The Houston negligent death attorneys of Queenan Law have more than 20 years of experience helping grieving parents, spouses, and family members seek justice for loved ones whose lives were lost to preventable, fatal accidents in Texas. We know you are going through a very difficult time right now, and assure you that your case will be handled with sensitivity, empathy, and compassion.
We will do all that we can to recover compensation and bring you a sense of closure knowing that justice was served, so that you can begin to heal and move forward. There is no such thing as a “bad question,” so please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have. We are here to help guide, counsel, and represent you.
To talk about your case in a free and confidential consultation, call our law offices at (817) 476-1797.
My Spouse or Relative Was Killed in a Fatal Accident, Do I Have a Wrongful Death Case?
Many accidental deaths are caused by human error. Unlike a death that was caused intentionally, which is a criminal act, a wrongful death is a civil matter where a death has been caused by another person’s negligence. Negligence can be roughly described as carelessness, but actually has four distinct elements:
Someone owed a duty to the person who was killed: for example, the duty a doctor has to their patient, or the duty a company has to provide safe working conditions for its employees.
The person failed to meet their duty of care. To continue the examples above, the doctor made an avoidable mistake, such as failing to diagnose detectable cancer, or the company violated safety regulations, creating hazardous conditions for workers.
The fatal accident was caused by the actions, or failure to act, of the person or business at fault for the death.
Harm resulted to the victim. Funeral costs, burial costs, pain and suffering, and medical bills are all examples of damages.
Do not worry if you do not completely understand these terms right now. Your attorney will take care of the legal analysis and accident investigation, so that you can focus on taking care of yourself. The attorneys of Queenan Law have experience handling many different types of wrongful death cases in Houston, including claims and lawsuits involving:
- Boat Accidents
- Car Accidents
- Construction Accidents
- Fatal Burn Injuries
- Fatal Dog Bites
- Fatal Slip and Fall Accident Injuries
- Industrial Accidents
- Medical Malpractice
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Oil Rig Accidents
- Premises Liability (Property Hazards)
- Product Liability (Defective Products)
- Truck Accidents
- Workplace Accidents
What Compensation is Available for Survivors in a Texas Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
An accidental death caused by negligence leaves deep financial and emotional scars behind for those who survive the decedent. Though no amount of compensation can restore a life that has been lost, it is important that you and your family have the financial support you need. You are already dealing with a heavy burden – you should not have to worry about financial hardship as well. Our attorneys can aggressively pursue compensation, so that you and your loved ones have a greater measure of security and stability.
It may be possible to recover compensation for losses of both a financial and non-financial nature. Compensation for financial losses, such as funeral bills, is described as “economic damages.” Compensation for non-financial losses, such as the victim’s pain and suffering prior to death, is referred to as “non-economic damages.” Additional examples include:
- Emotional Distress
- Grief Counseling
- Loss of Consortium (Loss of Marriage)
- Lost Benefits
- Lost Income
Economic damages are fairly straightforward, because they are based on quantifiable values such as hospital bills. Non-economic damages, which relate to physical and emotional pain, are more difficult to calculate, because it is impossible to put an objective “value” on these types of losses. However, our attorneys are aggressive litigators, and are prepared to fight persistently to recover as much compensation as possible.
Again, do not worry about taking all of this information in right now – it is simply here to help give you an idea of how compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit works.
The Difference Between Economic and Non-Economic Damages in a Houston, TX Wrongful Death Lawsuit
As mentioned above, you can recover compensation for both financial harms and non-financial harms. More commonly, these are referred to as “economic” and “non-economic” damages. The difference between the two usually comes down to the type of harm and how they are calculated and proven in your case rather than any difference in the degree of harm.
In many wrongful death cases, most of these damages have no caps or limits. However, if you are filing a wrongful death claim based on a medical malpractice case, you might face limits on all types of damages. Make sure to work with an experienced Houston wrongful death lawyer to maximize your damages where possible.
Sometimes called “pecuniary” damages, economic damages refer to those damages that have some kind of economic value associated with them. This primarily comes in the form of things like medical bills, lost wages, vehicle repair bills, and other damages that have a receipt, pay stub, financial record, bill, or statement associated with them.
In a wrongful death case, economic damages are usually claimed to cover both the harms directly related to the accident itself and the harms related to the loss of your loved one. For instance, your loved one might have faced medical bills and lost wages after the accident but before their death. These economic damages can be compensated alongside the damages you faced after their death, such as lost income, funeral expenses, lost household services, and more.
In some cases, like with lost household services, there is no actual receipt, bill, or statement that can prove the value of what was lost. Sometimes, these damages are instead based on the value of replacement services. For example, if your spouse used to care for the children, do laundry, and mow the lawn, you might claim damages based on the cost of hiring a nanny, a laundry service, and a lawn care service. This estimate might be used whether you actually had to hire these services or whether you are simply using them as a comparison to what it “costs” your family to deal with the additional chores and services.
With other bills like medical bills, vehicle repair bills, hospice bills, funeral home bills, and more, the cost is more concrete.
Lastly, some expenses may require the help of an expert to help you prove the damages. For example, a financial expert might be able to project the pay (including raises and promotions) that your loved one might have achieved had they lived. This projection could be used when claiming future lost wage damages.
The fact that certain damages are not based on monetary harm does not make them weaker or less important in your case. In fact, non-economic damages are often the most important damages to the family of a deceased loved one. These are the damages that, rather than paying for the things or the money you lost, pay for the intangible harm your family faces because of a death in the family.
The most famous type of non-economic damages – which is often used as the catch-all name for non-economic damages on the whole – is “pain and suffering.” These damages can be paid in a wrongful death suit for the pain and suffering that your loved one faced before passing away. For example, if your loved one was injured in a car accident and lingered in a hospital for several days or weeks before their death, they may have experienced substantial pain and suffering before succumbing to their injuries. Damages can also be paid for things like the fear and other emotional distress your loved one might have faced before death.
Other non-economic damages can be paid based on the family’s experiences after the death. Losing a spouse, child, or parent can be incredibly upsetting and create an irreparable hole in your life. Texas law allows you to recover damages for these non-economic damages as well, including your own pain and suffering, grief, emotional distress, and lost companionship.
Other damages mentioned above, such as grief counseling, are related to these damages, but grief counseling is an area of economic damages because it involves bills for the treatment of your distress rather than damages for the distress itself. These kinds of distinctions often surprise plaintiffs, who should always speak with a Houston wrongful death lawyer to avoid missing out on damages they can claim in their wrongful death case.
One thing that is important to keep in mind is that these damages are not lower or worse than economic damages in any way. In fact, non-economic damages often make up a substantial portion of the total damages in a case.
Economic and non-economic damages are two main areas of damages, but there is also a third area of damages that comes into play in some wrongful death cases: exemplary damages. These are often called “punitive” damages because they are used to punish the defendant rather than compensate the family of the deceased. Ultimately, both economic and non-economic damages are “compensatory” damages, but these exemplary damages are separate and are not based on how much harm you faced. Instead, they are based on how bad the defendant’s actions were.
Exemplary damages are rare, but they are often paid in cases where the defendant is a company or powerful defendant that has been accused of serious malfeasance or repeat issues like the one that killed your loved one. For example, a trucking company responsible for dozens of truck accident deaths all stemming from the same organizational failures and negligence might be forced to pay punitive damages to deter additional repeat failures in the future. They are also ordered for intentional acts leading to death, such as in wrongful death lawsuits filed for murder.
Exemplary damages are often calculated by taking the other compensatory damages and multiplying them by some factor. Exemplary damages can be anywhere from the same value of your economic and non-economic damages to “treble” (triple) damages. Talk to a Houston wrongful death attorney about whether these damages are available in your case and how much they might be worth.
Review Your Accident Claim with Our Experienced Houston Negligent Death Lawyers
The unexpected death of a loved one is a deeply traumatic experience, especially in situations where the victim’s death was caused by another person’s careless mistakes. As you mourn your loss, you may wonder about questions like how the negligent party will be held accountable for their actions, or how you are going to deal with the financial repercussions of the loss upon your family. The wrongful death lawyers of Queenan Law can help you address these matters with sensitivity and care.
We are here to offer guidance and answer your questions. With over 20 years of experience representing surviving spouses, children, parents, and family members in accidental death lawsuits, you can feel confident that your case will be in capable and compassionate hands. To talk about how our law firm may be able to assist you, call Queenan Law at (817) 476-1797 for a free and confidential legal consultation.