Deaths are tough for families to deal with, but they may be made much more painful when they are the result of someone’s irresponsibility. When a person’s death is directly caused by the wrongful conduct or carelessness of another person or corporation, it is known as wrongful death.
A variety of events and circumstances can result in wrongful deaths. Each year, thousands of wrongful death lawsuits are filed across the United States. The nature of such deaths includes these common types — and not so common types — of wrongful death injury cases:
Car accidents: A fatal car crash can be due to many things, including driver error, texting, drunk driving, reckless driving, negligent braking, oversteering, over-correction, side-impacts, running a stop sign or red light, t-bone collision, speeding, rollover accident, defective parts and even deliberate collisions in the case of road rage.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans are killed each year in car accidents, which makes them the most common type of wrongful death. If your loved one has been killed in a car accident, then talking to an experienced car accident attorney can greatly benefit your economic recovery against the insurance company adjuster by putting you on equal footing in the negotiations.
Truck accidents: Often fatal are motor vehicle accidents involving large trucks known as 18-wheelers, semi-trucks, big rigs, or tractor-trailers. Often the 18-wheeler driver can be found at fault for speeding, tailgating, unsafe lane changes, parking on the shoulder, unsafe left turns, speeding, intoxication, or inattention. Even if the driver is fully awake and alert, these heavy vehicles are hard to stop and maneuver and have many driver “blind spots” that are extremely dangerous and cause many deaths and severe injuries. Even when these 18-wheeler trailers are stopped on the side of the road, they kill innocent victims. The parking of a semi-truck and trailer on the shoulder of the road for any other reason than an emergency or mechanical breakdown is illegal and extremely dangerous, even if flags or reflectors are used.
Motorcycle accidents: The victim in a motorcycle accident tends to be the motorcycle driver or his or her passengers, rather than occupants of another larger vehicle. Yet many motorcycle wrecks are caused by negligent car and truck drivers — drivers who fail to notice or heed a smaller motorcycle’s presence and thus cause a crash. Unsafe lane changing on roads and highways can be fatal to motorcyclists or their passengers. When such bike accidents occur, the vehicle drivers can be held liable, accountable, or responsible in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by survivors.
Pedestrian accidents: While pedestrians, like vehicles, must follow the rules of the road, many persons walking on or near roadways are killed through no fault of their own. Regardless of road rules, pedestrians always should be given the right of way by vehicles to protect them. Driver distraction, texting, or talking on the phone are the leading causes of pedestrian deaths with motor vehicles in an urban setting.
Medical malpractice: Wrongful deaths often are caused by physician failures, also known as medical malpractice. Many people die due to failures by hospitals, clinics, doctors, nurses, or other medical staff. These failures can include errors in labeling or dispensing medications, failure to timely diagnose cancer, nursing home abuse, starvation, dehydration, bedsores, and botched surgeries. Most wrongful death lawsuits for medical malpractice are settled out of court as the doctors and hospitals often want to keep their reputations out of the press.
Industrial Accidents and Deaths: Numerous Americans have been killed on the job, perhaps while working on a construction site or in a factory or refinery. Such workplace accidents tend to be the fault of negligent companies, employers, contractors, or supervisors who fail to ensure that proper precautions are taken to create a safe work environment, or who fail to train workers adequately. Industrial Accidents may include electrocutions, crane collapses, falls, fires, explosions scaffolding tip-overs, and being struck by falling material or vehicles. On-the-job injuries and fatalities can be the basis of workers’ compensation claims, personal injury lawsuits, or wrongful death claim to recover compensation and damages.
Defective products: A defective product can be many things, including a vehicle such as an ATV, SUV, airbag, watercraft, jet-ski, appliance, whose inherent design defects can lead to an accident, fire, or crash causing one’s death. Or a defective product can be a tire whose sudden tire blowout or tread separation can cause a fatal crash or rollover and another resulting defect -roof collapse. Or it can be a defective drug or defective medical device which causes injuries or illnesses leading to death. Improper warnings or testing of drugs also can lead to serious & lifelong injuries and death. Laws covering product liability can be applied in a wrongful death case against a defective product’s designer, manufacturer, distributor, or seller. In any type of product liability lawsuit, the evidence needed to prove the defect is the product. Therefore, the product, the tire, the vehicle, or the defective object, needs to be found and preserved as evidence. Our law firm can help find the product, retrieve it and store it in a secure location until the conclusion of the case.
Aviation and Helicopter Accidents: Fatal accidents in airplanes and helicopters are rare, but when they occur catastrophic injuries and death are likely. These calamities may be due to manufacturing defects, pilot errors, weather conditions, maintenance failures, or other preventable. In most aviation accidents, the NTSB investigates and writes a report. Do not wait until after the crash report is finished to hire an attorney to protect your interests. In the NTSB investigation, they often bring in the manufacturers and their engineers to assist in the investigation. You need a representative protecting your interest too. Call us we can help.
Train crossing accidents: Accidents involving a vehicle being hit at a railroad crossing are often fatal. Train crossings accidents can be attributed to speeding trains, failure to blow the horn, overgrown trees and bushes blocking the view of the oncoming train, and non-working lights and gates. In all serious accidents or deaths, an immediate on-scene investigation needs to be conducted, pictures taken, and measurements recorded. the scene of a fatal train crossing accident often changes in the days after the crash. Willis has recovered millions of dollars in railroad crossing accident cases.
Dog Bite and Animal Attack: Injuries and deaths due to vicious dog or other dangerous animal attacks are rare, but they do happen especially to small children, US Postal Carriers, and delivery personnel. Owners of animals that bite or which attack, injure and kill may be legally liable under their homeowner’s insurance policy and can be held responsible in a court of law for any resulting personal injury or wrongful death. In some cases of repeated attacks by the same dog owner, criminal charges may also be brought for their acts or inactions.
Nursing home deaths: Every year and especially during the Covid shutdown, many nursing home residents have died in nursing homes due to abuse or neglect by a nursing home’s staff, malnutrition, dehydration, assaults, septicemia from pressure sores and bedsores, medication errors, from exposure to the elements from wandering off the premises. Such wrongful deaths are senseless, and a lawsuit needs to be filed to prevent others from suffering at the hands of these nurses and staff that are paid to comfort and protect one’s loved ones.
Swimming Pool Drownings: Almost every day children and adults die in swimming pools. These pools may be at private residences, motels, apartments, or even at waterparks or wave pools. Drownings can occur due to the lack of a locked gate, broken latch, lack of a security fence, no lifeguard, electrocution from pool lights or equipment or diving board accidents, lack of signage, or due cloudy or murky water. When a drowning or accident occurs, the pool owner, operator, and even a pool machinery maker may be sued.
If a serious pool injury or death has occurred, do not wait as a site inspection is needed before substantial changes are made to the scene and eyewitnesses need to be questioned. Our firm has handled many different types of wrongful deaths, drowning and brain damage cases involving all aspects of swimming pool injury and death cases and has recovered millions in damages for our clients.
All the types of wrongful deaths listed above can be the basis of a lawsuit claiming damages or financial compensation for a deceased victim’s surviving family members. But each lawsuit is different. What are some examples of actual wrongful death suits?
One notorious wrongful death case was that of former football star and actor O.J. Simpson, who also faced a criminal charge for killing his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and another man, Ron Goldman. Simpson was acquitted in criminal court when a California jury could not find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But he also faced a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the victims’ families in civil court — and in civil court, he lost. That resulted in an award of $35.5 million in compensation to survivors of the two deceased persons.
In a civil court, the stakes are money, and the burden of proof rests on the shoulders of the plaintiffs’ injury lawyer or wrongful death attorney to prove their claim for damages. In a criminal court, the stakes are the freedom or life of an accused person, and the burden of proof is on prosecutors to prove their case against the defendant.
A civil lawsuit requires that a jury finds in favor of a plaintiff via a “preponderance of the evidence.” That means only 51 percent or more of the evidence must favor a plaintiff’s claim. In a criminal court, the burden of proof is higher. Prosecutors must prove to a jury “beyond a reasonable doubt” that a defendant is guilty. Such proof means that a jury should be firmly convinced of a defendant’s guilt. That does not mean certainty, but close to it.
Another example of a wrongful death claim was a 2016 lawsuit over the death of a 40-year-old pregnant woman — already the mother of five children — and her unborn child. In a rare case in which a medical practice lawsuit went to trial rather than being settled out of court, a jury found that a hospital, doctors, and nurses were negligent and failed to care for the woman properly. The jury awarded the deceased woman’s husband $9 million for his lawsuit.
In a wrongful death action, many different types of damages can be pleaded by the lawyer for the family and awarded at the time of trial by a jury or settled out of court. Such legal damages include:
The amount of your claim when you file a wrongful death lawsuit can depend on many factors, including lost future income or other employment benefits of the deceased, along with loss of love and companionship.
Economic losses, such as medical bills or lost salary, can be computed and listed when you bring a lawsuit. But it’s often up to a judge or jury to decide how much surviving family should receive from a defendant for such non-economic things as pain and suffering.
Also, different states have different laws concerning the amount of damages or compensation which can be claimed in personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death claims. For instance, Texas law puts a cap on non-economic damages in wrongful death claims based on medical malpractice. Such a cap originally was $500,000, but families can get $1,500,000 — or perhaps even more — when the cap is adjusted for inflation.
As a general rule, a successful settlement or lawsuit for wrongful death can recover from $100,000 to over $10,000,000’s for beneficiaries depending on the facts. The facts of the case and the amounts of available insurance policies play a huge part in the outcome. For example, a criminal running from the law in a stolen car without any insurance runs a red light and kills your passenger. In this case, there is likely no insurance or assets to go after to compensate the surviving family.
But if a driver of an 18-wheeler truck runs that same red light and kills your loved one, the case may potentially be worth tens of millions as the trucking company may have tens of millions of dollars in liability insurance and an excess or umbrella policy for even millions more in coverage.
The facts of the case, dictate the outcome. In any death case, one should contact a seasoned trial lawyer with the experience needed to investigate the case and be ready to file a lawsuit against all of the negligent parties.
Wrongful death cases are complicated legal procedures. It is essential to get an attorney who is experienced in these cases. David P. Willis is board certified in personal injury trial law. He is one of only 1,300 Texas lawyers with that distinction. He has achieved superb results for his clients, and he will put the same efforts into your matter.
Call us or contact our law firm on our free online form soon to arrange a confidential and free consultation for your wrongful death case. You and your family may be legally entitled to substantial financial compensation for your losses, but you need a wrongful death lawyer or attorney to file a wrongful death claim on your behalf, to fight for your legal rights every step of the way, and to ensure a strong attorney-client relationship.
Contact us to get started claiming the payments you or a family member deserves after a loss of a family member. Don’t wait as filing deadlines or what is also referred to as the statute of limitations do apply and start to run as soon as the accident and/or the death takes place. Talk to an attorney to make sure you understand the statutes of limitations. Call 1-800-883-9858 or fill out the Online Contact Form.