San Antonio Wrongful Death Lawyer
San Antonio families grieving the preventable loss of loved ones don’t always consider their private legal right to hold negligent parties, carless doctors, and abusers responsible. At the Wyatt Law Firm, our dedicated San Antonio wrongful death attorneys fight for the rights of victims killed in car accidents, explosions, falls, and assaults.
We might work with families throughout associated criminal proceedings and obtain needed insurance compensation for the spouses, children, and parents of victims. Confidentially connect with our compassionate San Antonio lawyers for your free case analysis.
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Understanding Texas Wrongful Death Claims
According to the CDC, unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death in the United States. Fatalities resulting from vehicle crashes, falls, workplace accidents, and product defects account for more annual deaths than heart disease and cancer combined. Additionally, cancer—a common missed medical diagnosis—and homicides round out the top five causes of adult fatalities.
When this happens to a loved one, Texas CPRC § 71.002 establishes a civil cause of action—called wrongful death—for fatal injuries or illnesses sustained due to the careless, reckless, or intentional conduct of another. Wrongful death is a civil remedy, meaning plaintiffs may sue for monetary damages even if the death did not result from criminal conduct.
This allows families to demand damages for deaths resulting from unintentional accidents. However, next of kin might also pursue wrongful death claims while San Antonio prosecutors hold offenders responsible for any underlying criminal conduct.
"This is not a job. This is who I am"
– Attorney Paula Wyatt
Consider the following most common examples of wrongful death cases in San Antonio:
1. Motor Vehicle Accidents
While the leading causes of U.S. deaths are unintentional accidents, the leading causes of unintentional accident deaths are motor vehicle crashes. These include San Antonio car, truck, bus, motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian collisions. The NHTSA reports that most car crash fatalities result from impaired driving—including drunk driving, drugged driving, and drowsy driving—speeding, driver distraction, and lack of seatbelt use.
Speeding increases the likelihood of pedestrian, cycling, and motorcycle fatalities upon impact. In fact, the risk of fatal pedestrian injuries increases exponentially when vehicles travel over 60 miles per hour. Many states set their speed limits at 55 miles per hour for this reason. Speeding also increases the likelihood of fatal rollover accidents on San Antonio highways, especially when commercial drivers take the exits too quickly. Excessive speeds combined with lack of seatbelt use or proper airbag deployment also cause many fatal vehicle ejection accidents.
Motorcyclists are 29 times more likely to die in traffic crashes than passenger vehicle occupants, and vehicle occupants have an increased likelihood of suffering from fatalities after devastating semi-truck accidents. In these cases, the larger vehicle—whether the car or 18-wheeler—sends an increased crash force into the smaller vehicle. The occupant’s bodies absorb this increased force, and as such, often sustain fatal spinal cord trauma. Families of victims killed in reckless driving accidents might file wrongful death litigation against the driver, vehicle owner, and/or the driver’s employer in San Antonio civil courts.
2. Homicide and Manslaughter
These crimes refer to deaths caused by intentional or extremely reckless actions, such as drunk driving or murder. They might also involve aggravated assaults resulting in fatal injuries. Most intentional harm cases involve corresponding criminal charges, but this isn’t necessary to pursue wrongful death claims. Civil courts have lower burdens of proof than criminal courts. As such, parents might recover damages for the murder of their daughter even if prosecutors couldn’t convict her domestic partner of murder.
Our dedicated wrongful death lawyers might help families of San Antonio victims killed by:
- Spouses and domestic partners
- Drunk or reckless drivers
- Gang members
- Child neglect and abuse
- Depraved medical conduct, for example, Death
These cases may involve punitive damages, but this depends on the defendant’s resources. Obtaining verdicts against the defendant might result in future financial withholdings even if the state is currently incarcerating the defendant. Texas law specifically states that criminal conduct and pending prosecutions do not impact your right to bring wrongful death litigation (CPRC § 71.006).
Second to car accidents, falls resulting in fatal traumatic brain injuries are a leading cause of death in the U.S. Most deadly falls involve elevations, such as falling down the stairs or off rooftops, but any fall can cause death depending on the impact angle. Falls in nursing homes leading to broken hips also commonly result in declining health and accelerated deaths.
Families might pursue these wrongful death claims—based on theories of premises liability and caretaker neglect—against the negligent nurse, nursing home, caretaker service, or attending doctor. Loved ones might also file wrongful death claims against property owners if defects or dangerous conditions, such as unfenced pools, resulting in deadly falls. Fatal mauling incidents also fall into this category. Many of these wrongful death claims settle with liable property insurers.
4. Recreational Sports Accidents
Certain contact sports, including football and boxing, have high rates of fatal traumatic brain injury, Second Impact Syndrome, and paralysis. Horseback riding and water sports accidents also result in numerous unintentional deaths. If your loved one suffered a fatal injury during recreational events, including at Six Flags Fiesta Texas or during professional sports games, special rules might apply to these cases.
5. Workplace Injuries
San Antonio construction and oilfield workers have the highest workplace fatalities rates among industry professionals.
According to OSHA, the following events most commonly result in worker fatalities and disabling injuries:
- Lack of scaffolding, safe ladders, and fall prevention gear
- Lack of machine guarding and safety equipment
- Electrocutions due to lockout/tagout violations
- Lack of available head and face protection
- Lack of safety training, worksite supervision, and hazard communication
- Cancer due to dangerous chemicals and dust hazards
- Work vehicle accidents due to reckless driving and fatigue (especially when traveling to and from Texas drill sits)
Special workers’ compensation laws usually apply in such cases. Although Texas does not require employers to carry this insurance, most reputable employers have workers comp coverage. This insurance provides families with certain immediate death benefits, including payment of funeral costs, pre-death medical expenses, and future lost wages, after fatal San Antonio workplace accidents. In exchange, families cannot sue the employer or co-workers for wrongful death.
In limited cases, relatives might demand increased benefits if employers acted with reckless disregard for their employees’ health and safety. This includes employer conduct designed to cover up potential chemical exposure, fraudulently conceal evidence, or neglect safety to save money. Families might also have wrongful death claims against non-employers for workplace accidents, including drill site owners, product manufacturers, and subcontracts present on the worksite. If your loved one died in a preventable workplace accident, discuss your options under Texas workers’ compensation and wrongful death laws with our San Antonio legal team today.
6. Product Liability
Negligently designed vehicles, airbags, safety equipment, household appliances, and industrial machinery can all cause fatal injuries. From exploding gas tanks to unbalanced furniture, dangerous products account for thousands of deaths each year - many of them children. Families might base wrongful death claims on strict product liability laws, which hold designers, manufacturers, and commercial sellers liable for defects, design failures, and insufficient warning labels causing catastrophic injuries.
7. Medical Malpractice
Many claimants seeking treatment for non-fatal injuries die after preventable medical mistakes. The most common types of malpractice cases leading to San Antonio wrongful death litigation include:
- Missed/mistaken diagnosis generally involving cancer, strokes, and heart conditions
- Labor and delivery errors, including mistakes resulting in miscarriages or stillbirths
- Prescription drug dosage, mixing, and distribution errors
- Surgical and anesthesia mistakes
- Lack of follow up regarding test results and treatment
Experts attribute many of these mistakes to rushing through patient visits, including the failure to take thorough family histories, order proper tests, and listen to patent concerns. Most nursing home abuse and neglect claims leading to wrongful death litigation often involve underlying medical malpractice. Families may pursue wrongful death cases based on malpractice against any licensed medical professional or facility in Texas, including registered nurses, doctors, dentists, and chiropractors.
Parties Eligible to file Wrongful Death Lawsuits in San Antonio
Texas law (CPRC § 71.004) only allows spouses, children, and parents to recover the proceeds of wrongful death verdicts. Spouses generally have the first right to file the claims, followed by the victim’s children and then his/her parents. The plaintiff must pursue the claim on behalf of all eligible beneficiaries. For example, spouses may file the litigation on behalf of minor stepchildren, or certain parties may bring wrongful death claims as co-plaintiffs.
If none of these parties exist or they refuse to file the wrongful death lawsuit within three months of the death, the appointed estate administrator may bring the litigation. However, family members may unanimously block these claims.
Unmarried domestic partners, grandchildren, friends, and stepparents cannot generally pursue wrongful death litigation on behalf of their loved ones. However, this does not prohibit all forms of recovery. These individuals might still demand damages from liable parties and insurers if they paid funeral expenses or suffered direct, foreseeable damages resulting from the death.
For example, a girlfriend who witnessed the assault eventually resulting in her boyfriend’s death might demand tort damages. Extended family members of victims killed in workplace accidents have additional rights under Texas workers’ compensation laws, which provide benefits to dependent relatives. Even if you’re not the spouse, child, or parent of the victim, call us for your free case analysis with our San Antonio wrongful death attorneys.
Damages Available to Families After Fatal San Antonio Accidents
In qualifying wrongful death cases, eligible beneficiaries may recover economic and non-economic damages.
Actual economic damages generally include:
- Medical bills incurred before the death
- Funeral costs
- Lifetime lost wages
- Lost workplace benefits, such as paid health insurance and pension contributions
In most cases—especially those involving infants, children, and young adults—economic experts must calculate the value of lost wages and benefits. This generally depends on the victim’s career, salary, and remaining work life. Courts may use state averages in cases where it’s too difficult to calculate these direct losses, but experienced wrongful death attorneys know how to maximize these damages.
Non-economic damages may include the victim’s physical pain and emotional anguish before death and eligible family members’ indirect losses. The extent of these damages often depends on whether the victim suffered before their death. Additionally, spouses and children might demand special loss of consortium and parental guidance damages in wrongful death cases. These pain and suffering awards compensate claimants for the impact of their loved one’s passing on their overall emotional health and family life.
Families of victims killed by another’s intentional or reckless conduct may also demand exemplary (punitive) damages in San Antonio wrongful death cases. Insurance companies do not pay these damages. As such, they’re only available as part of jury verdicts or through private settlement negotiations. Wrongful death cases arising from drunk driving crashes, fatigued truck driving accidents, murder, abuse, and intentional workplace safety violations might all support punitive damages claims.
San Antonio Wrongful Death FAQs
Losing a loved one to someone else’s carelessness can be jarring and fill you with grief. It is hard to think clearly about legal matters when you are trying to come to terms with such a significant loss. However, there are legal actions you can take to uphold the rights of the deceased. Claims of wrongful death can help you obtain retribution for the loss of your loved one. At Wyatt Law Firm, we believe that you should be well informed about wrongful death cases and what to expect if you choose to pursue it.
We seek maximum compensation for people throughout Texas and the nation, including the cities of San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, Austin, Laredo and Corpus Christi.
Q. How do I prove wrongful death claims in San Antonio?
Texas wrongful death cases require the pursuing plaintiff—generally the victim’s spouse, adult child, or parent—to show that the victim died as a result of injuries or illnesses sustained due to the intentional, reckless, or careless conduct of a third party. This may include an individual (such as a drunk driver), an entity vicariously responsible for that individual’s conduct (like a trucking company), or an entity directly liable for causing the death (such as a manufacturer of a defective product).
The general rule described in CPRC § 71.003 is that surviving family members can bring wrongful death actions if the victim, had he lived, could have brought personal injury litigation for the underlying accident. Sometimes victims do file personal injury lawsuits before dying from their injuries or illnesses. This often occurs after victims sue corporations for marketing products that cause certain cancers.
Families may become substitute plaintiffs, and lawyers may amend the claims to allege wrongful death arising from the previously alleged conduct. As such, enlist an experienced wrongful death lawyer in San Antonio to handle your claim.
Q. Can I file wrongful death claims even if the victim’s injuries were not severe or did not result in instant death?
Yes. Although most wrongful death claims involve catastrophic injuries such as brain trauma, spinal cord damage, third-degree burns, heart attacks, and cancer—you may pursue claims if any unlawfully inflicted injury or illness directly caused your loved one’s death.
This might include broken hips resulting in an elderly parent’s death or negligently inflicted wounds that get infected and result in fatal sepsis. Just because someone else might have survived the fatal injury or illness does not excuse the unlawful conduct or eliminate families’ financial recovery rights.
Unlike homicide charges, wrongful death litigation doesn’t need to involve intentional or criminal conduct. Simple slip-and-fall accidents may result in fatal head trauma supporting wrongful death litigation against negligent property owners. If the victim could have filed personal injury or medical malpractice litigation for the injury/illness, immediate relatives may file wrongful death claims on the victim’s behalf.
Q. How long do I have to file wrongful death litigation in Texas?
The Texas statute of limitations for wrongful death is two years from the date of death, not the date of accident (CPRC § 16.003). However, these dates coincide if the accident involved an instant fatality. Many wrongful death cases involve catastrophic injuries and prolonged suffering, such as loved ones who die from paralysis complications three years after the initial car accident. The injury sustained in the accident must proximately cause the death without significant intervening circumstances.
Certain exceptions to the statute of limitations for wrongful death exist if the victim died from asbestos or silica-related exposure (generally different cancers), the defendant hid evidence of the link between his/her negligence and the injury, or the pursuing plaintiff only discovered the link between the unlawful conduct and death after the two year limitations period expired. Even if your loved one died more than two years ago, discuss your rights with our experienced San Antonio wrongful death attorneys.
Q. Who is entitled to damages awarded in San Antonio wrongful death cases?
Generally, only the victim’s dependents and/or immediate family members may recover damages in wrongful death cases. Texas law states that benefits received from wrongful death lawsuits are exclusively for the deceased’s spouse, children, and/or parents (CPRC § 71.004).
The plaintiff, who could be the spouse, child, parents, or estate administrator, pursues the claim on behalf of all parties. However, juries apportion awarded damages between eligible claimants as appropriate, such as 20 percent to the spouse, 50 percent to the minor child, and 30 percent to the adult child.
The law only allows for one wrongful death lawsuit and, as such, sets litigation priority among family members. Generally, the spouse has first rights followed by the victim’s children and, if none, the victim’s parents. The appointed administrator of the estate—either by operation of law or will—may bring the claim if the above parties don’t exist or refuse to do so within three months of death. Eligible parties may also bring wrongful death claims together.
Q. Can I get immediate death benefits from a workers’ compensation insurer after San Antonio workplace fatalities?
Yes. In most cases, spouses and/or children may recover death benefits from available workers’ compensation policies. This insurance pays immediate, no-fault benefits to families of eligible workers killed during on-the-job accidents. It might also cover fatal illnesses developed after exposure to workplace chemicals and hazards. Death benefits include 75 percent of the deceased employee’s average weekly wage (up to the designated maximum) and burial expenses.
Workers compensation benefits are available to a wider group of relatives than those listed under Texas wrongful death laws, including:
- Surviving spouses for life or until remarriage
- Minor children (50/50 with a surviving spouse)
- Adult children (until age 25) if enrolled as full-time students
- Dependent adult children with disabilities
- Dependent grandchildren
- Dependent grandparents, siblings, parents, or stepparents
- Non-dependent parents if no other available beneficiaries exist
Eligible claimants may demand these benefits provided the deceased did not intentionally or recklessly cause his/her injury. Families might also pursue additional avenues of financial recovery, including suing negligent third parties responsible for the accident injuries. For example, families of San Antonio delivery workers killed while on their routes might recover workers’ compensation damages and sue the negligent driver for wrongful death.
Q. How do I begin the process of suing someone after my family member’s death?
Generally, the legal process starts by opening estate proceedings in the Probate Court of Bexar County. The next-of-kin should probate the will, if any, and request letters of administration (testamentary letters) from the judge. From here, most families should contact a wrongful death attorney if they’re not already working with legal counsel. The attorney can file the initial insurance claims, begin gathering evidence of the wrongful conduct, and identify potentially liable parties.
Most wrongful death lawyers work with San Antonio prosecutors, pursue insurance negotiations, and file lawsuits on behalf of families. Legal representation can also prevent defendants from destroying evidence, harassing families, and tricking them into signing waivers.
Texas law gives immediate family members two years to sue negligent parties for their loved one’s wrongful death. However, failure to file wrongful death litigation within three months gives the estate administrator (generally dictated by the will or next-of-kin) the right to bring the litigation on the family’s behalf. These parties overlap in most cases, such as when the spouse is the appointed administrator, but not always. As such, it’s important for eligible family members to quickly contact wrongful death lawyers near them to begin the administrative and claims process.
Q. Who is liable after my relative suffers from a fatal injury or illness?
Most wrongful death claims involve both direct and indirect (legally implied) liability. Direct liability covers the defendant who caused the victim’s injuries. These may include:
- Careless subcontractors
The defendant who caused the fatal injury through his/her careless or intentional conduct is almost always liable.
Indirect liability refers to strict and vicarious liability claims. Vicarious liability imputes liability for unlawful deaths onto the defendant’s employer, direct supervisor, or legal guardian. For example, trucking companies and vehicle owners are vicariously liable for the negligent conduct of their on-duty truck drivers.
Nursing homes and hospitals might also be vicariously liable for the malpractice of their employees. This is a form of strict liability, which refers to responsibility implied by law without direct unlawful conduct. This includes laws holding product manufactures and commercial sellers directly liable for dangerous products. San Antonio families may work with local wrongful death lawyers to identify and demand damages from all individuals or entities responsible for your loved one’s fatal trauma.
Q. How much does it cost to hire a lawyer to help me after a loved one dies in San Antonio?
Most families are faced with numerous legal challenges following their relative’s sudden death. They must plan the funeral, contact insurance companies, inform the Social Security Administration, work with state vital record entities, and even track down old wills. Then they have to file probate proceedings and settle the estate under Texas distribution and financial management laws. It’s too much for most people to handle alone, especially when unlawful conduct causes the victim’s death.
Experienced wrongful death attorneys often help families with these administrative matters and file litigation without charging any upfront fees or costs. The reputable injury lawyers at our firm accept eligible cases on a contingency fee basis. This means we provide needed legal advice and representation in viable wrongful death cases without charging expensive hourly fees.
Instead, our San Antonio attorneys might accept your case in exchange for a percentage of your overall financial recovery. Our law firm might even front all necessary investigative expenses, expert witness fees, and court costs to help families seek justice for their loved ones. We don’t get paid unless we recover financial damages for your family in wrongful death cases. It’s also free to schedule a case analysis with our dedicated San Antonio injury attorneys.
Q. How much is my wrongful death claim worth?
The purpose of wrongful death settlements is to put families back in the financial position they would have been in if the fatal injury never occurred.
As such, the value of your wrongful death case depends on numerous factors, including:
- The financial resources of liable defendants
- Available insurance policies
- The underlying unlawful conduct leading to the death
- Ongoing criminal proceedings
- Texas workers’ compensation laws
- The victim’s salary, job, and earning capacity
- The victim’s age and remaining work life
- The nature of the victim’s injuries and suffering
Most wrongful death cases realistically settle with liable insurance companies within applicable policy limits, but these limits drastically differ in each case. For example, fatal San Antonio car accident cases might involve maximum payouts of $60,000 if both drivers only carried state minimum insurance cover. However, fatal accidents involving semi-trucks might settle for over $3,000,000 because federal law requires commercial trucks to carry higher insurance policies. The victim’s level of conscious suffering immediately following the injury and his/her remaining work life also dictate the overall value of your claims.
In some cases, families might demand punitive (exemplary) damages from liable defendants. These awards punish individual defendants and corporate entities for shocking and egregious conduct, including actions amounting to murder, manslaughter, reckless driving, and criminal abuse.
Juries may award punitive damages in cases where a corporation knew about its product’s defective design but didn’t issue a recall for financial reasons (the Ford Pinto Case), someone murdered the decedent, or drunk/mentally disturbed doctors committed egregious medical malpractice resulting in death. Experienced wrongful death lawyers can perform an initial case analysis and might help families understand the potential value of their claims.
Q. How long does it take to resolve wrongful death claims and close estate proceedings in San Antonio?
Wrongful death settlements and the final estate accounting can take time, especially if families filed lawsuits against liable defendants. However, dedicated injury lawyers understand the families often struggle with immediate expenses following a loved one’s sudden passing. Most claims involve some no-fault insurance benefits immediately payable to families before their wrongful death claims settle. The availability of this coverage depends on the specific insurance policies at issue—including the victim’s life insurance—workers’ compensation laws, and private employer benefits.
Texas also has a Crime Victims’ Compensation Program for families of crime victims. Private attorneys might also help families assert their restitution rights during criminal trials and guilty plea proceedings. San Antonio judges must order convicted defendants to pay families actual damages, including funeral costs and emergency medical expenses, associated with the crime.
While many defendants do not have the resources to cover these costs, families may recover at least some damages to help with immediate expenses. Call our dedicated San Antonio injury attorneys to discuss both your short-term financial needs and potential wrongful death claims.
Q.What Is A Wrongful Death Claim And What Does It Entail?
If someone dies because of negligence, carelessness or fault due to another person, their loved ones can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Companies, businesses, or individuals can all be at fault if they are the cause of death for a certain individual. Wrongful death lawsuits seek reparation for the suffering loved ones of the deceased.
Q.Who Can File A Claim In A Wrongful Death Case?
Generally in Texas, the spouse, children, or parents of the deceased are allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, if they do not do so within three months after the day the loved one died, the deceased's estate executor can step in to file a claim. Adopted children may also file a claim. Siblings of the deceased, however, cannot file on behalf of their loved ones.
Q.How Long Do I Have To File A Claim?
In Texas, families have three months after a loved one's death, to file for a wrongful death claim. They then have a two-year statute of limitation for the case.
Q.Who Can Be Sued?
There are a number of people who can be sued in a wrongful death claim. In general, it is the person whose alleged negligence caused the death to occur. This can range from a drunk driver to an employer that did not provide a safe working environment. Speak to one of our San Antonio wrongful death attorneys to decide who is at fault in your case.
Q.What Are The Different Types Of Damages In A Wrongful Death Suit?
There are three primary damages involved in wrongful death cases. They are economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
Economic damages: These damages are for the financial contribution the deceased made to the family and what is lost with their death. This includes aspects such as loss of earning power, loss of benefits, and medical and funeral expenses.
Non-economic damages: These damages reflect the pain and suffering a family or loved one goes through because of their loved one's passing. Non-economic damages can help ease the emotional grief and loss of guidance/companionship of a loved one.
Punitive damages: If the defendant has committed a particularly heinous act that resulted in a wrongful death, they can face punitive damages. These damages are there to punish the defendant's actions.
Benefits of Retaining the San Antonio Wrongful Death Lawyers at the Wyatt Law Firm
Major insurers know that families seldom have the resources to fight their teams of risk management attorneys. As such, adjusters often take advantage of grieving relatives immediately following the tragedy. They frequently offer lowball settlement checks to cover funeral expenses that force families to waive their litigation rights. Retaining a dedicated wrongful death attorney from the Wyatt Law Firm can prevent insurers and liable defendants from contacting or harassing the victim’s family.
We also know that most relatives cannot afford the hourly legal fees necessary to fight corporate insurers in complex wrongful death cases. As such, our dedicated San Antonio legal team accepts viable cases on a contingency fee basis. This fee structure means we may take your case without any upfront or out-of-pocket costs. Instead, we only get paid if we recover needed compensation on behalf of the victim’s family. We can even front the expert witness, investigative, and court costs necessary to pursue your claims and maximize your financial recovery. Reach out to our San Antonio personal injury lawyers.
Excellent knowledge from all staff aspects. Paula knows how to work in her clients corner and she brings so much experience and energy to make sure her clients are treated fair. She helped fight with Tricare on my husbands behalf and she will not stop fighting until the client is happy. My husband won his case with her and her staff. I highly recommend if you need someone to listen and go fight for you let this Lady do the work. Gabby is a great asset and kept my husband very informed during the whole process. They deserve more than 5 stars.