What Makes a Tragedy a Wrongful Death?

A woman with white lily flowers and coffin at funeral in church

The loss of a loved one is a tragic thing to go through. Whether it was an illness, accident, or a natural disaster that resulted in the death, the survivors are left to pick up the pieces and deal with the pain. It is never easy.

For some individuals, the loss of a loved one may have been caused by the negligence of a person or entity. This negligence resulted in the deceased being in a situation where no action or lack of actions could have prevented the accident or death from occurring. In these instances, the loss of life is considered a wrongful death, and a civil suit can be brought against the negligent party. While this lawsuit will never be able to fill the void left behind by the loss of a loved one, it can help ease the growing financial strain on the family from medical expenses and damages. Here is what you need to know about wrongful death lawsuits and how to determine if you have a case:

When Is a Death Considered a Wrongful Death?

While not all deaths are the same, some situations/accidents could have been prevented had the negligent been acting with more care. These types of accidents, when they cause the loss of life, typically fall under wrongful death.

Wrongful Death in Birth Injuries Cases

Labor is extremely stressful for both the mother and the baby. In some cases, the baby may suffer a physical injury during the birthing process; this is known as birth trauma or birth injury. While not all birth injuries are caused by negligence, there are some cases in which a doctor or nurse fails their duty to provide an extra layer of care for the mother and baby. The most common causes of birth injuries due to medical malpractice are as follows:

  • Doctors and nurses fail to monitor the baby, causing the baby to suffer fetal distress
  • Increased pressure to the head during the delivery, often caused by pulling on the baby’s head
  • Negative side effects of labor-inducing drugs
  • Failure to prepare or treat issues due to premature birth

Medical Malpractice and Wrongful Death

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor makes a mistake, such as a wrong diagnosis, improper treatment, or a surgical error, that could have been avoided had the doctor been acting with more care. Medical malpractice cases can be tricky, as they are handled differently than most standard personal injury cases, especially when the patient has passed away. The following needs to be able to be proven for a medical malpractice case to have a standing in court:

  • The plaintiff had a doctor-patient relationship with the defendant
  • The plaintiff hired the doctor to treat the injury or illness
  • The doctor agreed to be hired and perform the treatment
  • It was the treatment, and not the original ailment, that led to the worsening condition of the patient

Occupational Hazards Causing a Wrongful Death

With any job, there is always a risk of injury no matter what type of job is being performed. However, some jobs hold a higher risk of severe or even life-threatening hazards due to their nature. While this is known and often accepted by the staff, the employer still has a duty to make the workspace as safe as possible for their employees. This includes putting up caution and warning signs, making sure floors are clean and not slick, and making sure employees are properly trained and have the correct tools and equipment to do their job safely.

Murder and Manslaughter

A car accident in the middle of a busy street.

Whether it was a car accident due to a drunk driver or an intentional violent act to take someone’s life, murder and manslaughter are almost always considered wrongful death.

Wrongful Death in Motor Vehicle Accidents

Car accidents are not uncommon in the DFW metroplex, and severe accidents can lead to the death of the driver and/or passengers. When these accidents are caused due to the negligent actions of another driver, such as speeding or driving under the influence, then the victims may be able to sue for compensation.

Product Defects and Wrongful Death Claims

Product liability laws are the guidelines that dictate who is legally responsible for a defective or dangerous product that results in the injury or death of an individual. The liability for these cases can lie with the manufacturer of the product, the seller, or even the product designer.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

While the death of a loved one affects many people such as family and friends, it isn’t just anyone who can file the lawsuit. The individual who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in the state of Texas is a relative to the deceased who has suffered economic or emotional damages as the result of the loved one’s death. This often is the surviving spouse or children of the deceased. In some cases, the individual may be single and childless, in which case a surviving parent or relative can sue.

Proving Wrongful Death

The individual filing the wrongful death claim must be able to prove that the person or entity accused of causing the wrongful death is responsible. To do this, the plaintiff needs to prove that the defendant’s careless, negligent, or reckless behavior caused the accident that resulted in the loss of life; it is the breach of the defendant’s duty that caused the loss of life for their loved one.

For example, if an individual died due to being hit by a drunk driver, the drunk driver would be found to be at fault because they breached their duty to not drive while over the legal alcohol blood content limit. It was this action that resulted in the accident and the loss of life.

What Damages Can Be Awarded in a Wrongful Death Case?

A lawyer discussing strategy with a client.

In a wrongful death lawsuit, the claimant may receive damages relating to the loved one’s death. This includes damages such as:

  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral costs
  • Burial costs
  • Compensatory damages; this is the amount of money the deceased may have earned had their life not been cut short
  • Compensatory damages for the family’s pain and suffering

In the state of Texas, punitive damages may also be permitted in a wrongful death case. Punitive means “punish” and is intended to punish the perpetrator financially for causing the death.

Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney

If your loved one died because of the negligence of another person or their deliberate actions, you need the service of the experienced wrongful death attorneys at Branch & Dhillon, P.C. Contact our team today for more information about our services or to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.