On the night of August 10, a serious vehicle crash on San Antonio’s far west side killed one and sent four to the hospital with life-threatening and critical injuries. A young woman was arrested and later charged with intoxication manslaughter and assault, but there have also been unsubstantiated rumors that the family of the deceased may file a wrongful death suit against her. If you are unfortunate enough to lose a loved one in a car crash, it is important to understand your options in terms of seeking compensation for your loss.
Two Types of Wrongful Death
Under Texas law, there are two types of wrongful death lawsuits, though only one type may generally be brought in any one case. A standard wrongful death action, alleging negligence and seeking compensation for a defendant’s conduct in causing the death, can be brought only by certain specific family members of the deceased person – in all but the rarest exceptions, the spouse, parents, and children are the only ones who can bring suit. This does exclude siblings and other family members, which can be unfair, but the state’s rationale is that restricting the ability to bring suit to immediate family can help minimize opportunism (that is, bringing suit on behalf of a relative who played no role in that person’s life and whose passing did not truly injure the person).
Conversely, a survival action must be brought by the executor or personal representative of the deceased person’s estate, though it may be brought for the benefit of that same family. A survival action is a suit brought to try and recover for any causes of action that the deceased person would have had if they had survived. For example, if someone is killed in an auto accident, a survival action might seek to recover for lost wages, medical bills, and any other expense that the deceased might have been able to seek had they merely been injured.
The Statute of Limitations Matters
One important factor in deciding whether or not to bring a wrongful death case in Texas must be the statute of limitations. With very rare exceptions, a wrongful death case or survival action must be filed in Texas within two years of the decedent’s passing. This may seem like a relatively short period, but over time, memories tend to decay, and reports may be lost – as the years pass, it would be much harder to determine who was telling the truth and who was not.
Sometimes, this time limit can cause concern for a family that wishes to file for wrongful death, because the person will also face criminal charges, such as in the case of the driver arrested after the Loop 1604 wreck. However, this does not necessarily mean that it is impossible to file a civil suit – indeed, having criminal proceedings occur first, as they often do, can actually help a civil case, because sometimes a doctrine called collateral estoppel can be used to simply admit all the facts from the criminal trial into the civil case, which can cut down on court time significantly.
Ask Our Wrongful Death Attorneys for Help
While it remains to be seen whether the family of the deceased person from the Loop 1604 wreck will actually file a wrongful death suit, the circumstances of your case may be different than theirs. If you have questions or concerns about filing a wrongful death lawsuit, calling an experienced legal professional for help can go a long way toward easing your mind. The dedicated New Braunfels wrongful death attorneys at the Bettersworth Law Firm can sit down with you and try to ensure your questions are answered. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.