Wrongful Death Attorney Sherman, TX
The Definition of Wrongful Death
A wrongful death claim is a lawsuit filed against an individual or company on behalf of a person who died as the result of the wrongful act, carelessness, unskillfulness, neglect, or default of another person or corporation. This means that a wrongful death claim may be brought, pursuant to Chapter 71 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, if a loved one dies because of the negligence of others, such as a drunk driving wreck, distracted driving collision, eighteen wheeler truck accident, defective product, an explosion or any other kind of error on someone or some company’s part. In other words, plaintiffs in these cases believe that a person or business caused the death of their loved one, and are seeking damages for loss of income, medical expenses, mental anguish, and pain and suffering.
Plaintiffs can also file wrongful death claims against a person who was found not guilty of murder in a criminal trial. The families of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman filed one of the most famous wrongful death suits of all time against O.J. Simpson after he was acquitted of murdering the two victims.
Common Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Examples of circumstances that can lead to a wrongful death claim include:
- Auto Accident – you can file a wrongful death claim against the driver of a vehicle if their recklessness, aggressive driving or road rage directly caused the death of your loved one in an auto accident.
- Defective Product – you can file a claim against the maker of a defective product that caused the death of a loved one. Some recent lawsuits against the makers of a permanent birth control contraceptive were filed under this category.
- Homicide – as mentioned earlier, families of murder victims can file a wrongful death lawsuit against a defendant who was not convicted in a criminal trial. Because a wrongful death suit is a civil trial, the burden of proof is much lower, requiring only that the preponderance of the evidence points to the defendant’s guilt.
- Medical Errors – if a surgeon operates on the wrong body part and a patient dies as a result of this error, the grieving family can file a wrongful death suit.
- Workplace Accident – if someone dies on the job as a the result of the negligence or carelessness of an employer, the surviving members of that person’s family can file a wrongful death suit. Plaintiffs in these cases would have to prove that the employer was aware of the danger that caused the death, or should have been aware of the danger, and did not take reasonable care to protect employees from that danger.
The types of damages that are recoverable vary and often depend if the claimant is a surviving spouse, a parent, or a child. The most common damages, include mental anguish, lost earning capacity, lost inheritance (what would have been financially gained had the decedent lived a full life), lost household services, lost care, support, guidance, or counsel, and lost love or companionship. There are some cases, when the act is done willfully or by gross negligence. In these cases, the family may be able to recover exemplary or punitive damages to penalize or punish the defendant for their gross negligence and to send a message to help ensure such gross negligence does not happen again.
In addition to compensating the family members for their losses, Chapter 71 also allows the recovery of damages for the estate of the decedent. These are damages that the decedent would have been able to recover if the decedent was alive to bring a lawsuit. Recoverable survival damages include the physical pain and suffering and the mental anguish that decedent experienced before dying. Examples of such damages include if as a result of a person or corporations negligence a loved one burns to death, slowly dies after a collision, or is taken to a hospital and survives for some time before passing away, the law allows a recovery for the mental anguish and pain and suffering the decedent experienced and would have been able to recover if he or she lived. Also in this category of damages would be medical expenses incurred in trying to save the decent or burial expenses. Both of which are debts of the decedents estate and not the surviving family members.
Who Can Bring A Wrongful Death Claim?
In Texas, wrongful death claims may be filed by the surviving spouse, the children, and the parents of the decedent. In some cases, an adopted child may file a wrongful death claim if the adoption was legally and fully completed. Adoptive parents may also file a wrongful death claim for their adopted child. These claims may be filed as a single action or the members of the family can group together to file a claim. Under Texas law, the surviving siblings of the decedent cannot file a wrongful death claim.
The four components of a wrongful death claim are: breach of duty, negligence, causation and damages.
- Breach of duty refers to the failure of the defendant to maintain the duty it had to the person who died.
- Negligence refers to a defendant’s carelessness or negligence that led to the death.
- Causation means that the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s actions or lack of action was the primary cause of the deceased person’s death.
- Damages means that plaintiffs must show exactly how the death of the person they loved has materially affected their lives.
Wrongful death lawsuits can be time-consuming and arduous, and without an advocate to fight on your behalf, you may find yourself at the mercy of a big corporation. The law firm of David K. Wilson & Associates has always championed the underdog, and our experience can make the difference between a case that’s dismissed and a big settlement.
Please call us today at (903) 289-5557 for a free legal consultation.
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