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How Do You Prove Wrongful Death in Texas?

How Do You Prove Wrongful Death in Texas?

Losing a loved one is always a devastating experience, but when someone’s negligence causes the death, normal grief may be compounded by anger and the desire to punish the wrongdoer. In addition, after the death, survivors may be left without income or support at a time when they are facing medical bills and funeral costs.

While money can never replace a loved one, if you have lost a family member due to another party’s negligence or fault, you may be entitled to compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. A settlement award can ease your financial burdens and help your family function, pay their bills, and move on with their lives.

You may be wondering how to prove wrongful death. Under Texas law, wrongful death exists when a person dies due to another’s “neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.” However, it is up to the plaintiff to prove that this is the case. Texas wrongful death laws are complicated, which makes it hard to prove wrongful death. The negligent parties and their insurance companies will attempt to show that the death was not their fault to avoid paying compensation.

Fortunately, you do not have to fight them on your own. The compassionate wrongful death lawyers at Evans/Reilley will take the burden off you by handling all legal hurdles involved with proving wrongful death, holding the at-fault parties accountable, and getting you the settlement you deserve.

Contact us today at (512) 732-2727 for legal representation you can count on.

What Qualifies as Wrongful Death?

There is a wide range of situations that can qualify as wrongful death. The common factor is that someone else must have been negligent and at fault for causing the death.

Situations that may qualify for liability for wrongful death include:

  • Vehicle accidents caused by someone’s negligent or unlawful acts, such as running a red light and causing a fatal crash.
  • Defective products that cause death, even when used properly. If a defective airbag exploded and caused a death, the manufacturer or installer of the airbag could be held liable.
  • Accidents at work due to an employer’s failure to provide a safe working environment for employees. If a worker died from toxic chemicals because the employer failed to provide proper ventilation or protective equipment, the employer may be held liable.
  • Medical malpractice due to mistakes by a professional who failed to meet a reasonable standard of care, such as a surgeon who left an instrument in the surgical site and caused a fatal infection.
  • Accidents like trips and falls if a business or property owner fails to maintain property or warn of danger.
  • Negligent security caused by a business owner’s failure to install proper lighting and security cameras or to hire a security guard in a high crime area, and someone is killed on the property.

Burden of Proof

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil matter, distinct from a criminal case, and the burden of proof is less stringent. Success in such a case hinges on the weight of presented evidence, without the strict standards required in criminal proceedings, where guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

To prove a wrongful death case in Texas, some essential steps must be taken. These include formulating a case strategy, conducting a thorough investigation of the claim, consulting with experts, meeting with witnesses, and delving into relevant tort law.

The legal process for a wrongful death claim includes mediation, demands, and, potentially, a settlement of the claim. If a mutual agreement proves elusive, a lawsuit may be initiated, leading the case to proceed to trial.

The Key Elements of Wrongful Death Cases

At this point, you may be wondering, “How hard is it to prove wrongful death?” To establish a valid wrongful death claim, you must demonstrate the following four elements:

  • Negligence: In wrongful death cases, it’s essential to prove that the death was, in part or entirely, a result of the defendant’s carelessness, recklessness, or negligence.
  • Breach of Duty: For a successful wrongful death case, plaintiffs must show that the defendant had a responsibility toward the victim. For instance, drivers must operate their vehicles safely and adhere to traffic laws. Health care providers and doctors have a duty not to cause harm to patients. The plaintiff must establish the existence of this duty and how it was breached due to the defendant’s negligent actions.
  • Causation: Additionally, to substantiate that the defendant failed in their duty to the victim, the plaintiff must demonstrate how the defendant’s negligence directly led to the death of their loved one.
  • Damages: To substantiate a wrongful death case, the victim’s passing must result in measurable damages. This can include various expenses, such as hospitalizations, medical costs, burial expenses, funeral expenses, loss of income, potential earnings, protection, guidance, and inheritance, as well as the pain and suffering experienced by the victim before their demise.

Presenting these aspects in a wrongful death lawsuit requires robust and compelling evidence. Some evidence may require the testimony of expert witnesses. A wrongful death attorney will assist you in constructing your case based on the provided facts and evidence.

Statute of Limitations for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Texas

There are time limits for filing, so don’t delay. Texas has a statute of limitations (deadline) for filing. According to Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code section 16.003, a wrongful death case generally must be filed within two years of the deceased person’s death, or the courts will not hear your case.

Our Lawyers Know What to Do to Help

Wrongful death cases are like personal injury cases, where liability must be proven the same way as if the deceased had survived the wrongful act. For your lawsuit to be successful, our wrongful death lawyers must show that the defendants in the case were negligent and at fault for causing the accident that led to the death.

Texas Statutes section 71.002 (b) states that an action for wrongful death may be brought if the “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default” of one party causes the death of another. The defendant in the case will attempt to show that they were not at fault, that the death was the cause of an unavoidable accident, or even that the deceased person did something that caused the death. Our attorneys will anticipate this, carefully investigate what happened, and gather evidence to prove that the death was wrongful.

To help prove wrongful death, we will:

  • Listen to your version of how the death occurred to see if a wrongful death case is warranted and estimate what it may be worth.
  • Examine the scene of the death and gather evidence, such as photos and videos from surveillance cameras and police, ambulance, and medical reports and documents.
  • Interview witnesses and first responders to get testimony as to what they observed.
  • Hire experts to reconstruct the accident and testify how it occurred and who was at fault.
  • Hire experts such as accountants and life planners to testify how losing your loved one affects your family and will in the future.
  • File all paperwork and handle all legal procedures and court appearances per Texas laws and requirements.
  • Handle communications and negotiations with insurance companies and their lawyers, who will try to get you to say something that can be used against you in court or to settle for the lowest amount possible.
  • Build your case, take it to trial if necessary, and present proof of wrongful death to a judge or jury.

Our attorneys will communicate and work with you and your family throughout the process. We will be there for you, answering your questions and concerns and informing you how your case is progressing.

Contact Evans/Reilley for Legal Representation Today

Our Evans/Reilley wrongful death lawyers understand what you are going through. We are here to take the burden off you and do everything necessary to prove wrongful death, hold the wrongdoer accountable, and fight for the compensation that will help you and your family recover from this terrible loss. Contact us at (512) 732-2727 for a free consultation.

Attorney Chip Evans

Austin Attorney Chip EvansChip Evans is a partner at Evans & Herlihy. Chip brings to the firm more than 20 years of experience as a trial lawyer representing Plaintiffs. It is the desire to help individuals, not corporations, that attracts Chip to this side of the docket. [ Attorney Bio ]