.
What Damages Can You Pursue in a Texas Wrongful Death Claim?
Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 71.002(a) creates a cause of action for actual damages arising from an injury that causes an individual’s death. Actual damages may include:
- Economic damages – These are tangible costs that can be calculated and proven. Common economic damages include funeral and burial expenses, medical bills and lost income.
- Noneconomic damages – These damages are subjective. Common non-economic damages include emotional distress and loss of consortium.
When a wrongful death case is filed against a health care provider in connection to a medical malpractice case, Texas law limits noneconomic damages to $500,000 in 1977 dollars (approximately $2.118 million after inflation).
A plaintiff in a wrongful death action can also be entitled to exemplary damages when the person’s death was caused by someone’s willful act or gross negligence. These are usually referred to as punitive damages. They are often awarded in cases involving drunk driving. Texas law limits exemplary damages to an amount that cannot exceed two times the amount of economic damages plus an amount equal to any non-economic damages found by the jury (not to exceed $750,000) or $200,000. The cap does not apply when a defendant knowingly or intentionally committed:
- Capital murder
- Aggravated kidnapping
- Aggravated assault
- Sexual assault
- Aggravated sexual assault
- Injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual
- Intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter
- Continuous sexual abuse of young child or children
- Trafficking of persons.
What Is the Deadline for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Texas?
Under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 16.003(b), the cause of action in a wrongful death claim is the date of a person’s death. The statute provides that a person has two years from the date of the cause of action to file a wrongful death claim.
Two years can sound like a long time to some people. Still, it is a relatively short window when you consider the amount of work that must be done before a claim can be filed. In most cases, quick action is critical to preserving key evidence needed to prove the claim. So, if you believe that your loved one suffered a death due to another person’s wrongful conduct, you should get help from an attorney as soon as possible.
Texas does allow for certain exceptions to the two-year statute of limitations. One particular example is when the plaintiff is a minor child. In such cases when plaintiffs are minor children, the statute of limitations is tolled (or delayed) until two years after the minor’s 18th birthday. A parent or legal guardian can file a claim on the child’s behalf before their 18th birthday, and the court will appoint an independent third-party attorney to ensure any settlement or award is in the child’s best interests.
Another exception also applies to cases involving the so-called “discovery rule,” in which a defendant’s wrongful conduct is not discovered until after the statute of limitations has already expired. A person could be charged in a murder more than two years after the act was committed, and they could still be held liable as long as the wrongful death claim is filed within two years of the date the family knew or should have known the defendant was responsible for their loved one’s death.
Other possible exceptions to the statute of limitations include cases in which defendants use fraud to conceal their liability for wrongful acts. The limitations period can also be extended when a plaintiff suffers from a mental or physical disability that prevented them from filing a claim.
However, generally speaking, you should get help as quickly as possible. You don’t want to lose the right to pursue compensation following a loved one’s death.
How Our Lawyers Can Help You
The Law Offices of Hilda Sibrian can immediately launch an investigation of your loved one’s death. We will work to determine the actual cause and collect all of the vital evidence relating to your case.
Our law firm has extensive experience with handling a wide range of accident claims, including:
- Car Accidents
- Truck Accidents
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Pedestrian Accidents
- Refinery Accidents
- Bicycle Accidents
- Slip and fall Accidents
- Dog Bites
- Workplace Accidents
Other wrongful deaths are the result of purposeful, violent acts such as assault or murder. Criminal charges are often filed against offenders in such cases.
Some deaths are further complicated when more than one party is responsible for someone’s death. In such cases, family members may have valid legal claims against multiple parties.
Many families are quickly contacted by insurance companies representing the negligent parties in these types of cases. The insurers may offer settlements to victims to get them to agree not to file civil claims. You should know that these settlement offers are usually much less than what families are entitled to receive.
A skilled lawyer at the Law Offices of Hilda Sibrian will be able to negotiate with an insurance company for a settlement that considers your family’s current and future needs. If an insurance company refuses to provide a satisfactory settlement offer, we can file a lawsuit and try your case in court if that’s what it takes to pursue the compensation you deserve.
Contact The Law Offices of Hilda Sibrian
Was your loved one killed by the negligence or other wrongful act of another party in Texas? Make sure you contact the Law Offices of Hilda Sibrian as soon as possible. Our legal team can handle all of the court appearances and filings on your behalf so you and your family can take all the time you need to grieve. Call or contact us online today to discuss your case in a free consultation.