Four Items You Should Include in a Wrongful Death Case
When another driver is negligent in a way that leads to your family member’s death, you can and should consider options to ensure that the person at fault for the accident is held to account for his or her negligence. Under Texas law, you may have a viable wrongful death action to recover for damages if the person you are suing caused your loved one’s death through “the person’s or his agent’s or servant’s wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.”
Texas law also allows spouses, parents, and children of the deceased to file a claim – with one individual bringing the suit or several surviving families acting in concert. If no family members pursue a case within 3 months and no survivors expressly indicate a desire to forgo a lawsuit, then the deceased’s executor can do so.
If you do decide that you must pursue a wrongful death lawsuit, however, it is important to ensure that you include these four items in your case:
Post-Accident Medical Expenses
If your loved one survived the accident only to later die in the hospital as a result of injuries suffered in the crash, then there may be medical bills that need to be paid. Legally, you can recover those medical expenses in the form of damages if the responsible party can be held to account through a lawsuit. That ensures that the costs for medical care are not left to the deceased’s family to pay – either directly or through the loss of some portion of their inheritance.
Loss of Wage Support
If your loved one’s loss has caused a loss of family income that you rely on for support, that can leave your entire family suffering from a reduced standard of living. The law recognizes that you may have a right to receive compensation for that loss of wage support to ensure that you and other surviving family members are not left without the financial support you need. In addition, an award can include an estimation of the deceased’s future savings and amassed wealth to compensate family members for their lost inheritance.
Pain and Suffering
The loss of a loved one causes emotional pain and suffering that can last for many years. While it is impossible to ever compensate such pain with monetary awards, compensation can still be won through the legal process.
Funerals can be extremely expensive, costing thousands of dollars in many cases. Unless the deceased had already arranged for his or her own funeral prior to the accident and paid for any costs associated with the showing and burial, the family will often have to make accommodations to pay for everything. Because the at-fault driver was responsible for the deceased’s death, funeral expenses can often be recovered during a wrongful death action.
Texas law also allows for possible exemplary damages – often referred to in other areas of the country as so-called punitive damages. These types of damage awards are typically included when there is a need to punish those at fault for a negligent death. The damages not only have a punitive effect on the offender but also serve as a deterrent to others in society.
It is also important to note that an automobile wrongful death case can still be filed even in instances where the state has levied criminal charges against the person responsible for your loved one’s death. In such instances, many families wait until the criminal case is complete before proceeding with their own lawsuit.
Of course, it can be difficult for non-lawyers to understand all of the details governing who can bring a wrongful death suit and what damages can be pursued. To avoid errors and maximize your odds of success, it is always advisable to retain competent counsel for these types of serious legal concerns.
Danger on the Road
Tragically, the loss of our loved ones to accidents on the road is something that happens all too frequently. In 2014, 32,675 people across the United States perished in car and truck crashes. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported that a National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey determined that human factors were at fault in roughly 94% of those fatal crashes. Factors like environmental issues and equipment concerns were found to be at fault in most of the remaining incidents.
Those human factors take on a variety of forms, but the most common appears to be some type of distracted driving. The Chicago Tribune recently reported on a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study that concluded that drivers were distracted prior to accidents in roughly two-thirds of the crashes examined by researchers. These distractions included everything from cell phones to dashboard touchscreens and other activities in the vehicle. Of course, many of these distractions are exacerbated by factors like speeding, and aggressive driving that increase the risk of accidents occurring.
Among the other one-third of fatal crashes, fully 31% of incidents in 2014 involved at least one driver operating under the influence of alcohol. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that drunk drivers kill someone in the United States at an average rate of one every fifty-three minutes.
If you’ve lost a loved one to an automobile accident and want to consider a wrongful death lawsuit, contact an experienced attorney today.