A U.S. Border Patrol agent and two other people died after an accident on Christmas Day 2017 in Uvalde, southwest of San Antonio. The accident occurred when a wild pig struck an SUV, causing it to swerve into oncoming traffic. The status of three other passengers in the vehicles is unknown as of this writing, but two of the casualties were pronounced dead at the scene, while the other passed in hospital some hours later. As one might imagine, there is no conceivable way to foresee such an accident, which can make any sort of wrongful death suit difficult to mount.
A Standard Texas Wrongful Death Suit
Wrongful death as defined in Texas law is when the “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default” of one person causes the death of someone else. There are technically two types of wrongful death action in Texas – a true wrongful death suit, which is brought on behalf of the spouse, children and/or parents of the deceased, and a survival action, which is an action for personal injury that the deceased would have been able to bring had they remained alive.
Damages in a survival action are restricted to the damages that the injured person would have been able to receive had they survived – for example, if the deceased died in an auto accident, the damages might be the amount they might reasonably have been paid in medical bills, as well as lost wages and assorted expenses incurred when recuperating from an injury. In a true wrongful death action, damages are necessarily a bit more speculative, encompassing categories like pain and suffering, lost companionship and lost earning potential (as a breadwinner for the household).
The Issue of Foreseeability
One issue to keep in mind during a survival action in particular is that foreseeability may be an issue. The concept of foreseeability is a legal doctrine that holds that in order to hold someone liable for injuries caused, their actions must have foreseeably contributed to the harm suffered – the rationale is that no one can be held responsible for freak accidents because if they could have been prevented, they would have been. Personal injury cases have an element of foreseeability contained within – one criterion a plaintiff must show in proving their case is that the defendant’s action was the foreseeable cause of the harm they suffered – and survival actions are almost exclusively personal injury cases.
In the accident in Uvalde, a case can most definitely be made that the accident was unforeseeable – despite wild pigs being a known problem for farmers and the cause of significant damage to crops, no reasonable person would anticipate that multiple deaths would result from a wild hog running into traffic. However, without foreseeability, a survival action may be impossible to mount, because a good defense attorney may be able to allege that the defendant’s conduct was not the cause of the deceased’s injuries, but rather, the pig’s actions were. If you are involved in an accident with an unusual event or actor, it may be a better choice to try to mount a true wrongful death action, even though the damages may be lesser or different.
Call Our Auto Accident Lawyers Today
While no one can prevent wild pigs crossing Texas freeways, it may be possible to avoid accidents with many other actors. The skilled New Braunfels accident attorneys at the Bettersworth Law Firm are ready, willing and able to help you with your particular situation. Contact the office today to set up an initial appointment.