On October 8, tragedy struck in Bastrop County, when a speeding pickup truck hydroplaned on Texas 95 and struck a sedan with children in the backseat. Three of the sedan’s passengers and the driver were killed, pronounced dead at the scene, two of them juveniles. Another child in the sedan was critically injured, with their fate unknown as of this writing. The pickup driver was in stable condition at an area hospital. While sometimes these types of accidents are unavoidable, many times they are not, and an avoidable tragedy may wind up resulting in significant civil liability for the responsible party. If you are in an auto accident that can be chalked up to another person’s recklessness or negligence, you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries.
Texas Negligence Law
In every negligence case, one has to prove certain things occurred in order to establish that the defendant was actually negligent. One must establish that a duty to exercise reasonable care existed between the plaintiff and the defendant – this is generally stipulated, as past cases have postulated the existence of this duty. It must also be established that the defendant breached that duty of care by their conduct, or lack of conduct (for example, failing to brake in the appropriate amount of time would be considered conduct). That conduct, that breach, must also be shown to have caused actual harm to the plaintiff. Actual harm generally means anything worse than cuts and bruises – broken bones, head injuries, or emotional problems like post-traumatic stress are some common examples.
In the accident on Texas 95, it can be argued that the pickup driver breached the duty to exercise reasonable care because he was speeding (his conduct). That breach of the duty of care caused actual harm to the potential plaintiffs – four deaths and one serious injury is certainly enough harm to warrant bringing suit. In order to assess liability overall, Texas law follows a concept called comparative fault – a plaintiff and defendant are both assigned percentages of fault for an accident after all the evidence surrounding the crash has been heard. Generally, if a plaintiff’s percentage of fault is greater than 50 percent, they cannot recover – the rationale is that since the crash was mostly the plaintiff’s fault, they would have sustained serious injury even without that particular defendant’s actions.
Possible Wrongful Death Claims
In an accident with as many deaths like this one, another potential cause of action that may be seen is for wrongful death. While a standard negligence case may be mounted by someone who was injured, a wrongful death case is brought, as one might imagine, on behalf of a person or people who are deceased, allegedly due to the negligent actions of another person. Texas law states that a person is liable if they cause another person’s death due to “wrongful [acts], neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.” This is true whether they or an agent was the actor involved.
A wrongful death claim is brought by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate on behalf of their surviving family members – usually parents, minor children, and spouses. It is important to keep in mind that no other family member is authorized to sue for wrongful death under Texas law, despite the fact that others may conceivably have depended on the deceased for support. For example, the surviving child victim in the Texas 95 accident could not bring suit for the wrongful deaths of his or her siblings, if that turns out to be the victims’ relationship, but they could possibly bring suit (via the personal representative of the estate) for the death of the driver, if they were that child’s parent.
Call Our Auto Accident Lawyers Today
Auto accidents happen every day, but when they happen to you, they are overwhelming and terrifying, not ordinary. You need a compassionate, experienced attorney who will fight for you, and the dedicated New Braunfels car crash lawyers at the Bettersworth Law Firm will do just that. Contact our office today at 888-392-0039 to schedule an appointment.