Losing a loved one is always a sad, tragic experience. The loss can be even more traumatic for you when your loved one has passed away as a result of the negligent actions of somebody else. If your loved one has died due to the conduct of somebody else, then you may be within your rights to file a wrongful death lawsuit against them. Although there is no amount of money that can help bring your family member back to you, a lawsuit can help you ensure that the responsible parties are held accountable and help you financially as you adjust to life without your loved one by your side.
Most people will understandably not have any experience with these types of claims. So, if you are considering it, you might be wondering, how do you prove a wrongful death? It can get quite complicated to successfully prove that somebody else is responsible for the death of your loved one. In Texas, only certain surviving family members are able to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.
How to Prove Wrongful Death in Texas
As an eligible family member, you must prove that that defendant is responsible for the death of your loved one before you will be able to receive any compensation. In a wrongful death claim, there are four main elements of negligence that should be proven. These include:
Duty of Care
This is the first main element to prove. If the defendant had a duty of care, then they were legally bound to act a certain way or refrain from acting a certain way. For example, anybody who drives a vehicle has a duty of care requiring them to ensure that they drive safely and follow rules of the road. Medical professionals have a duty of care towards their patients.
Breach of Duty
This is the second element of negligence that must be proven in your case. You will need to show that the defendant acted in a way that was intentional, negligent, or reckless and violated their duty of care. For example, somebody who drives while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is violating their duty of care as a driver, by putting other road users at risk. Someone who simply runs a red light or blows through a stop sign also violates or breaches their duty of care.
Causation is the third element of negligence that should be proven for a successful wrongful death lawsuit. You will need to be able to show that the breach of duty committed by the defendant was the cause of the death of your family member. This is often the most complex element to prove as there may be cases where the defendant has undoubtedly breached their duty of care, but this may not have always contributed to or caused the death of the victim.
Finally, you will need to be able to prove that you and your family have suffered losses due to the death of your loved one. Losing a family member is obviously a huge emotional loss; however, in a wrongful death case, the law also allows you to recover any financial loss as a result of the death. For example, this could involve the cost of the funeral and burial or cremation of your family member, the loss of financial support from their job, or the loss of the household support they provided.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the damages will differ compared to a regular personal injury claim. In a wrongful death claim, damages reimburse the family members for their own losses, rather than reimbursing them for any losses that were directly suffered by the victim. Under certain circumstances a separate survival action can be filed by the personal representative of the victim’s estate to recover any damages that the victim would have been eligible for had they lived.
Actions That Lead to Wrongful Death Claims
Two of the main aspects of proving a wrongful death in Texas involve proving that the defendant has breached a legal duty of care to the victim which resulted in their death. All parties in Texas are bound by a legal duty to ensure that they do not act in ways that present any foreseeable risk of injury or death to any other party. Some common types of actions that defendants may do which can form the basis of a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- Careless and/or illegal driving that leads to a fatal car, motorcycle, truck, bicycle or pedestrian accident.
- Deaths caused by an intentional violent act like a robbery or assault.
- Deaths that are the result of a defective product, device, appliance or drug.
- Deaths that are caused by poor maintenance or security at a property such as a store, school, hotel, college, stadium, casino, concert hall, etc.
Proving that the actions of the defendant directly led to the death of the victim can be one of the most complex parts of any wrongful death case. This is often a very fact-intensive process that requires the site to be investigated immediately, eyewitnesses to be contacted and spoken with, and as much medical, physical and technical evidence as possible to be gathered. Because of this, if you are considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit, it’s important to contact an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible after losing your loved one to begin the process.
Here at Karns & Karns Personal Injury & Accident Attorneys, we know how emotional and heart-wrenching a wrongful death case can be. We are here to support you as you grieve your loved one and work to get the compensation that you deserve for having them taken away from you too soon. Our experienced team of attorneys know what is necessary for a successful wrongful death case in Texas and will work tirelessly to prove that the defendant breached a duty of care towards your loved one which led to their passing.
If you have lost a loved one and want to file a wrongful death attorney, get in touch today at 877-557-4221 for a free, confidential consultation.