Losing a loved one is painful no matter what, but it is especially sudden and stressful when they are gone due to a wrongful death. If you’re considering a wrongful death lawsuit, you may be wondering how to go about the process of proving fault. Read more to learn about how you and your wrongful death attorney will work together to establish fault and earn you the compensation you deserve for your loss.
Ask a Wrongful Death Attorney: How Do You Prove Fault?
Elements of Proving Fault
Wrongful death lawsuits are a type of personal injury case where a third party’s incompetent or intentional actions are found to be responsible for another person’s untimely death. The third party (the defendant) could be a person or entity, and in these cases, surviving family members of the deceased have the right to pursue justice.
The elements of proving fault depend on the nature of the defendant’s liability. The third party could be liable due to negligence or intentional misconduct, and there are specific elements to proving fault for each of those types of liability.
Proving Fault Using Negligence
Wrongful death claims arise from situations where the victim would have a valid personal injury claim had they survived, and most personal injury claims arise from instances where the defendant acted negligently. In these cases, four elements must be established to hold the defendant liable and prove their fault:
To prove that the defendant caused your loved one’s untimely death, you need to successfully establish that they owed the deceased a duty of care. The duty of care is someone’s lawful duty to act to protect other people or to refrain from acting in a harmful way. Proving duty means establishing what a reasonable person or entity would have done in similar circumstances.
Breach of Duty
Once it has been established that the defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty, you have to prove that the legal duty was breached. Proving the breach of duty means establishing that the defendant did not act according to what a reasonable person or entity would have done in similar consequences. They violated their duty of care.
If you can show the breach of duty of care, you have to prove it directly caused the death. There are two types of causation: cause in fact and proximate cause. Cause in fact means that the defendant directly caused the death and your loved one would still be alive if it weren’t for their negligence. Proximate cause means that it was reasonably foreseeable that the defendant’s actions could cause death at a point in the future.
Another element of proving fault due to negligence is establishing the damages. A wrongful death lawsuit differs from standard negligence cases in that the sudden death of your loved one is simple to prove. However, many other damages will be considered, such as the financial hardship (called pecuniary injury) you have suffered due to your loss, loss of companionship, loss of consortium, or loss of care that your loved one would have provided.
Proving Fault in Other Circumstances
Wrongful death can happen due to intentional actions. In these cases, the plaintiff has to prove that their loved one died from a defendant’s actions that had a desired and harmful purpose. For example, assault, battery, or attempted murder are all actions with intended consequences that could lead to wrongful death. Your attorney must prove that the defendant’s actions were intentional and the cause of your loved one’s death.
Negligence “Per Se”
In cases where the defendant has violated a law and hurt (or killed) someone that the law was in place to protect, they may be held negligent simply due to the violation. Proving negligence per se involves establishing that there was a law in place that should have protected your loved one and that the defendant violated said law without an excuse.
In cases of “strict liability,” you do not need to establish negligence, fault, or intention. In these cases, the defendant is liable for damages from their actions regardless of their intentions or fault. For example, these cases could involve defective products or situations involving abnormally dangerous activities or wild animals.
Where To Begin
How to prove fault in a wrongful death case depends on the elements surrounding your loved one’s death and on the actions you take to substantiate your claims. You could be running out of time. You must work with a Houston wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to ensure you take immediate steps to prove fault.
Begin with a thorough investigation by gathering evidence. Expert testimony, witness accounts, and a review of all pertinent documents and files related to your case will help you prove fault. Whether the wrongful death was due to negligence or intentional misconduct, you and your attorney must work diligently to prove fault and earn fair compensation for you.
Grieving the death of a loved one is enough of a burden without a lawsuit, but if you and your family are victims of losing your loved one to wrongful death, you deserve justice. Now that you know how to prove fault in a wrongful death case, you should speak with an attorney to help you get the compensation you deserve.