Determining Negligence In Houston Wrongful Death Claims

Proving a wrongful death claim requires the survivors to establish that the defendant’s act or omission led to the deceased’s death. Death does not have to be immediate, and the act or omission does not have to be the only cause of death.

Negligence is a legal term linked to the duty the person owed to the deceased, and it is very fact-specific. It depends not only on the facts of the case but also on the relationship between the victim and the wrongdoer. If you are not sure whether you have a claim, contact our trusted team for help determining negligence in Houston wrongful death claims.

Establishing Legal Negligence in Wrongful Death Claims

A wrongful death claim differs from most other personal injury claims. Plaintiffs do not bring wrongful death claims by or for the victim but for their own benefit after a victim has died. Proving the elements of negligence is the same, except that the plaintiff does not have to establish that the defendant owed them a duty of care. Instead, they have to establish that the defendant owed the deceased a duty.

Proving four elements—duty, an act or omission, causation, and damages–is critical to any personal injury claim. Missing even one of these elements will render the claim invalid.

Duty of Care

Duty can be a confusing concept for many people because they think of duty as something resulting from a personal relationship. A personal relationship is not necessary to establish a legal duty—legal duty means that people are required to conform to a certain standard. Drivers must conform to the laws and rules of the road. Property owners have to keep their property free from hazards for invitees. Those are examples of general duties. People may also have specific duties of care. For example, a doctor must conform to medical standards when treating a patient.

Act or Omission

After establishing that a person had a duty to the deceased, showing that the person failed to fulfill that duty is next. The failure can be an act or omission. For example, speeding and causing an accident that leads to the deceased’s death is an act that violates a driver’s duty to follow the law. Failing to diagnose a medical condition would be an omission of the doctor’s duty to a patient.


It is not enough to show that a party was negligent—the negligence has to be the cause of death. For example, a speeding driver who was in their lane, then hit by the deceased driving the wrong way in that lane would probably not be responsible for the accident. Likewise, if a person caused an accident that injured the deceased, but the deceased died of cancer, the accident might not be the cause of the injury. These scenarios can become complicated because an accident or incident could be the cause of death for fragile people.


Finally, the survivors have to establish damages. The survivors have to demonstrate that the death led to harm for them. The court will not assume that the death of a loved one is damage—the survivors have to prove those damages. They can establish economic damages based on the financial harm resulting from the death. They can also establish non-economic damages that have to do with things like loss of companionship.

Other Proof in Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful death claims require an additional element. The survivors have to prove their relationship with the deceased. Usually, proving this relationship is easy. Survivors can use birth certificates or adoption papers to prove parent/child relationships and marriage certificates to prove that they are spouses.

Sometimes, proving the relationship can be more complicated. For example, Texas recognizes common-law marriages. For a person without a wedding certificate to collect as a spousal survivor, they will have to show that the spouses agreed to be married, lived as spouses, and told others that they were married. Proving this relationship can be crucial evidence in a Houston wrongful death claim.

Learn More About Determining Negligence in Houston Negligent Death Claims

A wrongful death claim requires proving negligence. Without that proof, the court cannot rule in favor of survivors, no matter how compelling the claim may be. An experienced wrongful death attorney can help survivors gather the evidence they need to prove negligence. Schedule a consultation to learn more about determining negligence in Houston wrongful death claims.

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