Houston Texas Lawyer Blog

How Do You Prove Wrongful Death?

May 14, 2020 Wrongful Death

How do you prove wrongful death? In Texas, to prove wrongful death in a lawsuit, you and your attorney must show that another party was negligent, liable, and at fault for causing the death of a close family member. According to Texas statutes, liability for damages arising from an injury that causes an individual’s death exists “if the injury was caused by the person’s or his agent’s or servant’s wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.”

If the death qualifies for liability under the statute, you may bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent party in Texas civil court if you are a close family member or representative of the deceased’s estate. The death does not have to be deliberate or intentional to be wrongful; it only has to be shown to have occurred through some act of negligence that the party did or failed to do.

How Do You Prove Wrongful Death in Texas?

Negligence is the main factor that must be proven in a wrongful death claim. To prove negligence for wrongful death, your attorney would have to prove the following:

  1. The party you are suing, called the defendant, owed a duty of care to the deceased. For example, all drivers have the duty of care to drive carefully and obey the rules of the road.
  2. The defendant breached that duty of care by doing something wrong or neglecting to do something. For example, the driver drove through a stoplight while intoxicated.
  3. This breach of duty caused an injury that led to the person’s death. For example, the defendant who drove through the stoplight crashed into another vehicle, killing the vehicle’s passenger.
  4. You, the surviving spouse (for example) of the deceased, suffered monetary damages. There were ambulance, hospital, and funeral bills and property damage from the death, as well as non-monetary damages such as pain and suffering.

These elements must be proven, no matter what type of wrongful death case is involved.

What Qualifies as Wrongful Death?

Automobile accidents such as the above, that are caused by someone else’s negligence, often qualify for wrongful death cases. Other common areas that may qualify for wrongful death include:

  • Accidents at work due to an employer’s irresponsibility – in certain situations where the employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance. Employers are legally responsible for providing a safe working environment for their employees. If they fail to do so and an employee is killed as a result, the employer can be held liable in a wrongful death case.
  • Medical malpractice due to medical mistakes such as misdiagnosis or leaving surgical equipment in the body. Medical professionals and institutions have a duty to treat their patients according to a reasonable standard of care for their profession. If they fail to do so and their actions or inactions lead to a patient’s death, the professional or institution may be held liable for a wrongful death.
  • Defective products that create problems that lead to death, such as faulty surgical devices that cause infections or faulty brakes that fail. Product manufacturers, distributors, and retailers/salespeople have a duty to ensure their products are safe for public consumption and use, and may be held liable if the unsafe defective product leads to a death.
  • Accidents such as trips and falls, and crimes on someone else’s property. Property owners and managers are responsible for making sure their premises are maintained safely and that problems they know about or should have known about are taken care of promptly so people who are legally on their property do not get injured.

Wrongful death cases where family members are asking for financial restitution are brought in civil court. In cases where a crime was deliberately committed, such as murder, manslaughter, or assault and battery, charges may be brought by a prosecutor in criminal court as well, but the criminal case does not financially benefit survivors.

Learn What You Need to Prove Wrongful Death

If you are a surviving family member of a deceased person, you and your attorney would have to prove liability when filing a wrongful death claim, just as the deceased would have in a personal injury claim if they had survived the negligent or wrongful act. You are allowed to file for wrongful death if you are a surviving spouse, child, parent, or personal representative of the deceased.

Wrongful death lawsuits are complicated and must be filed correctly under the requirements of Texas law. There is a statute of limitations in Texas of two years from the date of the death to file a wrongful death claim, except for some exceptions (***Always speak directly with an attorney to understand the exact statute of limitations and other deadlines that apply to your potential claim(s).***):

  1. The plaintiff is a minor child or had a mental or physical impairment that prevented filing within two years.
  2. Negligence wasn’t discovered until after the two-year period.
  3. Fraud was involved.

Lawyers for the defendants will often try to prove their clients were not at fault and even that the deceased caused or contributed to the incident that led to death. Your wrongful death attorney will refute these arguments and attempt to prove negligence by:

  • Gathering evidence and examining records and incident reports about conditions that led to the death.
  • Interviewing witnesses, first responders, and police officers.
  • Hiring relevant expert witnesses to demonstrate negligence as well as assess damages and costs you and your family sustained, including grief, anguish, and loss of love and emotional and financial support and companionship. Expert witnesses may include safety compliance and OSHA consultants, experts who reconstruct accidents, psychologists, psychiatrists, grief counselors, and forensic accountants.
  • Negotiating and handling communications with insurance companies and their lawyers.
  • Taking your case to court and arguing in front of a jury if necessary.

Contact Us to Discuss How to Prove Wrongful Death in Your Case

Proving wrongful death is complicated, and while wrongful death cases usually involve high damage awards, insurance companies will try to get you to accept the lowest settlement possible. At this difficult time when you are dealing with grief from your loss, the experienced and compassionate wrongful death lawyers at The Terry Bryant Law Firm will make every effort to take the burden off you and obtain the compensation settlement your family deserves.

You pay no fee unless and until you have a successful recovery, so call us today at (713) 973-8888 or toll-free 1 (800) 444-5000 for your free case evaluation to get started. At Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law, we have a No Fee Guarantee.

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