How to Prove Fault in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Some deaths are natural or unavoidable. These are still tragic, but not legally “wrongful.” Wrongful deaths would not have happened were it not for the negligence, misconduct, or intentional act of another party. In these cases, the Texas court system allows surviving family members to sue the responsible party for damages. If you have a feeling that someone else caused or contributed to your loved one’s death, you will need to prove fault to receive compensation. Consider speaking with a qualified Austin wrongful death lawyer to learn more about how to prove fault in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Establish the Four Main Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim
While each wrongful death case is unique, there are certain similarities that make them actionable in the civil court system. Like personal injury claims, there are four main elements a plaintiff must prove to have a successful wrongful death claim. An attorney can help you prove these four elements:
- The defendant owed a duty of care. The defendant must have owed the deceased person some kind of duty. Drivers, doctors, employers, property owners, product manufacturers, government agencies, and other individuals and entities may all be defendants in wrongful death claims. These are all parties that may have owed the deceased person a duty of care.
- The defendant breached its duty. Breach of duty, or negligence, is an important element in a wrongful death claim. The plaintiff must present evidence that the defendant did something – or failed to do something – that constituted a breach of his/her/its duty to the deceased individual.
- The defendant’s actions caused the loved one’s death. The breach of duty must be the proximate cause of the wrongful death. The family cannot sue unless the death most likely would not have occurred were it not for the defendant’s breach. If a person with terminal cancer passes away from related causes, for example, the family probably would not have a case against the doctor, even if the doctor failed to diagnose the condition.
- The defendant suffered damages as a result. Damages are easy to prove in wrongful death claims since the victim did not survive the accident. Common damages that go with the unexpected loss of a loved one are funeral/burial costs, medical bills, lost wages and future earnings, and the family’s mental anguish at losing the individual.
Presenting evidence of these four elements is the number one way to prove fault in a wrongful death suit. The courts will rule that the death was the defendant’s fault if the defendant had a duty, breached the duty, and this breach caused the death. A skilled Austin personal injury attorney experienced in wrongful death claims can help with the processes of protecting and gathering evidence, as well as presenting it to the courts.
Tools at Your Disposal
Proving wrongful death is no small feat. With the right lawyer, however, it can be as streamlined a process as possible. A law firm will have the resources you need to prove that someone caused the death, such as a team of investigators and connections with expert witnesses. Getting an expert witness to testify that the defendant did, in fact, go against accepted standards of care can significantly bolster your claim. To explore all the tools at your disposal during a wrongful death claim in Texas, contact an attorney.