The day before her 28th birthday, Leslie Valderrama was killed when the driver of the car she was in rear-ended an SUV on Ben White Boulevard, near Montopolis Drive. She was airlifted to St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, but was pronounced deceased at approximately 3.30 AM on the morning of July 7. In this particular type of case, it can be difficult to determine who should be responsible for the family’s loss and suffering, but it is very possible that if the family of Ms. Valderrama brought suit for wrongful death, they would have a case that might prevail in court.
What Is Wrongful Death in Texas?
Texas law holds that someone can be found liable for wrongful death if the deceased’s passing was caused by their, or their agent’s, “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.” While no amount of money can obviously eliminate the pain and loss you have suffered from your loved one’s passing, seeking monetary compensation can cushion the blow of losing their income and dealing with medical bills and funeral expenses. Prevailing at trial is difficult, but very far from impossible.
Some people may confuse wrongful death with murder, but there are important distinctions between the two. Murder is a criminal act, and a person must have had the deliberate intent to kill the person before they can be charged with their murder. Wrongful death is a civil tort, meaning that it is tried in civil court, with defendants who lose their cases usually being required to pay money damages, rather than in the criminal court, where jail time is the chosen punishment. If you have lost someone due to someone’s recklessness, a wrongful death suit may be appropriate; if you know that someone deliberately tried to kill your loved one, the police will likely charge them with murder.
It is important to remember that in Texas, there are limits on the people who are able to file suit in a wrongful death case. As of this writing, only the parents, spouse, or children of the deceased may file, or the personal representative of the deceased’s estate can do so if no qualifying relative has filed within three calendar months. There are exceptions – in many cases, adopted children dependent on the deceased for support are eligible to file, or if the deceased person is a child, their adoptive parents may also follow suit.
Once the suit is filed, it is important to understand what must be proven – namely, that the death of your loved one would not have occurred without the defendant’s failure to exercise reasonable care. If you are able to establish this, your family may be awarded both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are tangible damages like medical bills and reasonable funeral expenses. Non-economic damages are for causes of action such as pain and suffering, the deceased’s lost wages, and loss of support.
Call a New Braunfels Wrongful Death Lawyer
While it remains to be seen whether Ms. Valderrama’s family might file a wrongful death suit over the accident that caused her passing, know that you have that option if you are ever unfortunate enough to lose a loved one. The skilled New Braunfels wrongful death attorneys at the Bettersworth Law Firm are experienced in these types of cases, and we will fight hard to ensure your family has the best chance to get back on its feet. Call our offices today at 888-392-0039 for a free consultation.