Accidental deaths are simply deaths caused by something other than a natural cause like disease or old age. These rules may not always apply. An accidental death can be caused by a car crash, a machine malfunction or a slip and fall down a mountain. Under Texas law, a death may be deemed accidental if there is no negligence or intent that is the cause of the death.
Unusual Accident Deaths in Texas
Texas is a huge state that contains some of the largest cities in the country. There are many instances of what can be considered accidental deaths over time. We’ve been able to do a better job as a nation monitoring deaths for statistical purposes, and in Texas we’ve seen some disturbing trends around accidental deaths.
An unusual cause of death made big headlines in 2015. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveyed all 50 states looking for “distinctive” causes of death. For Texas, it appears that distinction goes to tuberculosis. In the age of COVID and other diseases, transmissible and otherwise, death from disease may not sound so odd. However, tuberculosis is one of those diseases we’re supposed to be inoculated against.
A little more “X-Files” for Rancho Vista, TX, is death by parasite. A bug that finds its way into your intestines from the soil is called Strongyloides. The organism can survive inside your body for years undetected (especially if no one is looking for it). It can crawl into your body and go deeper via the various systems we have, like the respiratory system. One of the main reasons this parasite survives in the wild in this small town is the lack of substantive sewage structures that would otherwise make the land safe to walk barefoot on, or at least, be able to avoid parasites.
A different kind of bug is at the root of this unusual cause of death. That is a bug known colloquially as the “kissing bug.” The bug is a silent killer, mostly for animals, but it can be fatal to humans. The bite of this bug does not hurt, but if the bug is infected with a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi, victims can get sick with various ailments and symptoms, the worst of which may be heart failure.
Death by infectious parasites might be strange, but are not so uncommon in areas where there are a large number of animals roaming to infect soil, like some parts Texas. Perhaps more uncommon for an area with a hot climate like Texas were the number of deaths due to hypothermia in the Winter of 2021. Inclement weather cut power to many homes in the state, and emergency services received a higher than average number of calls regarding hypothermic conditions. Many homes lost heat and many people died. Some were found outside in the cold, perhaps confused or perhaps waiting for help from emergency services. A Buzzfeed report found that over 150 people had died by the end of the season.
While death is no laughing matter, the report on this unusual accidental death approaches comical in its finding. A man who had difficulty swallowing food because of a terminal illness was found dead at a Texas state park. The man slumped forward and apparently drowned in a bowl of soup. The cause of death was listed as “eating.” Apparently, the park employees knew the man and knew of his condition and his problems swallowing but didn’t see fit to keep an eye on him, a patron of 40 years.
Another state park death, perhaps not quite as unusual, saw a man killed in a freak accident from a heart attack during sex with his wife in 2011.
While people are getting back to being outdoors, they should remain vigilant. Just like the Texas state parks, people visiting parks in other parts of the country suffer from accidental deaths. At the big parks, like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, people die from falls and extreme heat and cold. Interestingly enough, the people who leave this mortal coil in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park pass not from poor mountain climbing skills but from traffic accidents. This may be because of the nearby tourist towns that surround the park. Deaths due to unspecified medical conditions are a significant factor.
What Are Examples of Unusual Accidents Outside Of Texas?
The Great Smoky Mountains extend into Tennessee. One of the lodge towns nearby is called Gatlinburg. Several years ago, a wildfire ripped through the town causing several fatalities and millions of dollars worth of property damage. For residents on the West Coast, wildfire fatalities might not seem so unusual. But for Tennessee, it was out of the norm. There had been drought and terrible weather compounded by an untimely electrical outage that paralyzed the city’s emergency systems. People who couldn’t get help or help themselves may have perished because of it. One man was found dead on the side of the road. He had suffered from smoke inhalation and being hit by a vehicle.
The Smoky Mountains does have its share of climbing/falling deaths, as the survey found. Other places in the South have had instances of these kinds of accidental deaths. You won’t find many past the southern border of Tennessee because the area of climbing ends around Chattanooga. That city borders with Georgia and Alabama, and those states have seen some falling accidents. A young man fell 325 feet down a hill while climbing; a young woman fell 100 feet to her death; and a couple of Georgia Tech students were crushed by a 200-ton boulder. All incidents occurred in that region.
States like Alabama have been the butt of jokes for years regarding strange instances and behaviors. Odd things happen to people, like when Lafayette Taylor’s car simply exploded on a local highway in 2013. Taylor was one of the subjects of a criminal investigation into loan dealings at a car dealership. However, his death was ruled to be accidental.
Unusual Accidental Deaths of a Mechanical Nature
Aircraft accidents hit the headlines often because of the mass number of people who perish in these unfortunate circumstances. So then, it may appear as if flying is quite dangerous. In fact, it is safer to fly than to take other forms of mass transit. Yet, accidents do happen.
When there is an aviation accident, there is a thorough investigation into its cause. There is usually someone to blame, either a manufacturer or a repair person or a pilot. Sometimes, crazy things happen, like a helicopter falling out of the sky and killing the son of a Kenyan diplomat in British Columbia. The occupants and pilot of the craft also died.
Accidental mechanical asphyxia is considered a rare cause of death all over the world. Nations from those in sub-Saharan Africa to the frigid Northern Europe have reported such incidences. Often, small children will swallow pen tops or get trapped in their bicycle helmets. They may become trapped in clothing while getting dressed or accidentally hang themselves. In any event, they die because of a lack of oxygen.
A man in Prague, perhaps desperate to get to diapers or a favorite snack before closing time, was stuck trying to squeeze into a grocery store. The security doors choked him and he could not breathe. Later the authorities discovered he was a refugee from a nearby camp. While the report called him a thief, his intentions were unknown, and he carried out the attempt to enter in front of witnesses, one who attempted to render aid. The man died as much from the blunt force of the security doors closing as he did from choking.
Mechanical asphyxia can also cause strangulation in other situations. Sometimes, it is the cause of death in automobile accidents. One report citied 37 deaths in a 10-year period during the mid-1990s. People were somehow unable to breathe because of the accidents and potential rescue did not come in time. Their torsos may have been crushed by impact or the accident caused them to be positioned in a way that they could not breathe.
Some famous individuals in American culture died from mechanically related aspyhixiation involving motor vehicles. Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, a retired Hall of Fame baseball pitcher, died while he was working on his truck. His clothes became entangled with the power shaft underneath his truck. Fidrych, who owned a hauling service, had modified his truck and voided any warranty on the vehicle.
Actor Anton Yelchin, best known as Chekov in the Star Trek movie franchise, died after the car rolled downhill because of a faulty brake; Yelchin was crushed between a wall and the vehicle. The car was recalled the week of the incident. Yelchin’s family filed a lawsuit, which ended in a settlement.
There were several instances of death caused by veterinarians or others working with animals using mechanical instruments like hyperbaric chambers. In one instance, a horse in one of these chambers kicked the wall, causing a spark and a subsequent explosion.
Animals Cause Weird Accidental Deaths
Animals are frequent causes of accidental deaths for humans. Deer, domesticated dogs and other animals dart out into the road and cause automobile accidents. Changes in their environment can cause them to move into new and unfamiliar environments, as in the case of some pythons in India. The snakes don’t normally attack humans, but within one week, two persons were killed by pythons when the snakes swallowed them whole.
Snakes are scary to many people, but what about the deadly swan? A swan caused someone’s death when their kayak got too close to the swan’s nest. The bird popped out, attacked the boater and held the adult male under water. The event occurred at a residential complex.
If an animal is responsible for someone’s death and that animal is a person’s property, the person is liable. However, when an animal is in the wild, the death will be an accident. What if the animal is responsible for a human’s death, and not by bite or other natural means? An elderly man left his dog in the driver’s area of his van, which he left running. The dog stepped on the gas pedal and ran him over. The investigation found no foul play.
When Freaky Accidental Deaths Have a Cause
Deaths under unusual or strange circumstances happen often and can happen anywhere in the world. These things may seem random, the vagaries of life. Yet, there often really is a cause. If a loved one gets sick and dies, the cause might not be nature taking its course, but a sewage system that should have been better taken care of. If a car seems to randomly roll downhill and causes someone’s death, there could be a manufacturer’s error in your neighbor’s braking system that caused the harm.
You shouldn’t make assumptions — you should hire an attorney experienced in unusual accidental deaths who will take a thorough look at your circumstances. Your life insurance policy and other benefits may not be enough to get you through the situation. Moreover, there may be someone responsible for the incident; and the law tells us that they should pay if they have a duty of care. Take for instance the Air India engineer who was sucked into a jet engine while the airplane was on the ground. It seemed at first a freak accident. However, upon further investigation, the airline found that the pilots should have known the man was present and owed him a duty of care.
If your loved one has died in an accident that might seem truly accidental, contact the Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law firm as soon as possible. We will get to work looking at the total circumstances surrounding the accident so that we can get to the bottom of what happened and get you the compensation you deserve. Call us now at (713) 973-8888 or toll-free 1 (800) 444-5000.
Terry Bryant is Board Certified in personal injury trial law, which means his extensive knowledge of the law has been recognized by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, setting him apart from many other injury attorneys. The 22 years he spent as a Municipal Judge, Spring Valley Village, TX also provides him keen insight into the Texas court system. That experience also helps shape his perspective on personal injury cases and how they might resolve. This unique insight benefits his clients. [ Attorney Bio ]