Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) March 30, 2021 – A Texas inmate died of a broken neck after an arrest. The 23-year-old man’s family alleged unreasonable, excessive force as the cause of his death.
The 23-year-old Texas man was celebrating with his friends and fell asleep outside in their yard. Patrol officers saw the man, woke him and told him to go home. The man indicated he would comply; however, he was arrested for public intoxication and violation of emergency management orders relating to COVID-19.
It is alleged that the man was tripped numerous times, pepper-sprayed and shoved to the ground, a process that crushed his neck while he was placed in ankle restraints and handcuffs. He was unable to hold his head up for his booking photo due to the neck injury. Over the next 21 hours, the man was not provided medical care and was subsequently found unresponsive in his cell.
The inmate was taken to a local hospital and diagnosed as having sustained a severe cervical fracture, resulting in a swollen spinal cord that left him paralyzed and clinging to life. Although he spent a month receiving intensive care, he was sent home because he did not have insurance and later died from chronic respiratory failure after a heart attack.
The man’s family chose to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Only the spouse, parents and children may file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas, but siblings and grandparents cannot. “Typically, compensation received in a wrongful death lawsuit is given to all of the affected family members,” stated Austin wrongful death attorney Brooks Schuelke.
In Texas, each surviving member is a separate claimant, and while a court could consolidate all members into one lawsuit, any jury award would see each family member get a different amount based on the relationship they had with the deceased and the merit of their suffering and loss. Should a case not go to court, the attorney of record helps to apportion monies by relying on past legal precedents. There is no existing formula to do this. In these situations, there are many ethical pitfalls when apportioning the money. When claimants use the same attorney for a wrongful death settlement, they must make sure that the attorney they retain is ethical and uses accepted methods to apportion any settlement funds.
There are several questions the attorney takes into consideration when determining how much every person receives. For instance, they consider:
Are all beneficiaries adults?
Are children involved?
Would all involved parties agree to a fair distribution?
Are the parties involved not capable of dividing any proceeds?
Would those involved be agreeable to work with any other claimant’s attorneys?
“In general, if a case goes to court, and the jury decides in the plaintiff’s favor, they may allocate more compensation to a spouse, and they usually award a substantial amount to minors who lost a parent,” said Austin wrongful death attorney, Brooks Schuelke.
Parents who may have lost a minor child may be awarded a substantial amount, but middle-aged or elderly individuals who lose an adult child or adult children who lose a parent may receive limited compensation. Ultimately, the award in a wrongful death claim is established on the merits of the case.
“If you have lost a loved one and feel that there are circumstances that make it a wrongful death, please call us today to find out what your legal rights are and how wrongful death claims are handled,” Schuelke added.
Schuelke Law PLLC
3011 N. Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78705
Call (512) 476-4944
View Larger Map