What if a Family Member Dies in an Auto Accident?
If you lost a loved one in a Texas car crash, you are dealing with a terrible emotional loss compounded by financial uncertainty. How will the bills be paid? Will your children be able to send their children to college?
Fortunately, a Fort Worth car accident attorney can help you file a wrongful death lawsuit if your family dies in a car accident caused by someone else. A lawsuit settlement or favorable verdict will not bring your loved one back but will help you recover and rebuild. Learn more about car accident wrongful death lawsuits, then talk to The Francis Firm for more information.
What Is Considered a ‘Wrongful Death?
According to the Legal Information Institute, a wrongful death occurs when a family dies in a car accident because of another party’s unintended or intended negligence. Negligence means the person or entity was careless, wrongful, or reckless. In some cases negligence can be criminal, but that’s a separate matter from a wrongful death lawsuit.
Even with this precise definition, you may be unsure if your loved one’s death was wrong.’ A brief consultation with a car accident attorney in Dallas can tell you if there is a reason to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Some dangerous driving actions that could be the basis of a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Sudden lane changes
- No signaling lane changes
- Making illegal turns
- Ignoring red lights and stop signs
- Driving an unsafe vehicle
A vehicle defect causes some car accidents. If your loved one’s vehicle had a safety defect, a product liability attorney might assist you. For example, if a tire failure or defective brake disc caused the accident, you could hold the car or part manufacturer liable in a lawsuit.
Possible Wrongful Death Damages
If you hire a Southlake car accident attorney to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you could receive damages that account for the total value of the deceased’s life. The damages may include tangible losses such as:
- Medical costs from the deceased’s injuries in the car accident
- Lost earnings
- Lost earnings in the future
- Funeral and burial costs
The above damages are simple to calculate because there are bills and receipts for those expenses. However, a wrongful death lawsuit after a car accident also may have the following general damages:
- Pain and suffering your loved one sustained when they died
- Mental suffering they may have endured
- Loss of care and companionship
The grieving family might also sue for punitive damages if the at-fault driver was reckless or showed ill intent. For example, a drunk driver intoxicated well beyond the legal limit can sometimes be sued for punitive damages to punish them for reckless conduct.
Proving Negligence in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The family must prove in a wrongful death lawsuit that the defendant’s negligence caused the car accident. It isn’t enough to say the other driver caused the death; it must be proven in court by a preponderance of the evidence. Your car accident attorney needs to prove negligence by showing:
- The driver had a reasonable duty of care not to harm others while driving.
- The driver breached the duty of care and caused your loved one’s death.
- The breach of duty resulted in damages for you.
You may receive compensation for losing your loved one if you prove these principles. However, proving wrongful death can be complex. First, your attorney must gather evidence that proves the above points.
The process may involve bringing in expert witnesses who testify to what happened and how the defendant is responsible. Court experts are expensive, but your lawyer will take those expenses from the settlement if the action is successful.
Also, most wrongful death plaintiffs do not pay upfront legal expenses. However, the lawyer’s compensation is also taken from the settlement if the case is settled successfully.
Who Can File a Texas Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The Texas wrongful death statute says the only ones legally allowed to file the lawsuit are:
- The surviving spouse
- The children of the person who died
- The parents of the person who died
The deceased's grandparents, brothers, and sisters cannot file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas. However, the abovementioned can file a joint or separate wrongful death case. If none of those named above file a lawsuit within three months after the person dies, the estate executor can file.
If the lawsuit is successful, the damages are divided among eligible family members in proportion to the damages they have endured. The jury or judge decides the ratios after listening to testimony from the family.
Texas Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Lawsuits
The state requires that wrongful death actions be filed within two years of the person’s death. There are rare exceptions to the rule, but it is always best to talk to a car accident attorney as soon as possible after your loved one’s passing.
Wrongful Death Claims vs. Survival Claims
A wrongful death claim isn’t the same under Texas law as a survival claim. A survival claim depends on a lawsuit being in process when the person is still living.
For instance, your family might file a survival action and a wrongful death lawsuit if the person did not die immediately. But on the other hand, perhaps the deceased suffered severe car accident injuries but took three weeks to pass.
If that happens, the family and estate could receive pain and suffering compensation because of the suffering the person endured before death.
Contact Dallas Car Accident Lawyers Today
It would be devastating if your family died in a car accident because of someone’s negligence. Not only are you dealing with the emotional loss, but many left behind also have the financial stress of losing the home's breadwinner. The Dallas car accident lawyers at The Francis Firm can help by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. You could be eligible for compensation for burial and funeral costs, emotional and mental anguish, loss of inheritance, and more. Contact us today for more information.