A car accident with the words, "wrongful death in car accidents."

In 2020, approximately 3,896 deaths due to vehicle accidents were reported on Texas roads. In some cases, death occurred on impact; in other cases, the victim survived long enough to receive medical treatment but ultimately succumbed to their injuries. In every case, these deaths are tragic. No one feels the loss more than the loved ones who are left behind to pick up the pieces. The emotional and financial strain resulting from these tragedies can be overwhelming, and many individuals do not know where to turn for help. 

The trusted car accident attorneys at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. have taken the time to create this article to give individuals the information they need to respond in this horrible situation. Here are the actions that should be taken if your loved one dies due to a car accident.

Compensation After a Death From a Car Accident

Car accidents are horrible in every sense of the word. The damage and injuries that often result have the potential to completely alter the victim’s life. Compensation from the responsible party of the accident can ease the financial burden caused by the accident, which is why many victims seek it out. However, when that victim dies due to the injuries from their accident, the way compensation can be claimed changes.

While money is definitely not the first thing that many loved ones think about after the tragic death of a loved one, it is something they will eventually have to face. Medical bills, funeral expenses, and overcoming the loss of household income should not be left solely to the deceased’s family to figure out on their own. This is why Texas law protects these individuals by allowing them to seek out compensation through a wrongful death claim.

Understanding Wrongful Death Lawsuits for Car Accidents

A cracked windshield after a car accident.

When it comes to wrongful death lawsuits for a personal injury case, there can only be one lawsuit filed for the individual who was killed. Only the personal representative of the deceased’s estate is allowed the right to file the lawsuit on behalf of the spouse, children, or the parents of the deceased.

Any damages awarded from the lawsuit will be distributed according to the deceased individual’s will. If there is no will, the court will appoint an administrator of the estate to determine how it will be distributed; this is typically a surviving spouse, parent, or child.

Individuals can seek compensation in a wrongful death claim for the following damages;

  • Medical expenses
  • Reasonable funeral and burial expenses
  • Lost income the deceased would have provided survivors
  • Pain and suffering the individual suffered before death
  • Loss of the deceased person’s services, protection, care, or assistance
  • Loss of companionship or guidance

Will the Responsible Driver Face Criminal Charges?

Most car accidents are a direct result of the reckless actions of one or more drivers. When those actions result in an accident that causes the death of someone else, the negligent driver may be charged with a criminal offense, such as vehicular manslaughter.

It is important to note that not every car accident that results in death will find the at-fault driver is also criminally liable. Instead, the decision of whether to charge the negligent driver with a crime is left up to the district attorney. The attorney will assess a wide variety of factors to determine whether the driver understood that their actions could potentially cause death. The following instances may increase the chance that the responsible driver will be charged criminally:

  • The accident was a result of the negligent driver being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • The driver knowingly drove recklessly and ignored traffic laws.
  • There were no factors outside of the driver’s control that caused the accident, such as poor road conditions or an unpredictable mechanical failure.

Can There Be More Than One Liable Party?

A gavel is on a desk in front of a bookshelf.

To file a wrongful death claim, there has to be a liable party to seek compensation from. This means that the accident must have been the direct result of the wrongful actions of someone other than the deceased individual.

In most cases, this is generally the driver who was considered to have legal liability for the accident along with their insurance policy. However, the team at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. knows that oftentimes, there are more parties responsible for the accident. Our team investigates the entirety of the accident to determine whether or not there are additional parties who may be at fault for the accident. This includes investigating whether the accident was caused in part by the following:

Mechanical Failure

We expect our cars to be sound when we are on the road, but sometimes mechanical failures and defects make the car unreasonably dangerous. If a car accident occurred due to a defect or improper inspection from the manufacturer resulting in part failure, this could place partial liability on them. For the manufacturer to be held responsible though, it must be proven that the defect resulted in the accident that resulted in the death of someone else. 

This is true for auto-mechanics as well. They may face liability if the repairs they performed or failed to perform played a part in the accident.

A Restaurant or Bar Overserved Alcohol

Under Texas law, it is illegal for a server of a restaurant or bar to serve alcohol to an individual who is already clearly intoxicated. This is known as the Dram Shop Law. Bars or restaurants that violate this law may be charged with partial responsibility in a wrongful death lawsuit due to a fatal accident.

The Employer of the Negligent Driver

Texas places the legal responsibility for the actions of employees on the employer while they are on the job. If a commercial driver is negligent and causes a fatal car accident, then the driver’s employer may also be considered liable. This is generally the case when the employer’s actions may have had a direct effect on the accident, such as sending a driver out who isn’t certified or sending out a vehicle in poor condition.

Our Compassionate Wrongful Death Attorneys Are Here for You

The team at the Hernandez law Group understands that it can be difficult to navigate and process not only your emotions about the accident, but also the legal actions of a wrongful death claim. Losing a loved one can shatter your whole world. That’s why the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. works hard to ensure that our clients get the compensation they deserve. Our team is made up of compassionate lawyers who have years of experience. We focus on getting the compensation you deserve so you can focus on healing with your family. For more information on wrongful death lawsuit claims, or to schedule a free no-obligation consultation, contact our team today!