According to the legal definition of wrongful death from the dictionary, it states, “The taking of the life of an individual resulting from the willful or negligent act of another person or persons.” To break this definition down, we can look at some factors and examples that cause the death of an individual that can make it a legal matter. Consulting a Houston wrongful death attorney is the way to go when things are in question about what is and what is not considered a wrongful death.
A wrongful death case is filed through the surviving family members as they will be the persons awarded the suit should the case be proven. Every state is different when it comes to the statutes, but the meaning holds true across the country. It is up to the attorneys to advise the clients about what laws are upheld in each state.
Negligence in a Wrongful Death
Negligence is the critical factor that the attorney must prove in each case for their clients to come out on top when they file a wrongful death lawsuit. Negligence is established when the defendant has an obligation to the plaintiff to uphold. If the duty is not met, it is easy to prove that the defendant is at the fault of the suit brought against them. The failure to act would be the cause of death. There are many examples of negligence. One will be if a landlord has an electrical problem inside the rental home. If the house burns down, killing the tenant, the surviving family members can file a wrongful death suit due to negligence. Of course, it is also the tenant’s responsibility to notify the landlord there was a problem. This would be the only way the landlord could prove he was not at fault for negligence.
Different Causes of Wrongful Death
Among the different causes of wrongful death cases, these are the top five that see the inside of a courtroom.
Car accidents happen frequently and are many times due to the negligence of another driver. Some of those examples would be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, texting and driving, speeding, reckless driving, and any form of distracted driving. These cases do not apply to specific situations where an accident was unavoidable. Once again, negligence has to be proven. Some instances occur where the defendant may come out the winner of a case.
An example will be if there are weather conditions out of their control. If they prove they tried to avoid the accident, then no one is at fault. “Accidents” happen.
Motorcycle, Bicycle, or Pedestrian Accidents
If a vehicle’s driver hits any one of these on the road, the chances are high it could be the driver’s fault. On the road, all of these are difficult to spot. Carelessness is the number one cause of vehicles hitting any one of these three. In these situations, the surviving family members can bring up a case of wrongful death.
Malpractice in the Medical Field
Sometimes doctors rush things and may misdiagnose a patient. This event can lead to severe repercussions and can and will cost the medical license of a doctor. Wrongful death in misdiagnoses can also happen during medical procedures where a patient will die during surgery.
Accidents in the Workplace
This is where negligence is the most common. The number one reason negligence occurs in the workplace is due to not following safety protocols. Many workers get injured or lose their lives at the hands of negligence in the workforce. The common causes of death in the workplace would be explosions, falls, burns, and equipment failure.
When manufacturers, distributors, or retailers put out defective products that cause death or injury, they are responsible. Some examples where the defects caused wrongful death would be tire or brake failure on a vehicle. Others would be warning labels, lights, or signs not being placed on the products that may cause injury or death.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Once again, every state differs in the statutes. In most cases, the surviving spouses, parents, or the next of kin may file a wrongful death lawsuit. Some states will allow minors to file if the parents were killed due to negligence. If there is no other relative, a surviving spouse who is separated may also file as long as they are not the guilty party. If desertion can is proven, this will disqualify them as well. Some states will also allow the parents to file against the children or vice versa. Not every state allows this.
Cases to Beware
In some cases, courtrooms will not touch wrongful death cases due to the conflict of interest among family members. If the insurance policy is a primary factor, it may take an investigation before the case goes before a judge, which can take years. It can cross over into the criminal or homicide sector very quickly. One case which was made infamous was the O.J. Simpson trial, where the surviving family members filed wrongful death. There are also Workers’ Compensation cases where limitations are placed for damages in a case. These are also cases that vary from state to state according to their laws. Employers must have insurance to cover any injuries their employees may receive. When a death occurs under any circumstances, all options are put on the table and weighed.