Last month, an eight-year-old boy was killed in Brownwood, Texas, after being struck by a vehicle that fled the scene. The driver of the vehicle was later identified, arrested, and charged with intoxication manslaughter and failure to stop and render aid, both second-degree felonies. In addition to the criminal charges related to the child’s death, the hit-and-run driver may also face civil wrongful death charges from the boy’s family. He could be ordered to pay considerable damages to the boy’s parents.
If you lost a loved one in a car accident, you may be able to hold the at-fault driver responsible through a wrongful death lawsuit. You may have the right to bring a wrongful death suit whether or not the other driver was charged or convicted of a crime.
Texas Hit and Run Law
It is illegal in Texas to leave the scene of an accident. The Texas vehicle code requires that anyone involved in a collision that results in property damage, personal injuries, or death stop the vehicle, exchange information, and render reasonable assistance to those who are hurt, which may include calling an ambulance or taking the person to the hospital. If a driver is involved in an accident in which someone is possibly hurt and drives away from the scene before fulfilling their legal duties, then that driver can be charged with a third-degree felony. If a victim of the crash is killed, the hit and run driver will be charged with a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Accident May Lead to Wrongful Death Claim
When a hit and run driver kills someone during a crash, they may be both criminally and civilly liable. A prosecutor will determine whether or not to charge the driver with failure to stop and render aid. However, the victim’s family or estate can decide to file a wrongful death claim no matter happens with the criminal charges. A wrongful death claim exists if the person who was killed would have had a cause of action arising from the accident if they had only been injured. Under Texas law, the surviving spouse, children, or parents of the victim can bring the cause of action. However, if none of them files the claim within three months of the victim’s death, then the executor of the victim’s estate can do so.
The family can seek actual damages, such as medical expenses and funeral costs. They can also seek punitive damages if the victim was killed due to an intentional act or gross negligence. Whatever the family is awarded in compensation, it will be divided into shares for each of the family member’s entitled to recover.
Contact the Bettersworth Law Firm for Help
If you lost a loved one in a car accident, do not hesitate to seek legal advice. While you may hope that the criminal charges will bring you justice, it is possible that the driver will not be charged, will be acquitted, or will be given a light sentence. Also, a criminal conviction will not help you manage the financial consequences of a family member’s death. A civil wrongful death suit can help you pay for the medical and funeral expenses caused by the crash. It can also compensate you for the income and care you would have received in the future from your loved one. To learn more about filing a wrongful death claim in Texas, contact the passionate New Braunfels personal injury attorneys at the Bettersworth Law Firm today.