Wrongful Death

Thousands of Americans are killed each year because of negligence on the part of vehicle operators, medical caretakers, drug companies, or manufacturers of commercial goods. The families of many of these individuals have filed wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of their loved ones against the companies or individuals who were responsible for the negligence that caused their deaths.

Agencies like the Food and Drug Administration and the US Consumer Products Safety Commission create rules designed to ensure that drugs, devices, and other products sold in the US are as safe as possible. Medical licensing boards and other agencies create rules to ensure that doctors and medical staff follow practices designed to keep their patients healthy and safe. When companies and medical practitioners fail to follow these guidelines, the wrongful death of a consumer or patient can result.

When such incidents occur, it’s important to know who you can turn to. The Texas wrongful death lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson can help you figure out all of your legal options. Call us at (877) 446-9001 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation.

The wrongful death of an individual can result from a number of causes, including:

Chemical Exposure

Workers who were employed in industries that involve the use of dangerous chemicals on the job—including fracking, factories, oil and natural gas drilling, chemical plants, shipyards, or construction workers—may be at risk of serious and potentially deadly illnesses caused by these products. Workplace exposure to asbestos, silica, or other dangerous products may cause illnesses such as mesothelioma that can take decades before the first symptoms appear.

Dangerous Drugs

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths due to prescription drugs are now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., surpassing car accidents for the first time in 2009. For example, deaths from prescription painkillers, anxiety drugs, and other dangerous medications account for more deaths each year than heroin and cocaine combined.

Prescription drug deaths may also occur because of defects in the way these products were designed or manufactured by the drug companies, or because of errors in the way that they were prescribed by a physician.

Medical Device Defects

Thousands of Americans rely on pacemakers, surgical devices, and other medical devices in order to treat chronic conditions and improve the quality of their daily lives. When these products are not manufactured to the highest safety standards or are not properly designed, the health and even the lives of patients who use them may be at risk.

Problems can also occur when medical devices are not properly implanted by a physician, either because of surgical errors or failure to follow the guidelines set by the manufacturer or agencies like the FDA.

Medical Malpractice

When doctors, hospital staff, or other medical personnel fail to follow proper standards of care when treating their patients, serious and potentially fatal health consequences can result. Medical malpractice errors can occur for a variety of reasons: failure to diagnose an injury or illness, errors in the use of medications or anesthesia, surgical errors, delays in the administration of treatment, using defective medical equipment, and other causes.

When errors on the part of doctors or medical staff result in serious injuries, illness, or death, they can be held accountable for their negligence in a court of law.

Product Liability

Each year, thousands of children and adults are injured by defective commercial products as a result of poor design, improper manufacturing, or inadequate warning labels. Although many of these defective products are recalled by the manufacturer or federal agencies, many others remain on the market, posing serious and potentially fatal safety risks to those who use them.

Defective automobiles, heavy machinery, construction materials, medical devices, and other products can be deadly to workers and consumers.

Vehicular Accidents

Car accidents cause nearly 3 million injuries and about 40,000 deaths each year. In some cases, these injuries and fatalities are caused by the failure of the automaker to ensure the crashworthiness of the vehicle: its ability to protect the driver and passengers in the event of an accident.

Other deaths and injuries are caused by accidents involving a truck or 18-wheeler or by unsafe driving practices, including distracted driving and drunk driving. About one in eight traffic fatalities occurs because of a trucking accident due to negligence on the part of the driver, the trucking company, or a third party.

Damages Available for Wrongful Death Cases in Texas

The spouse, children and parents of the deceased may bring a wrongful death case in Texas. If no claim is filed within three months of the death, the personal representative of the estate may file the claim instead. These claims allow the surviving family members to recover compensation for financial loss caused by the death, including:

  • Lost wages and earning capacity of the deceased
  • End of life costs, such as funeral and burial expenses, as well as medical costs associated with the fatal injury or illness
  • Lost care, support, services, advice, counsel and maintenance the deceased would have provided to their family
  • Lost inheritance, including what would’ve been left to family members had the deceased person lived a full life
  • Lost comfort, companionship, consortium and society
  • Mental and emotional pain and suffering

In rare instances, exemplary damages may also be assessed. These are damages specifically intended to punish the defendant for a willful act or omission that caused the death, or if an act of gross negligence caused the death. When a court imposes these types of damages, it’s done to send a message that such behavior won’t be tolerated.

When damages are awarded, they are awarded directly to the surviving family members. The amount each family member receives is directly proportional to the financial and emotional injury her or she  suffered because of the death.

How Negligence Is Proven in Wrongful Death Cases

If your loved one’s death was not caused by an intentional act, but rather by negligence, it must be proven that the defendant’s actions meet the legal definition of negligence. In general, a person acts negligently if he or she acts in a way that a reasonable person wouldn’t. There are four elements that must be met to prove negligence.

The first is a duty of care. Though everyone has a general duty of care not to cause harm to someone else, there may be instances where there is a specific duty of care. For instance, a doctor has a duty of care to provide the same level of care to a patient that another reasonable doctor would. A driver has a duty to follow all traffic laws.

When that duty of care is not followed, it’s said to be breached. Not all instances of injury constitute a breach of duty, however. For instance, if a driver has to suddenly swerve to dodge a landslide and hits another car, that unforeseeable incident may mean the driver didn’t breach the duty.

Third, there must be causation. That means the breach of duty directly caused the fatal injury. For example, if your loved one was injured in a car wreck, but later died due to a completely unrelated heart attack, the cause of death wouldn’t be attributed to the breach of duty of the other driver.

Finally, there must be real damages. This is often the easiest element to prove. Real damages means you suffered financial loss due to your loved one’s death, such as medical bills, lost inheritance, loss of earning capacity, and more.

Families of Wrongful Death Victims Have Legal Rights

If you have lost a loved one due to wrongful death, it may be that the negligence of a manufacturer, pharmaceutical company, or medical staff was to blame. Families whose loved ones were killed because of negligence on the part of a corporation or individual may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the parties responsible for this incident.

At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we have tried numerous cases to verdict and have settled many more, including cases involving medical malpractice, defective drugs or medical products, car and trucking accidents, and unsafe commercial products. Our Texas wrongful death attorneys have the experience and financial resources to handle personal injury cases from start to finish. In many instances, our firm has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars on behalf of our clients in order to take a case to trial.

With few exceptions, you and your family will have two years from the time of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. That’s why it’s so important to speak with an experienced wrongful death lawyer in Texas as soon as possible after your loved one dies due to someone else’s actions or negligence.

To speak with a lawyer about your case and find out if you may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim, contact Heygood, Orr & Pearson for a free legal consultation. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out our online contact form today.

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