When someone is injured in a car accident, they can file a claim against the other driver’s insurance policy or file a lawsuit against the other driver to recover damages. But what happens when someone is killed in a car accident? In that case, it would be up to the person’s next of kin (usually a spouse) or a representative of the deceased’s estate to file a lawsuit against the negligent party. Wrongful death lawsuits are very similar in many ways to other injury lawsuits, but they also have their own set of rules. In this article, we’ll discuss how you can proceed when a car accident claims the life of a loved one.

Car Accident Fatalities by the Numbers

Texas, being one of the largest states in the U.S., has more fatalities than just about any other state. Someone is killed on Texas roads once every two hours and twenty-one minutes. In 2017, not one day went by without someone losing their life on the road. Twenty-eight percent of all fatalities involved a driver who was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident. A rising number of accidents involve instances of distracted driving, texting while driving, or using a cell phone while driving. Other common causes of fatal accidents include:

  • Road conditions and weather,
  • Vehicle defect (especially old or worn-out tires),
  • Reckless driving,
  • Failing to yield the right of way, and
  • Trying to run a red light at an intersection.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Texas

Texas Statutes 71.001 lays out the rules governing wrongful death lawsuits in Texas. A spouse, children, or parents of a deceased individual may file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf. In other cases, a personal representative of the deceased’s estate may file the lawsuit against the negligent party. The lawsuit must be filed within two years of the deceased’s death. After that period, it may be impossible to recover damages for your loss.

What Damages Can You Recover in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas?

Damages that can be recovered are based on your relationship to the deceased. For instance, a living spouse would be entitled to recover for damages related to their emotional grief, loss of consortium, and loss of companionship. Children would be entitled to recover for their emotional grief and loss of guidance. Both spouses and children would be entitled to recover lost wages and financial support that they no longer have because their loved one is gone. This is prorated over the life expectancy of the deceased.

In most cases, financial compensation resulting from lost wages and income makes up the bulk of the plaintiff’s claim. Emotional or pain and suffering damages can be awarded to any party, but parents of a child who has died in a car accident, cannot sue for lost wages. 

Additionally, the deceased’s estate can recover damages related to their funeral or burial expenses, medical expenses incurred as a result of the accident, and any out-of-pocket expense related to their injuries or death.

Somewhat different from the above is a survival claim. In cases where the deceased did not die right away but instead suffered for weeks or months prior to dying, the family would be entitled to recover for pain and suffering that the deceased endured before they died. 

How a Texas Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help

Filing a wrongful death action against a negligent driver is tricky. Proving negligence can also be difficult. When attempting to show that another party was responsible for your loved one’s death, you must be able to prove that some act of negligence was the direct or indirect cause of their death. 

As an example, let’s say a driver drives home from the bar thinking that they aren’t all that drunk. They get into an accident and another person is killed as a result of that accident. The family of the deceased can show that the driver was driving recklessly because they were drunk, and this resulted in the death of their loved one.

Talk to a Texas Wrongful Death Attorney Today

If your loved one was taken from you prematurely, the attorneys at Brylak Law can help you file a lawsuit to hold the negligent party responsible for your grief. To find out more about what happens when someone is killed in a car accident, call us today for a free consultation.