If you have lost a loved one in a fatal car accident, you may be struggling with grief and loss, as well as trying to manage the stress of medical bills, insurance claims, funeral arrangements, and more.
It can be heartbreaking to deal with both the personal loss as well as the financial hardship caused by a car accident death. Grieving family members may have the legal right to sue for wrongful death, and need an expert Austin wrongful death attorney to help them understand their rights and recover from their loss.
When is a Fatal Car Accident Considered Wrongful Death?
If you have been injured in a car accident, you may have the right to recover damages for your injuries. If a loved one or family member has died in a car accident, you may also be able to sue for wrongful death and recover damages from the other party. However, not every fatal car accident is a wrongful death. Here are some of the factors necessary for a motor vehicle wrongful death claim:
- Driver negligence. Drivers have a legal obligation to drive responsibly and take reasonable care to prevent accidents. If a driver fails to take reasonable care, they may be guilty of negligence. Some of the actions that are considered driver negligence include:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Distracted driving
- Reckless driving
- Driving without a license
- Failure to obey the “rules of the road” such as speed limits, stop signs, lane indicators, etc.
- Dangerous roadway. In some cases, fatal car accidents can be caused by dangerous road and highway conditions, and not by the actions of another driver. Dangerous roadway wrongful death claims in Texas are complex and can be difficult to prove. If you lost a loved one in a fatal accident due to hazardous road conditions, it’s important to talk with a qualified Texas wrongful death attorney to determine whether you have a claim.
- Evidence. In the case of a fatal car accident, the victim cannot testify for themselves. Instead, the case relies on gathering a wide range of evidence, including:
- Witness testimony
- Police reports
- Accident scene and vehicle photographs
- Driver statements
- Surveillance video
The process of gathering evidence can be difficult and time-consuming, but it is absolutely necessary in order to prove a car accident wrongful death claim.
Who Can Sue for a Wrongful Death Car Accident?
The legal rights of family members to sue for wrongful death vary from state to state. In Texas, only the parents, children, or spouse of the deceased are allowed to file a wrongful death claim. These family members are also allowed to file a claim on another’s behalf (a surviving spouse can sue for wrongful death on behalf of the children, for example). In some cases, the administrator or executor of the deceased’s estate may also be able to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the family.
What Kind of Recovery is Possible for a Car Accident Wrongful Death Claim?
In Texas, there are three kinds of possible recovery for a car accident wrongful death claim. Here is an overview of the types of recovery possible:
- Wrongful death damage recovery. If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another, you are entitled to the recovery of certain damages. These damages are meant to compensate you for the loss of the financial support and contributions of your family member, funeral, and other expenses, as well as emotional loss and pain.
- Survival action claim. A survival action is filed by a loved one on behalf of the deceased person’s estate, rather than on their own behalf. It is meant to compensate the estate for expenses incurred prior to death, including their medical expenses, lost wages and benefits, and pain and suffering. Upon recovery, these expenses are paid to the estate, to be distributed by the executor according to the will.
- Punitive damages. In cases of gross negligence, the court may also award punitive damages. This is not compensation for any loss or expense. Instead, it is an additional cost meant to punish the person responsible for the accident, and discourage negligence in other people.
A survival action claim makes it possible to begin a personal injury lawsuit when a person is injured in a car accident, and then, if the victim passes away, continue the same suit as a wrongful death claim. It ensures that the surviving family members are still allowed to recover all the damages they would have recovered if the victim had lived. The state of Texas has a statute of limitations on both personal injury and wrongful death claims, so it is important to speak with a qualified attorney as soon as possible.
How Can Aaron Allison Help?
Since 1978, the Aaron Allison Law Firm has been helping victims of car accidents and their families. We know how to fight for your rights, and hold negligent drivers accountable for their actions. Aaron Allison’s years of experience in Texas personal injury and wrongful death claims provides the expertise to understand your rights from the moment you were wronged, and guide you through the entire process. Contact us for a free consultation today.