After a loved one has died from what appears to be another’s actions, it is a common and correct question to ask whether someone is legally liable for the death. In Texas, defendants liable for a wrongful death claim can be ordered to pay substantial financial damages to family members affected by the death, including the costs of the financial and emotional support that the deceased would have provided had they not perished, as well as the mental anguish cost caused to family members by the loss. Of course, not every death results in a wrongful death claim, which raises the question of how one proves a wrongful death claim in Texas.
The Types of Actions That Lead to Wrongful Death Claims
Two major aspects of proving a wrongful death claim in Texas are: 1) proving that the defendant (or one of its employees or agents) violated or “breached” a legal duty to the victim; and 2) the victim died as a result of injuries incurred due to the defendant’s actions.
With regard to the first step of this process, all parties in Texas have a legal duty to act in ways that do not present a foreseeable risk of injury to other parties, whether those other parties be strangers, co-workers, neighbors, family members, or any other persons. Under Texas’ wrongful death statute, this legal duty can be violated – and thus form the basis of a wrongful death claim – when a party commits a “wrongful act” or acts neglectfully, unskillfully, or carelessly in a way that causes another’s death.
Common types of actions by defendants (or their employees or agents) which can form the basis of a wrongful death claim include:
- Fatal car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian accidents caused by a driver’s careless and/or illegal driving
- Deaths caused by a defective drug, product, appliance, or device
- Deaths caused by an intentional violent act such as an assault or robbery
- Accidental deaths caused by dangerous actions such as gunfire
- Deaths which occur on property that should have properly been maintained and secured, including at stores, stadiums, concert halls, casinos, hotels, motels, colleges, schools, etc.
Proving that a defendant’s actions or inaction caused a victim’s death is often a fact-intensive process requiring immediate investigation of the site, talking with eyewitnesses, and gathering medical, technical, and physical evidence. Thus, it is important to contact an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible after a fatal incident to begin this process.
Proving Damages in a Texas Wrongful Death Claim
After legal duty and causation are established, the other critical step necessary in winning maximum financial compensation for a wrongful death claim is to be able to establish the family members’ full range of damages in a compelling manner. Wrongful death awards are based on the following data:
- The financial support that the deceased would have provided family members over his or her lifetime, which involves gathering information related to career and ability to work
- The emotional support provided family members, which can include evidence related to the relationship and history between family members
- The emotional trauma and anguish suffered by family members
- Any personal injury awards the deceased would have been entitled to had he or she lived, which includes pain and suffering and medical costs, and which requires its own evidentiary collection and showing
By working with an experienced wrongful death attorney from the outset, you can increase your chances of negotiating a significant wrongful death settlement outside of court or verdict at trial.
Work With Experienced Dallas Wrongful Death Attorneys
The Kelley Law Firm PC in Dallas, TX represents the rights of family members of victims killed by the wrongful acts of others. We have successfully recovered numerous 7-figure settlements and verdicts on behalf of our clients, and are passionately committed to obtaining the maximum financial recovery that our clients deserve. Contact us today to schedule a consultation regarding your wrongful death matter.