Proving Wrongful Death in Texas
To hold another party liable in a wrongful death claim in Texas requires proving that their intentional actions or negligence was the cause of another person’s death. Negligence is a legal term referring to a party’s failure to use reasonable care in any given situation. To establish another party’s negligence requires demonstrating the following four elements.
Duty of Care
The defendant (at-fault party) must have owed the victim a duty of care. A duty of care is a legal obligation to exercise reasonable care to prevent harm to others. Whether the defendant owed the victim a duty of care depends on each case’s unique circumstances. For example, in a wrongful death claim arising from a car accident, the driver that caused the collision owed a duty of care to the victim to drive safely and follow traffic laws. In medical malpractice wrongful death claims, physicians owe patients a duty of care to provide the same skills, training, and care as other doctors or hospitals in their community.
Breach of Duty of Care
To prove the defendant breached or violated their duty of care requires establishing the expected standard of care and showing how the defendant failed to meet it. In other words, they did not do what another reasonable person or entity would have done in a similar situation. Since different cases call for a lower or higher duty of care, whether the defendant’s behavior was “reasonable” will be a point of contention.
There must also be a link from the defendant’s breach of care to the victim’s cause of death. Meaning the victim would not have died but for the defendant’s negligence. In wrongful death cases, causation can be difficult to prove because there may be multiple factors that contributed to the victim’s death. For example, if a construction worker is killed in a fall from scaffolding, it may be challenging to determine whether the fall was caused by a defective scaffold, the worker’s own negligence, or some other factor. As a result, it is critical to gather as much evidence as possible, including witness testimony, expert opinions, and physical evidence, to help establish the cause of the death and the defendant’s responsibility.
The final element in proving a wrongful death case is evidence of damages. This requires proof that demonstrates the financial and emotional impact of the victim’s death on the surviving family members for which they deserve compensation. This may include medical bills caused by the fatal accident, funeral and burial expenses, loss of income and potential earnings, loss of benefits, loss of inheritance, loss of companionship, protection, services, the deceased’s conscious pain and suffering before their death, and more. Proving these losses will require documentation, such as bills, financial records, employment records, and testimony from family members, friends, and experts such as economists and therapists.
The Importance of Hiring an Attorney
A Waco wrongful death lawyer can be instrumental in helping to prove a wrongful death case, as they have the knowledge and experience to navigate the legal system and build a strong case on behalf of the surviving family members.