After the untimely death of a loved one, many Texans may wonder if they have legal recourse. This can be especially pertinent when the surviving family members are suffering financially as a result of the loss, or if they hope to find closure in holding a responsible party accountable.
Contrary to what some people may assume, wrongful death is a personal injury legal matter, rather than a criminal one. Before filing a wrongful death claim, it is important to note that there are numerous factors that must be present. These include the following:
- A person or entity’s negligence or intention of causing harm led to the death.
- A representative of the deceased’s estate is filing the lawsuit on his or her behalf.
- Those filing the claim are close family members of the deceased.
- The survivors are experiencing a significant monetary loss resulting from the death, such as the loss of income from a spouse or parent.
As the preceding points explain, only limited circumstances can count an unforeseen death as wrongful. For example, a stay-at-home mother whose husband was killed by a distracted truck driver, the minor children of parents who died in a fire caused by a faulty space heater and the family of a man who died after a doctor made a preventable mistake during surgery may be able to seek wrongful death compensation. Criminal activity and occupational exposure to toxic substances that resulted in a fatality may also qualify.
Wrongful death laws in one’s jurisdiction may vary, as well as other factors such as the amount of compensation that a judge or jury may award the surviving family members. In addition to providing affected family members with compensation that may alleviate some of their financial suffering, wrongful death cases may serve as an example to companies, employers and individuals to take precautions to avoid causing a preventable death.