What Is Wrongful Death?
It is an unfortunate tragedy when bad decisions or poorly manufactured products cost someone their life. But what legal actions can be taken after someone dies as the result of someone else’s inaction? Wrongful death is defined as an unintended fatality caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness.
In Texas, family members including the spouse, children and parents of the deceased victim may pursue a wrongful death claim as long as it is within two years from the death of their loved one to hold all negligent parties accountable. Depending on the circumstances of each case, the decedent’s family may be entitled to receive compensation for losses they have faced as a result of their loved one’s unexpected death.
In wrongful death cases, plaintiffs must prove that the defendant or defendants are liable to the survivors as a result of negligence. We will cover different types of wrongful death cases to provide a better understanding of what wrongful death is.
Automobile crash wrongful death
According to The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute, there were 37,461 fatal motor vehicle crashes in 2016.
Common causes of wrongful death car crashes include:
• Another driver was distracted using their cell phone while driving
• The other driver was intoxicated or fatigued
• A highway or road that was improperly built or poorly maintained
• The failure of local authorities to provide adequate road hazard warning signs
Trucking accident wrongful death
These life-changing collisions happen far too often. According to The Institute for Highway Safety, large commercial trucks have a higher fatality rate per mile than any other type of vehicle. The size difference alone between a truck and the average car makes any collision potentially fatal.
All truck drivers have the legal duty to operate their trucks safely, but negligence involved in large truck crashes is commonly based on fatigue, exceeding hours of service requirements, driving distracted, drug or alcohol use, failing to obey traffic safety rules and speeding. If an investigation reveals that the trucker or trucking company was negligent or in violation of state or federal regulations, they may be held liable for your loved one’s death.
Work injury wrongful death
If you have lost a loved one in a workplace incident due to negligence, you may be under the impression that you are not eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit due to workers compensation laws. However, in some circumstances, you may be able to file both a workers compensation claim and a wrongful death claim.
One in five workplace fatalities occur in the construction sector. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the top four causes of death in the construction industry are categorized as “the fatal four” because they account for 57% of all construction industry deaths. The fatal four categories are as follows:
• Struck by object
• Caught in/between
Medical malpractice wrongful death
A wrongful death case arises when a patient dies as a result of medical malpractice. Depending on what the cause of death was, a medical professional may be held liable including a nurse, doctor, surgeon, anesthesiologist or a medical facility such as a doctor’s office, hospital or surgical center. Although we trust our lives as well as the lives of our loved ones to medical professionals and medical facilities and expect proper medical care to live long healthy lives, this is not always the outcome.
Medical malpractice wrongful death claims are among the most difficult claims to prove. You will want the legal guidance of an experienced Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Attorney to help determine liability and prove negligence.
Products liability wrongful death
Companies that make products for consumers have the responsibility to ensure the products work as intended and manufacturers owe a duty to ensure products are safe for consumers. Defective products are much more than defective; these products pose a serious danger to the well-being of consumers.
Examples of product liability wrongful death include:
– Dangerous toys
– Defective airbags
– Defective tires
– Defective car seats
Negligence will be helpful but does not need to be proven when it comes to a case involving product liability. The plaintiff will need to show that the product contained some level of defect, through design or manufacture making the product unreasonably dangerous.
Furthermore, the plaintiff would need to show the product in question caused or contributed in some way to the wrongful death of the victim. An example would be an airbag that failed to deploy in the event of a head-on collision and the injuries that resulted from the lack of protection caused the death of the victim.
Premises liability wrongful death
Premise liability comes into play when dangerous premises are responsible for the death. Depending on the circumstances, such claims may be brought against a business, a landowner, a homeowner, a landlord or even the government.
For example, consider a swimming pool that does not have proper fencing to protect young ones from getting into the pool area unsupervised. The absence of fencing poses a threat to those that do not know how to swim, and the property owner may be held accountable if someone is harmed in that swimming pool.
To prove a premise liability wrongful death claim, the plaintiff will need evidence that proves the following:
-How their loved one was harmed.
-How the property owner was negligent.
– How their loved one’s injury caused his/her death.
The plaintiff and the plaintiff’s attorney will use evidence to prove the following:
-The property owner owed the victim a duty of care
-The property owner breached the duty of care by failing to act as a reasonable property owner would in a similar situation.
-The property owner’s breach of the duty of care caused the victim’s death
-The plaintiff has the legal right to damages.
Common examples of premises liability wrongful death claims include:
• Slip and falls
• Fires and explosions
• Dog bites
• Daycare or school injuries
Why file a wrongful death claim?
Although filing a wrongful death claim cannot erase the horrific tragedy that has occurred, three things may help a grieving family by filing a wrongful death claim.
Accountability– For many families, this is the only path they have in reaching justice.
Compensation– Survivors should not have to worry about financial difficulties and stress on top of the emotional trauma that has resulted from losing a loved one unexpectedly. A wrongful death claim may be able to eliminate the financial burdens that the survivors are faced with as a result of their loved one’s wrongful death. Survivors may be entitled to recover for damages including:
• Medical expenses
• Funeral expenses
• Mental anguish
• Lost earning capacity
• Lost expected inheritance
• Lost care, support, guidance or counsel
• Lost love or companionship
• Lost benefits from employment
Future safety– Wrongful death claims have the power to force guilty parties to change their ways, making life safer for others.
When it comes to wrongful death claims, the cause of death is not always apparent. Many times the investigation that takes place during a wrongful death lawsuit may be the only way a grieving family can discover the truth and find closure.
How The Carlson Law Firm can help
If you are grieving the loss of your loved one due to the negligence of another, we want to help. Here at The Carlson Law Firm, we have a compassionate team of attorneys, on staff nurses and private investigators that can be your guide through this difficult process and help uncover the truth. Our goal is to protect your rights and ensure that your family gets the maximum compensation that you deserve. We care, we can help.
- Written by Adriana Torres