On July 4, a massive crash sent three people, including a child, to the hospital as an SUV making a left turn onto East Cheryl Drive pushed a sedan into a light pole. The sedan driver was pronounced dead at the scene, while the other driver and two passengers were taken to nearby hospitals. While as of this writing, no charges have been filed, it is very possible that the SUV driver could face a wrongful death suit if they are fortunate enough to recover from their own injuries.
Wrongful Death in Texas
Texas has a very comprehensive wrongful death statute, allowing for two different possible causes of action, depending on the nature of the death involved. A wrongful death action is a claim in negligence law that is brought against the person alleged to have caused the death, for actual damages and in rare cases, for what are called exemplary or punitive damages. Actual damages are damages that stem directly from a death, such as loss of companionship or quality of life, general mental anguish, medical or care bills, and funeral expenses.
A survival action is the other type of case that may be brought in a situation such as the East Cheryl Drive incident, and it is brought by the deceased person’s estate or personal representative for any cause of action that the person might have brought if they had survived the crash (hence the name). Survival actions are thus not technically brought over causes of action directly relating to a person’s death, but rather to mount the cause of action the deceased would have mounted. For example, the deceased sedan driver might have been able to bring a claim for negligence against the SUV driver, so a survival action based on this incident would also be based on negligence.
Proving Wrongful Death
In order to show the necessary criteria to prevail in a survival action, the estate or personal representative that brought the action must prove the required points of the underlying action. For example, if someone brings a survival action based in negligence law, the plaintiff would have to prove everything that must be shown in a negligence action, and they must be able to do so while showing that comparative negligence does not bar recovery – that is, that the plaintiff was not more than 50 percent at fault for their own injuries.
Prevailing in a wrongful death action is somewhat different, in that one must also be able to show that they are a statutory beneficiary of the deceased person, which does not apply to everyone. Under current Texas law, only the parents, spouse, and children of the deceased is able to bring a wrongful death action – other near family members such as siblings or stepparents may not currently do so, which can feel very unfair. Unfortunately, there is currently very little recourse for someone in that position.
Ask a Wrongful Death Attorney for Help
While as of this writing, no charges have been brought regarding the events on East Cheryl Drive, it is an option in a fatal accident, especially if the deceased is the breadwinner for their family. If you have been in such a position or are experiencing a tragedy like this, contacting an experienced attorney can be of help at such a difficult time. The dedicated New Braunfels wrongful death attorneys at the Bettersworth Law Firm are happy to try and assist you with your case. Contact us today to set up an initial consultation.