Necessary Elements in a Wrongful Death Claim
When we lose someone unexpectedly, it is natural to want to blame someone for their death. Sometimes, there is no one to blame, but in other cases, there is. If your loved one would still be here had it not been for the actions or inactions of someone else, they would be responsible for your loss.
In most cases, proving wrongful death is challenging. Individuals, corporations, and governmental entities may be responsible. Their insurance companies will do everything they can to avoid paying a wrongful death settlement. They will blame your loved one, adding insult to injury. They will undervalue your loss.
Insurance company attorneys will stand firm for their clients, because a lot of money is at stake. Who will stand up for their victims and their families? I will.
At the Rodman Law Office, I'm committed to securing justice for those pursuing wrongful death claims in Austin, Texas, and the surrounding areas. While I can’t bring back my clients’ loved ones, but I can help them find ways to move forward.
How Does Texas Define Wrongful Death?
A case of wrongful death arises from an injury that leads to the death of someone when that injury was caused by a party’s neglect, wrongful act, lack of skill, default, or carelessness. A wrongful death claim can arise from a multitude of circumstances, but here are a few examples.
A driver of a motor vehicle drives too fast for conditions, loses control on slick pavement, and crashes, leading to the death of a passenger in the vehicle or someone in another vehicle. Or a driver might have ignored a red light or stop sign and caused a crash. The negligent driver would be responsible for the death and therefore, financially liable for the harms and losses caused to the victim and their family. Moreover, if the driver was working in the agency and employ of a company at the time, the company would also bear liability.
A customer is waiting at the counter in a business when a heavy sign above the counter falls on the customer who suffers a fatal head injury. The business would be responsible.
A person is driving a vehicle when the brakes fail, and they lose control and tumble down an embankment. Their injuries are fatal. The brake system had a design flaw that caused the issue. The company that designed and manufactured the system would be liable.
A person is wearing the recommended respirator mask while using a toxic chemical. However, the mask had a production flaw which allowed the person to inhale the toxins. They die as a result. The mask manufacturer would be liable.
A child is playing in a friend’s yard. The child falls down an old well and dies. The homeowner who failed to cover the well to ensure its safety would be liable.
A doctor’s failure to diagnose a condition that could have been treated. A surgeon fails to properly seal a source of internal bleeding. A physician prescribes the wrong medication. These could all lead to a wrongful death claim if their actions or inactions lead to a patient’s death.
Car accidents, medical malpractice, nursing home negligence, defective products, and hazardous premises can all lead to wrongful death claims if someone dies as a result of negligence. However, proving fault in a wrongful death claim is the responsibility of the victim’s family and their personal injury attorney.
What Are the Elements Necessary to Prove a Wrongful Death Claim?
There are four critical elements you must prove to prevail in a wrongful death claim.
You must prove the defendant owed your loved one a duty of care. For example, manufacturers owe the users of their products and duty of care to ensure those products are safe. Drivers on Texas roadways owe everyone else on the road, including other drivers, passengers, motorcycle riders, cyclists, and pedestrians, a duty to operate their vehicles in a safe manner, obeying the law, and with vigilance. Business owners owe their patrons safety while those patrons are on their premises.
You must prove the defendant breached that duty of care. The driver who didn’t yield to the pedestrian in the crosswalk, the business that didn’t warn patrons to avoid a crumbling step, and the manufacturer who did not conduct proper quality control measures breached their duty of care.
You must prove that breach caused the injuries that resulted in the death of the victim. A patient’s death was the result of not being prescribed the proper medication or the right dosage. An employee’s death occurred because the employer removed a safety device from a piece of machinery. A motorist died when a truck driver, allowed to log excess hours on the road, fell asleep and caused a crash.
Finally, you must prove the value of the damages suffered because of the death of your loved one. Damages would include losses to the decedent’s estate, such as medical and funeral bills. However, most of the damages in a wrongful death claim reflect the losses of those left behind, such as the loss of companionship and income to a spouse and the loss of guidance, support, and inheritance to children. Some of these damages are easy to put a price on, but most are not. You and your wrongful death attorney will need to quantify noneconomic damages related to your loss.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Texas?
A surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased are eligible to pursue a wrongful death claim in Texas. One of them can file on behalf of all eligible parties.
If none of these individuals file a claim within three months of death, the personal representative or executor of the decedent’s estate may file a wrongful death claim to recover damages to the estate. However, if all eligible parties request that no wrongful death lawsuit be filed, the personal representative must abide by their collective wishes.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Texas law allows two years from the date of death to either settle a claim with the insurance company or to file a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court. This statute of limitations ceases upon filing of the lawsuit.
How Can a Wrongful Death Attorney Help?
You see the proof you must provide to prevail in a wrongful death claim. A personal injury attorney with experience representing clients in death claims will know how to investigate the incident, document evidence of negligence and liability, and negotiate with the reluctant insurance company. If you cannot agree to a settlement with the insurer, your attorney will prepare and argue your case at trial.
Wrongful death claims often involve several plaintiffs who do not always agree with how the case should proceed. Your wrongful death attorney can help protect your interests throughout the process.
Serving Texas Residents With Care
It is unfortunate when loved ones are forced to grieve a personal loss while fighting an insurance company. It is even more so when they are grieving a death that was entirely preventable. That is why I am committed to being your legal counsel, your advocate, and your buffer.
If you believe the death of someone you love was preventable, let me help you hold those who are responsible accountable under the law. Call the Rodman Law Office in Austin, Texas, now to schedule a free case consultation. I proudly serve clients across Hayes County, Travis County, and Williamson County.