On the night of January 6, 2019, a speeding Dodge Charger T-boned a pickup as it was turning onto FM 78 in San Antonio. The driver of the pickup was killed on impact, going through a steel fence and into a ditch. The driver of the Charger was treated for minor injuries, along with his two passengers, and then taken into custody on a charge of manslaughter. Manslaughter is a criminal charge, but it is not implausible that the family of the pickup driver might bring suit against the driver of the Charger for wrongful death on top of that. Criminal charges lead to jail time for a defendant if found guilty, while a civil suit for wrongful death leads to a defendant being held liable for their actions, and required to pay monetary damages.
Side Impact Collisions Can Be Deadly
According to statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), side-impact collisions led to approximately 24 percent of all passenger vehicle deaths on the road in 2017. Some side-impact collisions can turn into rollovers, which are particularly deadly all on their own (only around 2 percent of all vehicle crashes in 2010 were of the rollover type, but rollovers accounted for almost 35 percent of all crash-related deaths that year), but even if your car does not roll, side impact collisions can cause particular harm.
Side-impact collisions can be deadly, especially for young children, because the protection in a car is mostly congregated at the front and back. Comparatively speaking, there is very little to shield a passenger from a side-impact crash, and it is a large reason why the deaths in a side-impact crash tend to be clustered statistically at the point of impact. Some vehicles do have more protection than others, such as side airbags or side impact bars, but it is still not the same level of protection that frontal and rear crumple zones and airbags provide.
Who Can Bring Suit?
If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s reckless or negligent driving, you can still bring suit against them for wrongful death even if criminal charges are brought by the state. Sometimes a court may continue (postpone) a civil case until the conclusion of criminal proceedings, but it will almost never dismiss a civil case out of hand. This can work in your favor; if a civil case is continued, sometimes it means that transcripts and evidence submitted in a criminal trial can be subpoenaed for use in the civil case, rather than having to go through discovery and obtain all that information.
Texas’ Wrongful Death Act states that a person is liable for injuries that cause someone’s death if the injury was caused by their “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.” So, for example, if it can be proven that the Charger driver’s actions on the night of January 6 were “wrongful, neglectful, careless, or unskilled,” the estate of the pickup driver has a good chance to recover damages for wrongful death on behalf of the surviving spouse, parents, or children. (Be advised that under Texas law, only those family members may bring a suit for wrongful death; siblings, step-parents or step-children, among other family members, are barred from that privilege.)
Ask an Experienced Attorney for Help
While no mention of any civil suit has been made in connection with the crash on FM 78, it is important to understand your options if you ever find yourself in a similar place. If you are ever unfortunate enough to lose someone in this manner, contacting a dedicated New Braunfels wrongful death attorney can be a big help in trying to navigate the process. The experienced lawyers at the Bettersworth Law Firm are ready and willing to sit down with you and try to offer guidance on how best to proceed. Call us today at 888-392-0039 to schedule a free consultation.