If someone dies in a crash, that fatal car accident may also be a wrongful death case. Wrongful death is when someone dies due to the negligent or intentional actions of another party. When a distracted, aggressive, or drunk driver causes a negligent accident that kills someone, a legal claim can be made against them for wrongful death. In fact, car and other motor vehicle accidents are probably the most common reasons people file wrongful death claims in Texas, where more than 3,500 people die every year on our roadways.
To be successful in a wrongful death claim for a car accident fatality, you must prove to the insurance company or court that the other driver’s negligence led to the accident and death. But first you must be a survivor who is eligible to file a wrongful death claim.
Who Can File a Fatal Car Accident Wrongful Death Claim?
In Texas, spouses, children, and parents of people killed in car accidents can file wrongful death claims. This includes adoptive parents and children. These survivors can file separately or together. If they decide not to file, the personal representative of the deceased person can file on behalf of the estate. Grandparent, siblings, aunts and uncles, and other family members are not permitted to file for wrongful death in this state.
Damages for Wrongful Death in a Car Accident
Wrongful death claims ask for damages to compensate survivors and the estate for losses from the death. Damages you might be able to get for wrongful death in a car accident include:
- Payment for your family member’s medical bills related to the accident
- Reimbursement for funeral and burial expenses
- Lost wages and lost future earning capacity of your loved one
- Lost inheritance
- Lost love, support, and companionship
- Pain, suffering, and emotional anguish caused by the death.
Every case is different. To learn what you could potentially claim in your wrongful death case, you should talk to an experienced Texas car accident attorney. After carefully reviewing all the elements of your case, an attorney can advise you about damages to claim. They can also help you determine how much compensation to pursue.
Who Can I Sue in a Wrongful Death Claim?
Texas Statute 71.001 says a wrongful death claim can be brought when another party causes a death through their “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.” While in most cases, it is other drivers who cause accidents through their negligence, sometimes other parties might also be liable. Here are some instances of other parties who may be liable in wrongful death lawsuits:
- The trucking company or other company that employs a driver who caused an accident
- Car makers that manufacture and sell defective vehicles
- Auto parts manufacturers that sell parts that break and cause accidents
- A government agency that neglects to fix a hazardous roadway
- A designer or construction company of a faulty roadway
- The bar that overserved a patron who went on to kill someone in a drunk driving crash.
Who can be held liable will depend on all the individual circumstances of your case. Sometimes in multi-vehicle crashes, more than one driver may be liable. A skilled attorney can examine all the facts of your case to determine who is at fault for your family member’s death.
How Does a Fatal Car Accident Wrongful Death Claim Work?
When you bring a claim for wrongful death to get justice for your family member, your attorney, if you have one, will first negotiate with the insurance company of the at-fault driver or other party. If a fair settlement offer isn’t made by the at-fault party’s insurance company, or if the responsible party says they didn’t caused the accident, your only option may be to litigate your case all the way to a trial. The outcome will be decided by a judge or jury.
It is always helpful to work with an attorney even when filing a claim with insurers, especially in wrongful death cases when you are already faced with emotional upheaval from your loved one’s death. Car accident attorneys understand the insurance system and know how to negotiate with insurance adjusters and insurance company lawyers. If your case enters litigation or eventually goes to court, an attorney will be there every step of the way to answer your questions and guide you through what is a confusing and stressful process.
How Long Will My Car Accident Wrongful Death Case Take to Resolve?
Generally, wrongful death cases that are settled with insurers outside of court are resolved faster. Depending on how willing the at-fault party and their insurer are to settle, it could take just a few months to a year or longer. Cases that are litigated often take much longer because there is more evidence to gather, witnesses to be interviewed, and expert witnesses to identify who will testify during the trial. Many things must also be scheduled, and if the court’s schedule is full, that can cause delays. Sometimes a wrongful death claim can take several years to fully resolve.
How Negligent Drivers Cause Car Accident Fatalities
Some of the most common causes of car accidents that result in fatalities are distracted driving, drunk driving, and aggressive driving. Distracted driving includes texting and talking on cell phones. Aggressive drivers are those that speed, run stoplights, weave in and out of traffic, and otherwise drive dangerously. Drivers in Texas are officially drunk when their blood alcohol level is at or over .08.
If your family member died in a crash caused by a drunk, distracted, aggressive, or otherwise poor driver, get the guidance of a skilled Houston wrongful death attorney. The compensation you may be able to get won’t ease your grief, but it can help relieve your financial stress.
Get Help from a Compassionate Houston Car Accident Lawyer
Losing a loved one is emotionally devastating, no matter how it happened. When the death was caused by a careless and negligent driver or other party, it makes the emotional trauma even worse. You probably feel anger, frustration, and confusion about what to do next. Let us help you so you can focus on your family and your own grief. We’ll take away the complex work of filing a claim, investigating the evidence and holding the responsible party accountable.
Call the compassionate attorneys at the accident and injury law office of Terry Bryant for a free consultation about your wrongful death case. We can be reached at (713) 973-8888, or toll-free 1 (800) 444-5000. Although we are Houston-based, we are equipped to handle serious cases throughout the entire state of Texas.