Common Examples of Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful death lawsuits are brought when somebody dies as the result of the negligent actions of another party. These types of claims are typically brought by close family members of the person who has tragically lost their life. Fatal accidents can occur whenever people do not exercise due care, but there are common examples of wrongful death cases which can lead to lawsuits.
More than 40,000 people died in motor vehicle accidents in 2018, according to data from the National Safety Council. Sadly, injuries from road traffic are the number one killer of children and young adults between the ages of 5 and 29, according to the World Health Organization. Fatal car accidents can happen for a variety of reasons:
- Speeding or following too closely
- Distracted driving, especially while using a cell phone
- Driving while drunk or on other drugs
- Failing to yield the right of way
- Running red lights or stop signs
- Unsafe roadway conditions
- Defective car parts or design
We have litigated numerous wrongful death car accidents here at Block O’Toole & Murphy, such as this $3,000,000 settlement for a motorist who passed away after another driver attempted to make a left turn although he did not have the right of way.
Getting behind the wheel of a car is the most dangerous thing most people will ever do. If a motorist does not take this responsibility seriously, fatal car accidents can be the result.
Commercial Truck Accidents
Motor vehicle accidents involving heavy commercial trucks are particularly dangerous. Due to the weight of these vehicles, which can weigh upwards of 25,000 pounds, accidents involving 18-wheelers, box trucks, tractor trailers or garbage trucks have a higher likelihood of causing a fatality than other types of motor vehicles.
Truck accidents can result from driver inattention, speeding or failure to yield right of way, just as a normal car crash can. But truck driving comes with other risk factors that can lead to fatal accidents:
- Overloaded vehicles
- Defective or ineffective brakes
- Jackknife accidents
- Underride accidents
- Over-the-counter drug use, often to help stay awake during long shifts
- Tires that are defective or improperly maintained
Driving a truck is a big responsibility. Drivers must be carefully screened, hired and trained. When trucking companies or truck drivers themselves do not take this responsibility seriously, tragedy can result, as it did in this $5,000,000 settlement after a mother of four was killed by a garbage truck while walking in Manhattan.
Construction and Other Work Accidents
It is the legal obligation of every employer to provide a safe workplace where employees are free from hazards that cause accidents. Unfortunately, sometimes employers opt to cut corners on worker safety in an attempt to save money, particularly in dangerous industries such as construction and manufacturing. When this happens, job hazards can cause fatal accidents that should have been preventable.
In most industries, the leading cause of work fatalities are transportation accidents. After that, the top causes of fatal on-the-job accidents boil down to a few mechanisms:
- Fall accidents, which reached an all-time high in 2017 and are consistently a leading killer of American workers across many occupations
- Falling object accidents, which killed 1,450 workers between 2011 and 2016
- Electrocution accidents, which claimed the lives of 136 workers in 2017
- Caught-in/between accidents, which typically involve heavy machinery and are more common in industries such as manufacturing and construction
- Fires or explosions, which can happen anywhere but can be prevented by proper safety procedures
In this $2,250,000 settlement, an elevator worker was crushed to death while working on an external hoist. His survivors received compensation for his death. Nobody should lose their life while simply trying to earn a living. Unfortunately, it happens far too often in a variety of industries.
Premises Liability Accidents
Property owners have an obligation to provide a safe premises to the people who visit, shop or work at their property, whether it’s a grocery store, shopping mall, apartment building, office, hotel, or other location. It is the responsibility of a property owner to foresee potential hazards that could cause a fatal accident and take preventative measures before an accident can occur.
Common types of premises liability accidents are caused by defects such as:
- Black ice on a sidewalk that leads to a slip and fall
- Inadequate stairwell lighting
- Negligent or a lack of security resulting in violence
- Building code violations
- Fires that start or are made worse due to faulty piping or wiring
In this tragic $1,650,000 settlement for a man killed in an apartment fire, the fire was spread due to a pipe that was not accurately guarded and that violated building code requirements. The victim’s spouse made claims for post-traumatic death syndrome and emotional trauma resulting from the fire, and the case settled just before jury selection.
When property owners fail to anticipate and correct hazards which can cause fatal accidents, they may be held liable for any fatalities that result.
Defective Product Accidents
Companies have a legal obligation to create safe products that work as advertised. When a defect in a product causes an accident, the manufacturer or other parties who sold it may face liability for any fatal accidents.
There are a few kinds of defects that could lead to a fatal product liability case:
- Design defects, or an inherent flaw in the design or intended use of the product
- Manufacturing defects, or a mistake that is made in the actual creation of the product
- Marketing defects, or an error in the product’s labeling, instructions or safety warnings
There are many different types of defective products that can cause fatal accidents, such as high chairs, car seats or medical devices, but the most common type is motor vehicle defects. The most famous example of a vehicle design flaw is the Ford Pinto, which was once built with the fuel tank in front of the rear bumper, creating a potential fire risk which resulted in numerous fatal accidents and a $125 million lawsuit. The vehicles were later recalled, and the case has gone down as an infamous example of the high price of product defects.
Public Transportation Accidents
Public transportation plays a critical role in helping people get to where they need to go in a way that’s cheap, safe and effective. Unfortunately, bus drivers in particular sometimes fail in this duty.
For example, in March 2019, a pedestrian was fatally struck and dragged by an MTA bus driver in Jackson Heights, Queens. In September 2018, an 81-year-old woman was walking within a crosswalk when a bus driver attempted to make a right turn, fatally striking the woman in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.
Publicly employed bus drivers have an obligation to drive their buses safely. Too often, however, that’s simply not the case. A new report from the NY Post shared disturbing safety statistics about MTA bus drivers:
- 340 bus drivers were suspended for running red lights in a 4-year span
- Driver suspensions rose 15% from 2014 to 2017
- 2,520 injuries and 14 fatalities occurred from January 1, 2015 to July 31, 2017
Government employees who cause fatal accidents while operating public transit vehicles are not exempt from wrongful death lawsuits.
Personal injury lawsuits are civil cases, meaning that one citizen files suit against another, rather than a criminal case, where the government accuses somebody of committing a crime. In some cases, it is possible for the survivors of somebody who has been murdered to file a wrongful death lawsuit against somebody who has been accused or charged with the crime.
The most famous example of this is OJ Simpson. Most are familiar with the famous trial that resulted in OJ Simpson being found innocent of double murder. Although Simpson was acquitted of murder, he was later found to be liable for both deaths in civil court when the families filed a wrongful death lawsuit against him.
The reason that Simpson was able to be found innocent of murder but liable in a wrongful death lawsuit is that the “burden of proof” in a criminal homicide case is higher. Guilt in a homicide case requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil wrongful death lawsuit, however, the burden of proof is lower and does not require absolute certainty to find somebody responsible for another person’s death.
Not every family who is forced to endure the emotional trauma of homicide will be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. But it is possible in certain scenarios. As with all other questions of wrongful death lawsuits, you should contact a lawyer so that the facts of your case can be reviewed.
Consult a Wrongful Death Attorney
Fatal accidents can happen whenever people act negligently in potentially dangerous situations. When these tragedies occur, the survivors of the victim are often left with unresolved emotional trauma and financial difficulties that nobody should be forced to deal with.
If you have a family member who was recently killed in an accident that never should have happened, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover compensation. The experienced wrongful death attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy have a proven history of success helping families win the compensation they so badly need and deserve after losing a loved one. Call 212-736-5300 or fill out our contact form to receive a free, no-obligation legal consultation.
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