Losing a loved one due to an accident is an incredibly challenging experience, and many difficult decisions must be made. One of these decisions is whether or not to pursue a wrongful death claim, which can be an uncomfortable prospect.
However, it may be necessary, as the sudden loss of a loved one can have severe financial consequences for those left behind. This is particularly true in cases where the deceased was the primary provider for their family, the sole caregiver or a single parent.
Even though there is no set average for settlements for wrongful death, this article gives you important information about the process. We also stress the importance of hiring an experienced wrongful death lawyer to help guide you through it.
What do I need to prove a wrongful death claim?
A wrongful death claim is a type of personal injury lawsuit that comes into play when someone is killed or dies due to someone else’s actions or negligence. In terms of an accident that results in the death of a loved one, it is always hard to think about money in your time of grief. This is why you need to hire an experienced lawyer who handles your case and has your best interests in mind. You cannot do this on your own while you are grieving. A lawyer will keep a level head and ensure you get the settlement you deserve.
For the process to go smoothly, a few things are needed to prove a wrongful death claim. Once your lawyer has all the evidence and information, they can start negotiating your case.
Let’s quickly look at what you need to prove wrongful death.
The specifics of the death
The first thing you need in Texas is a copy of the death certificate from the Texas State Department of Health. You can also get signed statements from the funeral director, the doctor at the time of death or the hospital where the person was declared dead.
Where applicable, police, medical examiner or investigator reports can also be given to your lawyer. The more information you have regarding your loved one’s death specifics, the better your case will be.
Who was responsible
This information will include all the evidence about the circumstances leading up to the death of your loved one. In wrongful death lawsuits, statements, reports from witnesses, reports from doctors and even video footage can all be used as proof. They will provide the factual evidence your lawyer needs to prove wrongful death.
You can also describe how and why it happened. Was it negligence, recklessness or misconduct? Any evidence that you have to back up these statements will also strengthen your case. Photos, video footage, voice recordings, phone records and witness statements all count as evidence.
It’s hard to total your financial losses when you are grieving. Talking to an attorney will help you figure out what you need to claim in terms of money. However, if you have copies of medical bills and funeral costs, that is a suitable place to start.
In the next section, we will go through how wrongful death settlements are calculated, giving you a clearer idea of what losses you need to consider.
How are wrongful death settlements calculated?
Wrongful death settlements are hard to estimate because each case is different. There are a lot of factors to take into consideration. So far, the largest wrongful death lawsuit in Texas has resulted in a family receiving $730 million in 2021.
However, settlements are case-specific—so you need an experienced wrongful death lawyer who understands what needs to get done. They will be able to use the following factors to negotiate your settlement.
Factors that influence settlement payouts
The factors that influence settlement payouts are separated into economic and non-economic factors. The non-economic factors deal with the relationship of those filing to the deceased, the loss of consortium and the cause of death.
The economic factors are listed below.
The age of the deceased is taken into consideration in wrongful death settlements. They will consider the potential years of income lost due to wrongful death. Furthermore, they may consider a person’s health or medical history in case it affected their death or earning potential while they were alive.
Number of dependents
The case will also be affected by the number of dependents the deceased had and their relationships with each other. Whether they were a parent, sibling, child or spouse, they would play a role in the settlement calculation. The benefits the deceased provided to the dependents, both emotionally and financially, are considered.
All the expenses relating to the death of a loved one are considered. These include the medical expenses before their death and the funeral and burial costs incurred. Sometimes a family member will spend time in a hospital before passing away, and the bill might be extensive. Likewise, funeral and burial costs are unexpected and may impact your ability to pay your bills on time.
Another factor is the deceased’s contribution to the household. Were they the ones who paid household bills? Can the family maintain the household bills and services without their contribution? These kinds of questions will be asked to ensure you get paid the right amount.
Not all states use punitive damages to calculate wrongful death settlements. However, Texas does allow punitive damages, especially when they want to discourage the defendant’s actions and punish them for their wrongdoings. Most of the time, punitive damages are added on top of compensatory charges, and they depend on the details of the case.
Cause of death
The cause of death is integral to any wrongful death lawsuit payout. It will be taken into consideration whether the death was an accident or whether it was a result of negligence or malice. They will also assess how the death occurred. Was there long-term pain and suffering before the death, or did it occur quickly? Cases that involve pain and suffering, truck accidents, corporate defendants or negligence often have higher payouts. However, the exact amounts depend on the case.
Statute of limitations
Texas has a statute of limitations regarding the time you have to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Families have two years after the death of their loved one in which to file. If they miss this cut-off time, they cannot take legal action.
It is only in very special circumstances that the statute of limitations may be tolled or paused. These include cases where the wrongful death was not known at the time, it was covered up, and you did not find out until later that you were a minor or physically incapacitated. In these instances, the statute of limitations only begins when you discover the wrongful death, when you turn 18 or when you are fully recovered, respectively.
Another factor that will affect your settlement amount is your liability. If your loved one had any liability in the accident that caused their death, the settlement amount would be reduced to account for this liability. This is because Texas is a modified comparative negligence state, meaning that a percentage liability will be calculated. If your loved one is more than 50% liable for the accident that caused their death, you will not be eligible for a settlement.
These are just the main factors used to calculate wrongful death settlements. On our website, you can find a complete list of the damages you can claim in a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas or another state. You can also contact us today so we can help you better understand your options.
Do wrongful death settlement calculators work?
Wrongful death settlement calculators are far from accurate. They will give you a rough estimate, but you can only get an accurate idea of the settlement you are looking at when you consult an experienced wrongful death lawyer.
Our case calculator involves a quick form to learn more about your case, but we find that families can’t give us all the necessary information to estimate reasonably. This is entirely understandable, given your grief and a lack of understanding of the legal process. It is our job to help you in this difficult time. Therefore, contacting us for a consultation is a better option.
Our case results
At Angel Reyes and Associates, our case results speak for themselves:
- $ 7,500,000 for the wrongful death of a 48-year-old man in an auto accident.
- $4,163,597.50 for wrongful death from an auto accident involving an 83-year-old woman.
- $15,000,000 for an auto accident involving an 18-wheeler truck that resulted in accident injuries and the wrongful death of several family members.
- $4,700,000 for a commercial aviation crash that resulted in four lawful deaths.
These are just some of the wrongful death cases that Reyes Brown Reilley has handled. Our experienced lawyers have over three decades of experience and a success rate of 98%. We won’t stop until we get you the settlement you deserve.
How long does a wrongful death lawsuit take?
The timeline of a wrongful death lawsuit can take anywhere from two months to several years, depending on the case. Settlements will take time to be negotiated and cannot be rushed. You should never accept the first offer made without consulting your lawyer. Insurance companies will always try to go for the lowest settlement possible. Your lawyer will then have to negotiate with them to ensure you get the settlement you deserve.
These negotiations can take a long time, as lawyers will go back and forth a few times. In addition, there may not ever be an agreement, and the case will have to go to trial. Furthermore, if the defendant denies any liability, your lawyer must prove they were liable. This will entail the collection of evidence and can take time. This is why it is important to have all the necessary information for your lawyer when you hire them to take on your wrongful death claim. It will speed up the process and ensure that there is no doubt regarding liability.
What is the average lawsuit payout in a wrongful death lawsuit?
There is no average wrongful death settlement. The specifics of each case are so different that the amounts vary drastically from case to case. People can tell you numbers in the high millions or low thousands, and they would have specific reasons for them. No two lawsuits are the same, and you should never settle on an amount just because it sounds good. You should talk to a wrongful death lawyer to ensure you get what your case is worth.
What is the cap on wrongful death lawsuits in Texas?
In certain instances, Texas law will limit the amount you can claim in damages. For example, the limit set on punitive damages is either $250,000 or double the amount of the total economic damages, in addition to non-economic damages under $750,000. These limits necessitate the services of an experienced wrongful death lawyer. An attorney will help you understand these limits and how they will affect your lawsuit.
What is the maximum payout for medical negligence in Texas?
Texas has limitations in place for payouts from medical negligence lawsuits. Regarding damages due to pain and suffering, the limit is set at $250,000. However, there is no limit to medical costs and loss of income. Once again, having a lawyer with experience in these areas will significantly benefit your case.
What is the loss of consortium in wrongful death settlements?
Loss of consortium refers to the loss of benefits from losing a spouse or family member. It is the loss of love, comfort, companionship and the relationship between spouses, but it also entails the loss of sexual relations and the ability to have children. Consortium claims can be lost in wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits.
How is a wrongful death settlement divided?
If the deceased had a will, this would determine how the settlement would be divided. However, if they do not have a will, there will be a probate process whereby an agreement will be made among the family members. Your lawyer will be able to help you talk to other family members about how to split the settlement money in a way that works for everyone. A contract will have to be drawn up and signed by all parties involved to sign the agreement on the division of the settlement.
Who can file a wrongful death claim?
According to the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, the deceased's parents, children (biological or adopted) and spouse may file a claim. In addition, the person who represents the deceased's estate can also file a wrongful death claim for the family.
Do you get taxed on wrongful death settlements?
No. All money received in a wrongful death settlement does not get taxed in Texas, as this money is not seen as taxable income. However, in other states, just as compensatory damages are not taxable, punitive damages are.
Finding the best wrongful death lawyer in Texas
Wrongful death settlement amounts in Texas vary from case to case, and it is impossible to calculate an average. Money is the last thing you want to worry about while grieving a loved one. However, it is something that you have to consider when your loved one’s death is somebody else’s fault.
You cannot enter this situation blindly and should secure the services of a reliable and experienced wrongful death lawyer. Reyes Brown Reilly can help you with your case. Just contact us today for a free consultation.
Let us help you get the settlement you deserve and honor your loved one’s memory.
*Please note the high passive voice due to legal jargon.