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What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

What qualifies as a wrongful death lawsuit varies on the facts of the accident and the laws that apply. What doesn’t change is the grief, sadness, sense of loss, and anger when a loved one is suddenly taken away. If your loved one was killed by negligence or an intentional act, your family might obtain compensation for your losses through a wrongful death lawsuit.

A cause of action for wrongful death exists in Texas when a person is killed because of another’s “neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.” The person’s spouse, children, or parents, or the executor of the estate may be able to file a wrongful death claim. It would be filed against the responsible parties to cover financial losses and emotional suffering.

If the act causing the death was grossly negligent or willful, families may be entitled to punitive damages. These are meant to punish the defendant and discourage them, and others, from acting the same way in the future. If you’ve lost a family member and think another person’s or company’s negligence was the cause, Evans & Herlihy may be able to help you hold that party accountable. If you are unsure whether or not you have a case, ask our attorneys what qualifies as a wrongful death lawsuit to find out.

If your loved one was killed in a workplace accident, you will need to seek redress through workers’ compensation. If he or she was killed in an accident with a connection outside of work, perhaps due to a defective tool or a negligent driver who is not a co-worker, you might be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent third party, but not against the employer.

As long as death, negligence or a willful act is involved, the types of these claims are practically unlimited. They can include:

  • Vehicle accidents
  • Accidents involving bicyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians
  • Slips and falls
  • Accidents on another’s property
  • Deaths caused by defective products
  • Accidents involving mass transit
  • Intentional and accidental shootings
  • Negligent acts by law enforcement and other government agencies
  • Deaths due to criminal acts
  • Nursing home abuse and neglect
  • Drowning
  • Medical accidents and defective medical devices.

How Do You Prove Wrongful Death in a Lawsuit?

To show negligence, plaintiffs in a wrongful death case would need to prove:

  • The defendant owed the deceased a legal duty or obligation
  • The defendant breached that duty
  • The breach was the factual and legal (or proximate) cause of the accident and fatal injuries
  • Under Texas law, the defendant needs to compensate the plaintiffs.

The answer to “How do you prove wrongful death?” depends on the facts of the case. For example, drivers owe each other a duty to operate reasonably safely. If a driver is speeding, distracted, drowsy, or intoxicated, that duty is breached. If the driver sped through a red light, collided with your loved one’s vehicle, causing fatal injuries, that breach was the factual and proximate cause of the accident. Under Texas law, that driver (through his or her insurance company) would need to compensate plaintiffs for their losses.

There could be several defendants in this vehicle case if …

  • There were multiple cars involved in the accident.
  • The red light malfunctioned.
  • The speeding driver couldn’t stop because his mechanic negligently repaired his brakes.
  • Because of the intersection’s design, several fatal accidents occurred there, and the government agency responsible for it hasn’t made changes to make it safer.

When there are several defendants, each with their own insurance company and lawyers, these cases can become complicated. You should contact our office soon after the accident happened. If we’re retained, we can start an investigation before evidence is lost, witnesses become impossible to find, or their memories fade. Given that these cases can involve substantial amounts of money and cause bad publicity for defendants, they can be very hard-fought.

Wrongful Death Cases are Frequently Filed Across Texas

Examples of these kinds of cases include:

  • Chesapeake Energy Corp and three oilfield service firms were sued by the daughter of a worker who was killed when an oil well 75 miles east of Austin exploded in January. The lawsuit seeks at least $1 million from Chesapeake Energy, Forbes Energy Services, Eagle Pressure Control, and Halliburton Co., according to Fox Business. It was filed by Madison Hendrix, whose father, Brad Hendrix, died in hospital days after the accident. Her claims are that the defendants were negligent and failed to provide a safe work environment or adequate medical care to the workers. Natural gas leaked from the well and exploded, killing a total of three.
  • A brother of an employee of Houston attorney John O’Quinn has filed a $7 million wrongful death lawsuit against the lawyer’s estate. James Cutliff filed the lawsuit in November over an SUV crash that killed O’Quinn and Cutliff’s brother, Johnny Lee, who had worked for O’Quinn. Police say the vehicle was traveling at nearly twice the 40-mile-per-hour speed limit, went out of control and hit a tree, reports KBTX-TV.
  • Michelle Tisnado, the widow of Gilbert Tisnado, who allegedly died from inhaling poisonous gas at a La Porte chemical plant, has filed a wrongful death suit against E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. and plant manager Randall Clements. Three other workers died in the accident. According to the lawsuit, Gilberto was working to repair a leaky valve when he was exposed to methyl mercaptan, a hazardous chemical used in fungicide. The suit seeks more than $1 million in damages, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The Next Step

If you lost a loved one to an accident, your life has been turned upside down. Your family may have lost income, you have overdue bills, and you are suffering emotionally. Evans & Herlihy have worked with many families facing the same sad situation. We understand what you need and want to help you through what may be the toughest part of your life.

If a family member is deceased because of negligence or an intentional act and you have questions, concerns, or want legal representation, call the Austin wrongful death attorneys at the Evans & Herlihy Law Firm for a free consultation today at (512) 732-2727.