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Austin Wrongful Death Lawyers

After a loved one dies in an accident, there are essential questions to consider, especially if the deceased was a significant source of household income.

In Texas, the family can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent person or entity that caused the death. If there is a settlement or favorable jury verdict, the beneficiaries may receive compensation for their financial and emotional losses.

Nix Patterson’s wrongful death attorneys in Austin have assisted many families through these tragic cases over the years. Our wrongful death lawyers are ready to help investigate your case and determine your legal options.

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

Texas law states that a wrongful death occurs when these three factors exist in the incident:

  • A person suffers an injury that leads to their death.
  • Another person or entity caused the death because of negligence, lack of skill, or carelessness.
  • The decedent would have been eligible to file a personal injury claim if they had lived.

When these three factors are present, the eligible surviving family members can file a wrongful death claim against the person or entity that caused the death. The most common wrongful death cases in Austin are auto accidents, truck accidents, intentional crimes, and medical malpractice.

If you lost your loved one, remember that a Texas wrongful death lawsuit is a civil matter handled through your Austin personal injury lawyers at Nix Patterson. Any criminal case against the defendant is dealt with entirely separately. A wrongful death claim can succeed without a criminal case being filed. Moreover, the defendant does not need to be convicted of a crime for your family to be compensated.

A significant difference between civil and criminal cases in Texas is the standard of proof. A wrongful death claim is proven if a ‘preponderance of the evidence’ shows that the defendant was liable for the death. A criminal case requires the plaintiff to show the defendant’s guilt ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ So, it is easier to prove wrongful death liability than convict someone in criminal court.

However, your attorney will need to provide convincing evidence that the defendant’s actions or negligence caused the death. Common evidence that can establish negligence in a wrongful death lawsuit are eyewitness testimony, video and photographic evidence, accident reconstruction expert testimony, police reports, cell phone records, etc.

Who Is Allowed to Sue for the Wrongful Death?

Texas law allows only certain parties to file wrongful death lawsuits. These include the surviving spouse, children, and parents. One or more of these parties can file the lawsuit within three months of the death.

If they do not, an administrator or executor of the estate can file the lawsuit. Only these parties are eligible to file a Texas wrongful death lawsuit. Your Nix Patterson attorney can recommend who can file and who may be best to serve as the estate’s executor or administrator.

Note that your family must file the claim only two years from the date of the person’s death. This is the statute of limitations for filing personal injury and wrongful death claims in Texas.

If the family receives a wrongful death settlement before the case goes to court, the parties entitled to compensation will need to decide how to divide the funds. But if the case goes to court, the jury has complete authority to determine how the spouse, children, and parents should divide the money. Thus, your family would have more control over how the money is distributed if you decide to settle the claim.

Common Types of Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Austin

Unfortunately, severe accidents of various types are common in Texas and often lead to wrongful death lawsuits. The most common types of Austin wrongful death lawsuits are:

Auto Accidents

Austin traffic is hectic and getting worse, with these intersections and highways most congested:

  • Parmer Lane and I-35
  • East Cesar Chavez Street and Pleasant Valley Road
  • Burnet Road and Research Boulevard
  • West Slaughter Lane and Manchaca Road

The most common reasons for fatal Austin auto accidents are speeding, fatigued driving, distracted driving, drunk driving, and reckless driving. Your attorney doesn’t have to prove that these factors were involved in the accident. If the person caused the death, they could owe you financial damages regardless of the cause.

Many of the accidents in Austin involved commercial vehicles, such as buses and trucks. If a commercial vehicle driver kills your loved one, you may be able to sue the driver’s employer and other parties. An important duty of your Austin attorney is to pinpoint the various parties that could be held accountable for your loved one’s loss. These parties could include individuals and employers as well as vehicle and parts manufacturers.

Defective Products

Consumer products undergo rigorous testing to ensure they are safe and will not harm or kill anyone during everyday use. However, defective products cause severe and fatal injuries every day. If your loved one died because of a faulty product, such as a vehicle airbag, you could receive compensation if liability is proven.

Job-Related Accidents

Getting hurt at work is a common experience in Texas. While construction sites are the most common source of job-related injuries and deaths, they can happen almost anywhere. Whether your loved one died in the office, at the worksite, in the classroom, or another place, you could receive damages in a wrongful death claim.

However, these cases are usually handled through workers’ compensation. If the person died on the job, you may be eligible for death benefits through the state workers’ compensation program. Unlike wrongful death claims, fault doesn’t have to be proven in workers’ comp cases. In limited cases, such as if a third-party company caused the death, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Medical Malpractice

We may all think doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals never make mistakes. However, they are human beings, and mistakes happen. If a mistake kills a patient, a medical malpractice lawsuit could be appropriate.

Missed diagnoses, prescription errors, and surgical errors are the most common causes of medical malpractice claims. These claims are extremely complicated and difficult to prove, but Nix Patterson’s medical malpractice attorneys have successfully resolved many of these cases.

Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse

Nursing homes are a common destination for many older people in America. Most nursing homes offer competent and compassionate care, but not always. If a nursing home resident is abused or neglected, there could be serious injury or even death.

Typical nursing home abuse that may lead to death include physical abuse, dehydration, malnourishment, inadequate monitoring, and failure to diagnose.

What Kind of Compensation Can I Get in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The damages your family may receive in an Austin wrongful death claim usually include compensatory and non-compensatory damages. Most families receive various compensatory damages; non-compensatory (punitive) damages are awarded less often.

Compensatory Damages

These damages compensate you and your loved ones for the suffering related to losing your family member. First are economic damages, including burial, funeral, medical expenses, therapy costs, and the deceased’s lost future income. You could also be compensated for lost inheritance, pensions, and other benefits.

Second are non-economic damages, which are payment for the pain and suffering of the deceased, as well as your own mental anguish and emotional pain. These damages are subjective, and your attorney will rely on various evidence to prove the devastating emotional toll the loss has taken. Most importantly, there will be reports from medical professionals and other experts who can testify about how the loss has affected you.

Punitive Damages

In some wrongful death lawsuits, the family could be eligible for punitive damages. These damages are intended to punish the defendant for incredibly reckless conduct that disregarded the safety of others.

Suppose the defendant drove drunk and ran over your loved one in an Austin crosswalk at Trinity Street and East 7th Street. He was highly intoxicated, with a BAC of .25, which is more than three times the legal limit. You could receive punitive damages to punish the person for their reckless conduct. Punitive damages punish the defendant and send a message to society that this type of behavior will produce severe consequences.

Do You Need an Austin Wrongful Death Attorney for Your Claim?

In almost every circumstance, you should have an experienced wrongful death lawyer oversee your case from the beginning. Wrongful death lawsuits are complicated. Even if the defendant’s liability seems obvious — such as running a red light and killing your loved one — proving the case by a preponderance of the evidence is often challenging.

Expert witnesses and significant financial and legal resources may be needed to prove your case. This is not the type of situation to handle without legal expertise. Always have a lawyer review your case. They will tell you quickly if you have a case or not. Most wrongful death lawyers charge nothing upfront and only get paid if you receive a settlement or jury award. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain.

Common Austin Wrongful Death Myths

Hopefully, you have learned a few things about wrongful death claims in Texas. However, we caution you to use care when reading about wrongful death claims on the Internet. There is ample misinformation online about these complicated cases. If you have any questions about a potential case, talk to one of our wrongful death lawyers today:

Wrongful Death Cases Are Easy

Some may believe that if another party caused someone’s death, such as a DUI crash, the case will be easy to prove. When fault seems obvious, the case could be slightly more straightforward, but there still must be ample, convincing evidence shown. You and your lawyer must show that the defendant caused the death and you suffered losses as a result.

A common complicating factor is if the defendant argues that the deceased was partially responsible for their death. For instance, if the deceased was speeding when the drunk driver hit them, the other attorney may make a comparative negligence argument.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits Are Only for Accidents

Many wrongful death claims involve accidents, such as auto accidents and premises liability claims. However, some deaths are caused by other factors. As mentioned earlier, product liability and medical malpractice are common causes of these cases. A wrongful death claim can also be brought stemming from an intentional act, such as an assault.

The Deceased Had Life Insurance, So No Need to Sue

It would be helpful if the deceased had substantial life insurance. However, life insurance is usually a fixed amount and isn’t related to the factors involved in a wrongful death situation. It also doesn’t take into account any costs associated with the incident. In this kind of case, the entire incident should be considered so your family doesn’t receive less money than they should.

You Can’t File Wrongful Death if the Person Had a Preexisting Condition

Not true. You can file a case regardless of the person’s health before the death. The case’s success depends on the incident and the damages related to the wrongful death.

Speak to Nix Patterson’s Wrongful Death Lawyers Today

Losing your loved one is agonizing, and our Austin wrongful death attorneys sympathize with your loss. If another person or entity caused your loved one’s death, you could be entitled to compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit.

If successful, the lawsuit could provide a firm financial footing for your family’s future and a sense of closure and justice. If your case qualifies, all you need to do is retain our services, and we will handle the entire legal process for you. Contact Nix Patterson’s wrongful death attorneys today for more information.


Nix Patterson only works on a contingency fee basis. Our clients pay us nothing unless we win. Schedule a free consultation today. Call 512.328.5333 or complete the form below. 

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