The Basics of Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

June 25, 2019

There is no easy way to get through the pain and trauma you will suffer if someone you love dies suddenly due to the senseless and irresponsible actions of another person.

While no amount of comfort will be adequate or bring your loved one back, surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas if the “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness or default” of a person causes the death of another.

Texas law specifically allows surviving children, parents, a spouse or the executor of an estate to file a civil suit seeking damages. There are specific terms and requirements that must be met for the suit to be valid, however.

Proving negligence is the key

An attorney experienced in wrongful death lawsuits must focus on proving that a defendant acted negligently and that their negligence was a direct cause of the person’s death. Negligence is the standard for all wrongful death lawsuits throughout the United States, and it consists of successfully proving four elements.

  1. Duty of care. It must be shown that a defendant has a certain duty of care to act responsibly and not in a way that could have caused another person’s death. For example, it is a widely accepted duty of care that it is not okay for a driver who had too many drinks to get behind the wheel. If they do, they have breached their duty of care which says it is not acceptable to drink and drive.
  2. Breach of duty. A person is considered to have breached their duty of care when they know what an acceptable duty of care is, but act irresponsibly anyway.
  3. Cause of wrongful death. Due to their actions, did the defendant directly cause the death of another person? In other words, if you drink and drive and get into an accident that kills someone else, the case can be made that your actions were a direct cause of the wrongful death of another.
  4. Are there damages as a result of the defendant’s negligent actions? In most wrongful death cases, it is fairly easy to draw the conclusion that damages do exist in the form of pain and suffering. Some examples of damages include mental and emotional anguish, medical and funeral expenses, a loss of future wages, a loss of possible future inheritance, a loss of future companionship, and in some cases, exemplary damages when the death was grossly negligent. Also known as punitive damages, these exemplary damages are specifically designed to punish the defendant for his actions.

The Law Office of Maverick Ray serves clients in Houston, Pasadena and other nearby Texas communities.