If your spouse, parent, or child has died in a preventable accident or because of a wrongful act, you may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit and seek monetary compensation. However, it is not as simple as going to a Fort Bend County courthouse and stating that your loved one’s death was wrongful. Instead, you must file a lawsuit and prove your case. Wrongful death suits can be difficult to prove, so working with an experienced attorney is critical.
What are the Elements of a Successful Wrongful Death Claim in Texas?
Under Texas law, there are specific elements that you must prove in a wrongful death suit. Below are the four elements you must prove to win a wrongful death suit in Fort Bend County.
1. Defendant Owed a Duty of Care to the Deceased Party
You must show that the defendant had a duty to use care toward the deceased that a reasonable and prudent person would have exercised to protect them from unnecessary harm. Basically, the duty of care refers to the responsibility not to do something that would harm another person. For example, Texas drivers have a duty to obey traffic laws, such as not speeding and stopping at red lights. As a second example, physicians owe their patients accurate and quality medical care.
2. The Defendant Breached Their Duty of Care
The second element you must prove is that the defendant breached their duty of care. A person breaches their duty of care when they fail to behave with the same level of care that a reasonable person would exercise in the same situation. Driving under the influence of alcohol is an example of a breach of care. Additionally, it is a breach of care if a doctor fails to order adequate tests or administers the wrong drugs.
3. The Breach of Duty Caused Death
Next, you must show that the defendant’s breach of duty directly caused the death of your loved one. For example, if the defendant was speeding, you must prove that the speeding and not some other reason, like a mechanical failure on the deceased’s vehicle, caused the death.
4. You Suffered Monetary Damages
Finally, you must prove that you (the loved ones of the deceased) suffered damages as a result of the death. Damages refer to the financial compensation that you are seeking, such as loss of financial support, loss of companionship, mental anguish, lost inheritance, and funeral costs. The damages must be quantifiable, and you must show that the amount of money you are seeking is justified based on your losses. Your attorney will work with you to calculate your damages.
How Do You Prove the Elements of a Wrongful Death Suit in Texas?
To prove the elements of a wrongful death suit, you will need a skilled attorney with a deep understanding of the law. Your attorney will conduct a full investigation. The evidence necessary to win your suit will differ in every case, depending on the specific circumstances. Examples of possible evidence that your attorney could use to prove your claim include accident reports, medical records, autopsy reports, financial records, witness testimony, and expert testimony.
Losing a loved one is traumatic, especially when it is unexpected. Your attorney can be much-needed support and guide you through the legal process. They will prepare a legal strategy, negotiate with the defendant and insurance companies, and represent you aggressively in court if necessary.
What is the Burden of Proof in a Wrongful Death Claim?
The person bringing the wrongful death lawsuit has the burden to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence. A preponderance of the evidence means that it is more likely than not that the defendant is responsible for the death of your loved one.
This is much lower than the burden of proof used in criminal cases. In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, a non-guilty verdict in a criminal case does not necessarily mean that the person is not liable for civil damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Your Sugar Land Wrongful Death Attorney
If you have questions about wrongful death lawsuits, you should reach out to a qualified Sugar Land criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Adam Capetillo is a Fort Bend County native who will evaluate your case and provide the best possible representation. Call Capetillo Law Firm today for a free consultation.