When you suddenly and unexpectedly lose a loved one, it is easy to get overwhelmed. The practical questions such as "how will I take care of my family without them?" and "how will I afford to pay for a funeral?" compete with the bigger questions such as "who is responsible for this?" and "how can I hold them accountable?"
The wrongful death lawyers at Alford & Clark are here for you during the most difficult and trying times, and have the experience to help you get the justice that both you and your lost loved one deserve.
My loved one was killed because of someone's neglect, carelessness, or wrongful act – what can I do?
Under the old Texas common law, a victim's right to bring a lawsuit for personal injury did not survive their passing. Likewise, the victim's heirs were unable to sue for their own losses, such as their mental anguish and the suffering brought on by losing their loved one. The old common law created the absurd situation where the very worst cases, the cases with the most tragic losses, never saw a day in court.
Thankfully, the Texas Legislature stepped in and passed the Wrongful Death Act and Survivorship Statute. The Wrongful Death Act created a new cause of action allowing the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased to recover for their mental anguish and to hold persons and corporations accountable for the wrongful acts, neglect, and carelessness that caused their loved one's death.
On the other hand, the Survival Statute now provides that the deceased's cause of action for their own personal injuries survives their death and lives on for the benefit of their heirs, legal representatives, and estate.
Who can bring a wrongful death claim or a survival action?
Unfortunately, the Texas Legislature has decided that a wrongful death claim is for the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased. This means that the decedent's siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and close friends may not sue for wrongful death.
A survival action is brought by the legal representative of the estate of the decedent. The legal representative is typically either named in the decedent's will or appointed by the court.
What damages can we recover?
For a wrongful death action, the surviving spouse, children, and parents can recover:
Pecuniary losses, which covers the monetary or financial damage resulting from losing your loved one's support, services, advice and counsel
Mental anguish, meaning damages for their mental and emotional suffering
Loss of companionship and society, meaning the pain of losing the love, comfort, and companionship of your family member; and
Loss of inheritance
In extreme cases, punitive damages can be recovered for wrongful death. These are damages designed to punish the wrongdoer, and can only be awarded when the wrongdoer willfully or purposefully caused your loved one's death or caused it by their gross negligence – which Texas law defines as extremely risky behavior, considering the likelihood of very serious harm to others, when the wrongdoer is aware of that risk but nevertheless proceeds anyway without caring about the rights, safety, and welfare of other people.
In a survival action, the estate can recover the damages suffered by your loved one before their death – their physical pain and mental anguish – as well as their medical expenses and funeral expenses. In those extreme cases mentioned above, punitive damages can also be recovered.
Why do I need Alford & Clark? Why can't my cousin/friend/neighbor or a lawyer I saw on a billboard handle my case?
Wrongful death claims and survival actions are notoriously difficult and complex. The average injury attorney will not have the experience needed to successfully litigate your case – they will not be familiar with the probate courts or able to help you manage your loved one's estate and they will not understand the nuances of this complex area of the law.
Wrongful death claims and survival actions must usually be filed within two years from the date of your loved one's death, however there are many exceptions which may shorten the time you have to file a lawsuit. Attorneys who are not experienced in handling wrongful death claims may not be aware of these exceptions and could blow the deadline, thereby depriving you of your right to your day in court and forever barring you from holding the responsible parties accountable.
The wrongful death attorneys at Alford & Clark will treat you and your lost loved one with respect – and will do everything they can to get the justice that both you and your lost loved one deserve
The Texas trial attorneys at Alford & Clark PLLC have their primary office in San Antonio, Texas but are proud to serve the following areas: San Antonio, Sugar Land, Baytown, McKinney, Spring, Pharr, Brownsville, Pearland, College Station, Rowlett, Killeen, Longview, Amarillo, Wichita Falls, DeSoto, Temple, Austin, Victoria, League City, Carrollton, Flower Mound, Beaumont, Port Arthur, Round Rock, Lubbock, Pasadena, McAllen, Missouri City, Irving, Tyler, Houston, Odessa, Plano, Harlingen, Allen, Denton, Garland, Lewisville, Bryan, Waco,Edinburg, Grand Prairie, North Richland Hills, Cedar Park, Abilene, Arlington, San Marcos, Mission, Fort Worth, Galveston, Grapevine, Corpus Christi, Atascocita, Frisco, El Paso, Pflugerville, Conroe, The Woodlands, Midland, Dallas, Richardson, Mesquite, New Braunfels, San Angelo, Laredo, Mansfield, Euless, and Georgetown. The trial lawyers at Alford & Clark PLLC will also accept cases of serious personal injury and wrongful death outside of these cities.