When someone you are close to dies, it can be an irreparable loss. Whether you lose a parent, spouse, or child, no amount of money will ever replace the presence of this important person in your life.
However, the law holds that compensation is necessary to at least try to make whole a family or individual injured by the loss of another. If their death was foreseeable and avoidable, their immediate family may have a cause of action for a wrongful death lawsuit against whomever was responsible.
A wrongful death suit will attempt to compensate you for what was taken away from you due to the negligence of someone else.
To prevail in a wrongful death claim, you will have to establish several elements.
As obvious as it may seem, the primary element to a wrongful death claim is someone’s death.
If someone is missing or terribly injured, you may still have some legal claim, but it may not be for wrongful death. Like murder, the existence of a body is critical.
However, if someone goes missing for seven years, under Texas law they may be presumed dead. Then you may file a wrongful death claim.
The existence of a body will provide important evidence for a wrongful death claim. A coroner’s report may give forensic details on how the person died, which will play a part in your case.
Relationship to the Deceased
Another part of a legal claim is your financial and emotional dependence upon the person who died. A child will have the right to file a claim against someone responsible for their parent’s death because that child had a reasonable expectation that their parent would be around for another few decades to send them to school, provide them with a home, and give them loving affection.
A spouse also has a legal claim. They have been deprived of the love, companionship, and financial support of the person they expected to spend their life with.
A dead person’s estate can also file a wrongful death claim. The estate may be represented by a lawyer or family friend acting on behalf of the person who died. Any money gained by the suit would go to the person’s estate. It would be used to settle any debts, and then go to whomever the person left their assets to in their will.
Due to Negligence
To prevail on a wrongful death suit, you must establish that the person’s death was caused by negligence. In other words, you have to show that a reasonable person would know that their behavior might cause someone to die and had a responsibility to make conditions safer.
An employer might be sued for wrongful death if they did not take precautions to create a safe workplace and an employee dies as a result. A police department may be sued for wrongful death if a member of the force discharges a weapon without cause and someone gets killed – even if it was an accident.
A person who was driving drunk and caused a fatal car crash can be sued for wrongful death. A company that creates a defective product that results in someone’s demise may also be liable.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers are learning that they may be at risk for wrongful death suits if they fail to take necessary steps to keep the workplace infection-free.
Duty of Care
Your lawsuit must also establish that the person you are suing (the defendant) owed a duty of care.
The toymaker owes his customers a duty of care to only manufacture and sell products that are safe for children. The store owner must maintain his premises safely so that no one who enters his store slips, falls, and dies. A driver owes a duty of care to other drivers on the road.
Some people have a heightened duty of care. Doctors are expected to maintain their credentials through ongoing training, maintain a clean and safe operating room, and otherwise protect their patients.
Speak to experienced wrongful death attorneys about who may be legally responsible for your loved one’s death. It could be several different entities and individuals. You can sue more than one person in a wrongful death suit.
Deprived You of Benefits
Your lawyer will also help you quantify your losses. Although you may not be able to put a dollar value on what you have lost, your lawyer can.
He will calculate how much your spouse would have made if he had worked in the same job or industry where he was employed at the time of his death and he had lived a normal life expectancy.
He will calculate the expenses you may incur without a spouse as you continue to live the life you expected to live, such as by sending your kids to college.
Your lawyer will also use legal calculations to determine the dollar value of your emotional pain and suffering. In especially egregious circumstances, juries have given families very high awards in wrongful death cases: sometimes in the millions of dollars.
The defendants may try many tactics to avoid liability. They may claim that the person who died had partial or total responsibility for their actions.
For example, in a car crash, if the decedent was also drunk at the time of the accident, a jury might say he was partly responsible. A person who used a product in a dangerous way or in a way it was not intended to be used may be unable to pin liability on the manufacturer when they are fatally injured.
A good wrongful death attorney will often be able to negotiate a satisfactory settlement even if the person who died had some responsibility for their tragic death.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit: Get What Your Family Deserves
A wrongful death lawsuit will never bring your loved one back, but it can help you to resume some sort of life with fewer financial worries than you might have. It also serves as a warning to individuals, institutions, and corporations that they will be financially punished if they do not take care to protect customers, the community, and the public at large.
Keep checking back for all sorts of ways to face all of life’s challenges.