San Antonio Wrongful Death Attorneys
Wrongful deaths happen when someone’s negligence or wrongdoing causes someone else’s death. The deceased individual’s family members (usually children, spouses, or parents) can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent individual requesting compensation for pain and suffering and monetary losses that result from their loved one’s untimely death.
If someone you loved died in a tragic accident that someone else caused, you may be entitled to compensation. You do not have to go through these difficult times alone, contact Patino Injury and Accident Attorneys’ San Antonio wrongful death lawyers. We have years of experience providing compassionate legal assistance for people just like you.
Too Many People Die Unnecessarily in San Antonio
In just one year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 173,040 unintentional injury deaths. Of those deaths, 37,595 resulted from motor vehicle traffic accidents. In Texas, motor vehicle accidents caused 3,610 total fatalities with zero deathless days on Texas roadways.
These deaths included:
- 410 motorcyclists killed
- 660 pedestrians killed
- 68 pedacyclists killed
- 886 people killed in DUI accidents
- 377 people killed in distracted driving accidents
In San Antonio, Texas, traffic accidents caused 155 fatalities in 2019, with 45 accidents involving drunk drivers. The most common areas where accidents occur are where most people operate vehicles. These areas include North 410, right at 35, and I-35 as the first and second deadliest traffic accident areas locally. The third most fatal site is likely the 1604 corridor, where 670 accidents occurred on the east side of Loop 1604 from US 281 to Lookout Road, and 476 accidents happened on the west side of Loop 1604 near I-10 from Babcock Road to Lockholl-Selma.
You May Recover Compensation for Your Loved One’s Loss
Death is always a devastating event for family members and loved ones. However, wrongful deaths allow those loved ones to find the negligent party liable for the death and hopefully deter future wrongful deaths.
While each state’s wrongful death laws differ, Texas law specifically states:
“(a) An action for actual damages arising from an injury that causes an individual’s death may be brought if liability exists under this section.
(b) A person is liable for damages arising from an injury that causes an individual’s death if the injury was caused by the person’s or his agent’s or servant’s wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.”
This statute means that if someone acted wrongfully, negligently, carelessly, or unskillfully (most common with medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuits), the surviving family members may pursue compensation.
San Antonio Wrongful Death Frequently Asked Questions
Here’s a list of the commonly asked questions regarding wrongful death lawsuits:
1. What kinds of negligence can lead to San Antonio wrongful death lawsuits?
The most common types of negligence accidents that lead to wrongful death lawsuits include:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Pedestrian and bicycle accidents
- Premises liability accidents (e.g., slip and fall injuries)
- Product liability injuries (i.e., when a defective or dangerous product causes the injury or death)
- Medical malpractice errors
- Accidental poisonings or overdoses
- Medication errors
- Boating or recreation accidents
- Nursing home deaths
- Drowning accidents
- Construction accidents
- On-the-job accidents or illnesses (e.g., asbestos exposure)
In automobile accidents and product liability injuries or deaths, surviving family members can also potentially sue automobile manufacturers for vehicle defects, such as an airbag failing to deploy or faulty product design.
2. Who can sue for wrongful death in San Antonio?
In most states, the deceased individual’s family members, such as the spouse, children, or parents, can sue the negligent party. Some states allow other parties to sue as well, such as financial dependents, life partners, or domestic partners.
In Texas, only the deceased individual’s spouse, parents, and children can initiate. If a child is under 18-years-old, the child’s parent can initiate a claim on behalf of that child. Texas does allow adoptive parents and children to file claims, but adopted children are not allowed to file a claim for the loss of a biological parent. Siblings cannot file wrongful death claims in Texas. In most cases, non-family members cannot file a claim, except for a legal representative.
If a family member does not file a wrongful death claim within three months of their loved one’s death, then the person representing the deceased individual’s estate can initiate a claim. The estate representative can be a relative, friend, attorney, or another type of legal representative. This representative can file a lawsuit on behalf of the family, and any compensation that the representative receives likely goes to the family of the deceased’s estate.
3. When can I sue for a San Antonio wrongful death claim?
Texas law has a statute of limitations (time bar) for filing wrongful death lawsuits of two years since the date of the individual’s death. It’s important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible after your loved one’s death to discuss when you should file your claim.
The statute also discusses various exceptions that might apply to a wrongful death claim. Your attorney can properly interpret and evaluate the statute based on your case’s specific facts to determine whether those exceptions apply to you.
One exception includes wrongful deaths resulting from asbestos-related injuries. For these types of cases, the statute of limitations expires on the earlier of (1) the date the exposed person died; or (2) the date the claimant served on a defendant a report complying with Section 90.003 or 90.010(f).
If your loved one died from an asbestos-related injury, contact a wrongful death lawyer to determine whether you can file a claim.
4. Who can I sue for a San Antonio wrongful death claim?
The surviving family members can potentially sue manufacturers, companies, company employees, government agencies, doctors, medical staff, or hospitals, depending on the type of wrongful death claim:
San Antonio Automobile Accidents
- The other driver: In an automobile accident, if the deceased’s family members (or individual who is filing the wrongful death claim) can prove that the other driver’s negligence or recklessness caused the accident, which, in turn, caused the individual’s death, then the driver can be found negligent.
- Defective or faulty vehicle parts: In a motor vehicle accident, if an airbag does not deploy, breaks fail to work, or some other vehicle part does not properly function, the manufacturer, distributor, or installer can potentially be liable.
- Failure to maintain roadways or failure to warn about hazards: If the government fails to maintain a roadway or warn about a hazard properly, the government entity obligated to do so can potentially be liable for resulting deaths.
- Trucking companies: Trucking companies are required to maintain their vehicles to ensure safe operation. If the company fails to follow the necessary protocols resulting in a mechanical failure and subsequent trucking accident, it can potentially be liable for any resulting deaths directly related to the accident.
San Antonio Premises Liability Accidents
- Property owners: Property owners can be liable if they fail to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition. Liability depends on different factors, including whether the individual who died was invited onto the property or was trespassing.
- Property managers: Property managers can also be liable for wrongful death claims. Texas law requires landlords to be responsible for the rental condition when the landlord turns over the rental to the tenants.
- Renters or lessees: The renter or lessee can be liable for the premises they’re renting. If the renter fails to provide signage indicating wet floors and the injured individual subsequently dies from a slip and fall, the renter is potentially liable.
- Dram shop: If a business sells or serves alcohol on its premises, Texas has a special dram shop law that holds the business responsible for a visibly intoxicated person who causes injury to themselves or others.
San Antonio Product Liability Wrongful Deaths
- Manufacturers/designers (design defects): Examples of design defects include toys that children can easily swallow or faulty vehicle designs. Under Texas law, plaintiffs must show that the manufacturer created an unsafe design and that:
- The manufacturer could have utilized a less dangerous design;
- The less dangerous design would have been reasonable (from financial and technical standpoints);
- The less dangerous design would have kept the product’s utility while also reducing the risk of injury.
- Manufacturers/marketers (failure to warn): If a manufacturer fails to adequately warn the consumer of potential dangers (i.e., failing to provide a warning regarding risks or side effects or instructions about the product’s use), the manufacturer can be liable for resulting injuries, including deaths. Examples include product labels for birth control pills, instructions for the safe use of a child’s chair, and instructions for the proper use of construction devices (e.g., an electric saw).
- Manufacturers/marketers (defective pharmaceuticals): In Texas, if a manufacturer creates an FDA-approved warning, they might not be liable for resulting injuries or deaths unless shown that they knew or should have known of potential risks and intentionally or negligently concealed that information to obtain agency approval. Additionally, if the manufacturer recommends or allows a medicine’s use for off-label purposes not approved by the FDA, it might be liable.
San Antonio Medical Malpractice
- Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals: If an individual’s doctor, nurse, or other medical professional acts negligently and that negligence causes the individual’s death, the professional acting negligently can be liable.
- Hospitals: If one or more hospital employees act negligently, causing your loved one’s death, the hospital can be liable. Usually, hospitals are not responsible for an individual doctor’s or nurse’s negligence.
San Antonio Nursing Home Wrongful Deaths
- Nursing home: Nursing homes may be liable for a patient’s wrongful death depending on the specific facts leading to your loved one’s death, whether negligence or intentional wrongdoing exists, and available evidence. In June 2020, surviving family members sued Southeast Nursing Home in San Antonio, Texas, accusing the nursing home of negligence after 19 residents died from COVID-19.
San Antonio Drowning Accidents
- Property owners: Per premises liability laws, if a property owner does not keep the premises reasonably safe, they can be liable for resulting accidents, such as drowning accidents, leading to injuries or deaths. The Texas Department of Family & Protective Services reported that drowning accidents killed 91 children in Texas in 2018. To prevent drownings, Texas law requires that residential pool owners must have:
- A fence enclosing the pool area that must be at least 48 inches high with openings less than 4 inches wide
- Self-closing or self-latching gates
- A rope that is at least one-quarter of an inch in diameter
- A pole that does not conduct electricity
- A cover for the pool
Even when the landowner is not home, they can still be liable for drownings that occur if the pool does not have the proper protections.
San Antonio Construction Accidents
- Equipment manufacturers: Per product liability laws, if a construction worker uses a piece of equipment that injures them or results in loss of life, and it’s determined the manufacturer failed to design or create the item properly or failed to provide adequate warnings for its use, then the manufacturer can be liable.
- Employer: If an employer fails to provide adequate safety warnings, protocols, or gear for their employees, resulting in injury or death, the employer can be liable.
- Construction site owners: The owners might be responsible if failure to safeguard their premises results in a worker’s injury or death.
- Contractors and subcontractors: If the property owner or designers hire a general contractor, then the general contractor is responsible for relaying warnings related to potential hazards to the workers or subcontractors. Additionally, if a general contractor hires a subcontractor without proper vetting and the subcontractor is unqualified for the job, the general contractor is potentially responsible for accidents resulting in injury or death due to the subcontractor’s inexperience. In some cases, the subcontractor might also be liable.
- Architects and engineers: Architects and engineers can be liable if they fail to design projects safely or ensure that workers can reasonably avoid construction accidents. If the construction plans are defective, leading to death, they might bear some or all responsibility.
5. What do I have to prove in a San Antonio wrongful death claim?
Depending on the type of wrongful death lawsuit you file, there are various elements that you must prove. One common factor in establishing all wrongful death claims is negligence.
Negligence essentially means that someone acted carelessly or without regard for others by doing something they knew or should have known would result in injury or death.
The four elements of negligence include:
- The negligent party owed a duty to the deceased victim. For example, drivers owe other drivers a duty to drive safely and soberly.
- The negligent party breached that duty.
- The negligent party’s breach of that duty caused the victim’s death.
- The victim’s death resulted in monetary damages to the person or persons suing the negligent party.
Since the surviving family members are suing the negligent party on behalf of the deceased individual, they must prove the defendant’s liability the same way the individual who died would need to if they were suing for their injuries. In a car accident, this means proving that the negligent party (whether the other driver, the car manufacturer, or the government entity) caused the accident, resulting in your loved one’s death.
6. Is an autopsy required in a San Antonio wrongful death case?
An autopsy is not necessarily required, but it can be helpful to support your case. Autopsies can reveal the exact cause of death, verifying, for instance, that it was due to injuries sustained in a car accident, a product’s faulty design, a doctor’s mistake, or another action resulting in wrongful death.
7. What damages or compensation can I receive for a San Antonio wrongful death?
Under Texas law, surviving family members suing negligent parties in wrongful death lawsuits can recover the following types of compensation:
- Medical expenses: Medical expenses include ambulance costs, co-pays for doctor’s visits, hospital bills, medicine costs, therapy costs, or any other associated medical costs before your loved one’s death.
- Funeral expenses: You can receive compensation for funeral costs to bury and commemorate your loved one.
- Loss of wages, expected income, maintenance, and support: You might receive compensation for your loved one’s lost wages and expected future lost wages due to their death.
- Loss of love, companionship, and comfort: This compensation covers the loss of benefits you’ve endured by no longer having your husband, wife, or parent with you, such as loss of affection.
- Lost inheritance: In Texas, this refers to the present value or amount your loved one would have potentially added to the estate if they experienced a natural death rather than their wrongful or premature death.
- Damages or pain and suffering the victim experienced after the accident but before their death: If your loved one suffered pain and emotional distress before their death (e.g., pain from their injuries, paralysis, or any other impact on their quality of life before their death), then their surviving family members might get compensated accordingly.
8. How much compensation can I receive after a San Antonio wrongful death case?
The amount and type of damages you can recover after losing your loved one depends on:
- The specific facts of your case
- The liable party
- Who the claimant is (e.g., the spouse, a parent, or child)
- The amount of income your loved one made before their death and would have potentially made throughout their lifetime
- Your loved one’s age when they died
- The state of your loved one’s health at the time of their death
- Your loved one’s temperament and habits (i.e., a risk-taker or smoker)
This is not an exhaustive list. A wrongful death attorney can help you determine the amount you may be entitled to based on your case’s specific facts and viability.
9. Is there a cap on the damages I can receive in a San Antonio wrongful death case?
Yes. Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 74.303(a) states that “In a wrongful death or survival action on a health care liability claim where final judgment is rendered against a physician or health care provider, the limit of civil liability for all damages, including exemplary damages, shall be limited to an amount not to exceed $500,000 for each claimant, regardless of the number of defendant physicians or health care providers against whom the claim is asserted or the number of separate causes of action on which the claim is based.”
If the San Antonio wrongful death claim involves health care liability, such as medical malpractice or receiving compensation for medical expenses, then Section 74.303(c) states, “Subsection (a) does not apply to the amount of damages awarded on a health care liability claim for the expenses of necessary medical, hospital, and custodial care received before judgment or required in the future for treatment of the injury.”
In car accident cases, caps for compensation might apply based on required insurance policy coverage. A San Antonio wrongful death lawyer can determine specific compensation caps applicable to your case.
10. Is compensation recovered in a San Antonio wrongful death suit taxable?
The Internal Revenue Service Publication 4345 states that damages received from wrongful death lawsuits are not taxable since the IRS categorizes these types of damages under compensation for physical injuries.
Though, if you receive punitive damages or damages meant to set an example and deter future wrongdoing, you might be required to pay taxes on that compensation accordingly.
11. Is there a time limit to file a San Antonio wrongful death lawsuit?
Other than exceptions related to asbestos- and silica-exposure, the statute of limitations to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas is two years after your loved one’s death. Other exceptions exist, which are relevant to determining when you must file your lawsuit.
These exceptions are fact-specific and only apply if you meet one of the following situations:
- The plaintiff (i.e., the individual bringing the lawsuit) is a minor. In this scenario, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the child turns eighteen.
- The plaintiff was not aware of the defendant’s negligence within the two-year period. For example, suppose your loved one dies, but you don’t learn until years later that a manufacturer created a defective drug that caused their death. In that circumstance, the court may extend the statute of limitations.
- The plaintiff has a mental or physical impairment that prevents them from filing within the two-year period.
A wrongful death attorney can inform you about your options and help you understand the deadlines specific to your wrongful death claim.
12. How long do San Antonio wrongful death lawsuits usually take?
The timeline for each wrongful death lawsuit varies on a case-by-case basis. In some instances, the parties and their attorneys can settle within just a few months. In other cases, the legal action can span years of litigation.
When insurance companies are involved and willing to offer a settlement amount to the claimant to resolve the lawsuit with little back-and-forth and allay greater attention and liability, the case might settle quickly. Litigation is uncertain and costly, so many defendants seek to avoid it. Before accepting any settlement amount, though, you should consult with an attorney. Without doing so, you can risk receiving less than what you might deserve.
13. Who pays San Antonio wrongful death settlements?
Often, the at-fault party’s insurance company will pay the settlement amount. Once both parties agree on an amount to be paid, the insurance company issues a check or multiple checks to compensate you accordingly.
14. Who receives the San Antonio wrongful death settlement amounts?
This depends on who the claimants are and if they’re suing on behalf of someone else. If any beneficiaries are minor children, the court usually appoints a representative to protect the child’s interests and ensure that they receive their payments. This representative is known as a guardian ad litem.
15. How are San Antonio wrongful death settlements divided between multiple claimants?
If your lawsuit goes to trial, a jury sometimes decides who receives what amount of compensation from the final verdict. If your case is settled outside of court, oftentimes, your lawyer can help you decide how to divide the settlement amount. Many factors go into this analysis.
Significant evaluators include:
- If any of the claimants or beneficiaries are minor children
- If all the claimants are adults and, if so, whether the adults can agree on a fair division themselves
If some claimants or beneficiaries are minor children, the settlement amount will likely favor the children over other claimants. It’s usually the guardian ad litem’s job to ensure that the child or children receive a fair portion of the settlement amount.
16. What is a San Antonio wrongful death lawyer?
A San Antonio wrongful death lawyer helps guide the surviving family members through the complex legal processes to receive compensation after their loved one’s death transpires due to another’s negligence. Your lawyer can prepare and file all required documents to initiate your lawsuit before the statute of limitations runs out.
Your San Antonio wrongful death lawyer can also help you gather all the necessary evidence to support your case.
Evidence can include:
- Statements from eyewitnesses
- Expert testimonies
- Police reports
- Photographs or video footage (if there was an accident scene)
- Medical reports
- Medical expenses
- Logs and records
- Tax or financial statements
- Personal testimonies
17. How much does a San Antonio wrongful death lawyer cost?
Our San Antonio wrongful death lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This payment arrangement allows your lawyer to receive compensation only if you receive compensation. The fee is usually a set percentage of the amount you are entitled to receive. This setup is beneficial for the surviving family members, as you do not have to pay anything unless you get paid, alleviating any additional financial concerns.
Some firms have a billable hourly rate for their lawyers and paralegals, tracked and billed to you at the end of a specific time frame (i.e., monthly or at the end of your representation).
Other expenses you might be responsible for paying include:
- Costs for copying and mailing documents
- Any court-associated filing fees
- Court reporter fees
- Costs to obtain medical records
- Expert witness fees
- Process server fees
Discuss fee expectations with the lawyer or law firm you decide to hire before finalizing the terms of your representation. Sometimes, lawyers opt to pay case-related expenses and recoup the sums paid from final settlement amounts or jury awards. Other times, your lawyer might inform you of what you need to pay for some or all associated costs.
Ask for fee arrangements and the handling of expenses at the initial consultation. Any attorney you consider should be happy to discuss these arrangements with you and help you feel comfortable at the beginning of the legal process.
18. How do I find a San Antonio wrongful death law firm or lawyer?
When searching for a lawyer or law firm to help you with your wrongful death claim, consider:
- Searching for a law firm or lawyer who has extensive experience with wrongful death claims specifically.
- Asking how much time the lawyer or law firm has to dedicate to your case.
- Asking who in particular will be handling your case.
- Searching for online reviews about the lawyer or law firm.
- Checking the Texas state bar association website to determine if the lawyer or law firm has any disciplinary actions against them.
19. Do I need a San Antonio wrongful death attorney?
Yes. A San Antonio wrongful death lawyer can help you navigate the complex legal processes that often arise after your loved one’s untimely death. You do not have to attempt to maneuver this stressful legal battle alone, especially while grieving. A lawyer can help you determine the legal remedies you deserve, so you can get the compensation you deserve to move forward.
Insurance companies often contact the surviving family members offering settlement amounts that grossly undervalue the amount you can potentially receive via a wrongful death lawsuit. A lawyer can rightfully advocate for you and help you assess the true value of your wrongful death claim by compiling and analyzing all facts and evidence relevant to your case.
Patino Injury and Accident Attorneys has lawyers ready and willing to help you with your wrongful death lawsuit. Contact us now or dial (210) 660-5230 for a free case evaluation to help you determine your legal rights and remedies.