WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIMS
Wrongful death claims refer to legal actions taken against individuals or entities that caused someone’s death due to negligence, recklessness, or intentional wrongdoing. These claims seek to compensate the surviving family members for the loss of their loved one, both financially and emotionally. In this blog post, we will discuss the key elements of wrongful death claims, how they differ from other types of personal injury claims, and the factors that affect their success.
Elements of Wrongful Death Claims
To prove a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff (usually a surviving family member) must establish four key elements:
Duty of Care: The defendant had a duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent harm to the deceased.
Breach of Duty: The defendant breached this duty by acting negligently, recklessly, or intentionally.
Causation: The defendant’s actions caused the deceased’s death.
Damages: The surviving family members suffered damages as a result of the death, such as financial losses or emotional distress.
Duty of Care
The duty of care refers to the legal obligation that individuals and entities have to act with reasonable care to prevent harm to others. In the context of wrongful death claims, the defendant’s duty of care depends on the circumstances of the case. For example, a doctor has a duty to provide competent medical treatment to their patients, while a driver has a duty to operate their vehicle safely and obey traffic laws.
Breach of Duty
To establish a breach of duty, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant failed to act with reasonable care, thereby causing the deceased’s death. Negligence is the most common basis for wrongful death claims, and it occurs when the defendant fails to exercise the level of care that a reasonable person would have in similar circumstances. For example, a doctor may be found negligent if they misdiagnose a patient’s condition or prescribe the wrong medication.
Recklessness and intentional wrongdoing are other bases for wrongful death claims. Recklessness refers to conduct that shows a disregard for the safety of others, while intentional wrongdoing involves an intentional act that causes the deceased’s death.
The plaintiff must establish a causal link between the defendant’s breach of duty and the deceased’s death. This means proving that the defendant’s actions were a substantial factor in causing the death. For example, if a driver runs a red light and causes a fatal car accident, they may be liable for wrongful death if it can be proven that their actions caused the accident.
The final element of a wrongful death claim is damages. This refers to the harm suffered by the surviving family members as a result of the death. Damages can include economic losses, such as lost wages and medical expenses, as well as non-economic losses, such as emotional distress and loss of companionship.
How Wrongful Death Claims Differ from Personal Injury Claims
Wrongful death claims differ from personal injury claims in several ways. The most obvious difference is that the plaintiff in a wrongful death claim is not the deceased but rather their surviving family members. In a personal injury claim, the plaintiff is the injured person seeking compensation for their injuries.
Another key difference is the damages available in each type of claim. In a personal injury claim, the plaintiff can recover damages for their medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In a wrongful death claim, the damages are focused on the surviving family members’ losses, such as loss of financial support and loss of companionship.
Factors that Affect the Success of a Wrongful Death Claim
Several factors can affect the success of a wrongful death claim,
Strength of the Evidence:
The plaintiff must have strong evidence to prove the elements of the claim. This may include witness testimony, medical records, and expert opinions. The more evidence the plaintiff has, the stronger their case is likely to be.
Liability refers to whether the defendant is legally responsible for the deceased’s death. If the defendant’s actions were the primary cause of the death, the plaintiff is more likely to succeed in their claim.
The amount of damages sought by the plaintiff can also affect the success of a wrongful death claim. If the damages are excessive or unreasonable, it may be more difficult to convince a jury to award them.
The laws governing wrongful death claims vary by state, and the jurisdiction in which the claim is filed can affect its success. Some states have stricter liability laws, while others have caps on damages.
Statute of Limitations:
The statute of limitations is the amount of time the plaintiff has to file a claim after the deceased’s death. If the plaintiff misses the deadline, they may be barred from pursuing the claim.
Contributory negligence refers to the deceased’s own negligence that contributed to their death. If the deceased was partially responsible for their death, the damages awarded may be reduced or eliminated.
Defendant’s Ability to Pay:
Claim success may be hindered if the defendant lacks financial resources to pay damages, despite proving liability and harm.
Jury or Judge: In some cases, the decision of whether to award damages is left to a jury or judge. Their decision can be influenced by factors such as the credibility of the witnesses and the emotional impact of the case.
What to Expect from Your Houston Severe Injury/Wrongful Death Lawyer
Experiencing a severe injury or wrongful death in the family is a life-altering experience for everyone involved. If you and your loved one are unsure about what to do after a severe injury or wrongful death, it’s vital to consult with a reliable wrongful death lawyer in Houston as soon as possible to determine your best available options. The serious injury & wrongful death lawyers at Houston Injury Lawyers, PLLC, strive to provide comprehensive, responsive, and compassionate legal counsel to every client we represent. We know how severely a wrongful death or severe injury can impact the lives of your family and will work tirelessly to ensure the best possible outcome to your legal claim.
Houston Injury Lawyers, PLLC
If you are ready to take legal action for a recent severe injury or a wrongful death, we can help. Contact Houston Injury Lawyers, PLLC, today to schedule a free case review with our team. Our Houston lawyers guide you in assessing damages and navigating legal proceedings for wrongful death claims.