Texas: Fatal Car Accidents and Wrongful Death Claims

Learn about the legal options available to the family of a deceased loved one who was killed in a car accident.

What happens if someone is killed in a car accident? Texas’s wrongful death lawsuit gives the right to the deceased’s family to seek compensation.

When a family member is killed in a car accident, one of the first questions they ask is:

What could have possibly caused this?

If you answer this question with negligence or another wrongful act of another driver, then the concept is called wrongful death.

This article will examine fatal car accidents and wrongful deaths claims in Texas.

Fatal car accident statistics

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, in 2017, the fatality rate for Texas roads was 1.36 deaths per 100,000,000 vehicle miles.

Although it may not seem like much, this is one person per 2 hours and 21 seconds.

One person dies in a Texas car accident every 21 minutes.

Texas is the state with the highest number of fatal car accidents. These are just a few of the other alarming statistics about deadly car accidents:

  • Texas roads were not without death in 2017.
  • 40% of those who died in car accidents were not wearing their seatbelts when the accident occurred.
  • 28% of those killed in car accidents were involved in crashes where the driver was impaired by alcohol.
  • 761 people died in car accidents that occurred at intersections
  • 449 people died in accidents involving distracted driving

Car accidents that result in death

The number of car accidents has been steadily increasing in recent years. However, the percentage of fatalities has fallen slightly. This is due to improved safety technology in cars, such as airbag placement, frame construction, and crumple zones.

But fatal car crashes remain a frequent occurrence. The downward trend does not mean much to the loved ones of those involved in car accidents.

These are the most common causes of fatal car accidents in Texas:

  • Driving under the influence
  • Reckless driving
  • Road defects
  • Distracted driving
  • Vehicle defects
  • Dangerous weather conditions

What is a wrongful-death case?

A person can file a personal injury lawsuit to seek damages if another person’s negligence injures them.

What happens if the person is dead due to a negligent, wrongful act?

Here is where a wrongful-death claim comes in. Texas allows family members to step in the deceased’s shoes and sue them for damages.

Texas allows anyone to file a wrongful death claim.

The only persons who can file a wrongful death action under the Texas wrongful-death statute are:

  • Spouse of the deceased
  • Children of the dead (including legally adopted children).
  • Parents of the deceased (adoptive parents included)

The deceased’s grandparents and siblings can file a wrongful death claim in Texas. All eligible family members can file cases either individually or collectively.

If the individuals eligible to bring a case for wrongful deaths have not filed the action within three months of the death, the executor of the deceased (the person appointed by the will of the deceased) can file and prosecute an action unless the persons allowed to file a wrongful-death action request that the executor ceases filing a claim.

What evidence must be presented?

A surviving family member can file a wrongful death claim to replace the deceased. The family member must prove the deceased’s liability in the same manner as the deceased if the accident happened.

If the victim were killed by a person running red lights, the surviving relatives would need to prove negligence.

What damages are possible under a wrongful-death claim?

Although no amount of money can replace the grief and pain caused by a fatal car crash, filing a wrongful death claim can help ensure that your loved ones are financially supported so you can grieve and heal.

Texas’s wrongful death damages are meant to reimburse the victim’s loved ones for any financial loss they suffered due to the death of the victim.

In the event of a fatal car crash, families and individuals may be entitled to compensation for the following damages:

  • Funeral/burial costs
  • Past treatment costs – Medical expenses
  • Future earnings and income projections could be lost
  • Loss of companionship/consortium (spouse)
  • Loss of love, care (children/dependent).
  • The two most painful things in life are suffering and pain.

In wrongful death cases, Texas law allows for exemplary damages, also known as punitive damages. Exemplary damages can only be awarded if the wrongful death was caused by an intentional act, omission, or gross negligence. Exemplary damages are not intended to compensate the victim’s family but to punish the offender.

Notably, the damages in a wrongful death action are not subject to the deceased’s debts. The debtors can’t collect money that you recover in a lawsuit for wrongful death if the deceased was in debt.

In a wrongful-death lawsuit, how are damages split among relatives?

In Texas, in wrongful death cases, damages are awarded to victims. They’re then divided between the survivors in proportion to the injuries they sustained. The judge or jury will usually decide these proportions after hearing extensive testimonies from surviving relatives and other witnesses.

Texas Statute of Limitations in Wrongful Death Cases

Texas law requires that all wrongful-death lawsuits be filed within two years after the victim’s death unless an exception is made. It would help if you did not rely on any rare exceptions. Instead, seek out an experienced wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible to determine when and if you should file your claim.

Is a survival claim equivalent to a wrongful-death claim?

A survival claim is distinct from a wrongful-death claim. A survival claim is one that was made while the deceased was alive.

If the deceased died not immediately, a survival action might be appropriate. In this situation, the deceased’s estate would be entitled to pain and suffering damages based on the suffering they suffered before their death.

Do not waste time meeting with an experienced La Porte personal injury attorney if your loved one was killed in a car crash in La Porte.Texas: Fatal Car Accidents and Wrongful Death Claims