School Zone Laws and Wrongful Death in Texas
A MacArthur High School student was struck by a truck and killed outside of his school in late October. The student lived in an apartment complex close to the school and had to cross a busy five-lane road without a crosswalk to get to his class before 7 a.m., according to the Houston Chronicle. The student had crossed the first two lanes and was waiting in the turn lane for a break in traffic when he was struck by a truck driven by a 33-year-old woman taking another student to the school. Investigators believe the truck may have been traveling up to 40 mph at the time of the collision. This is the third fatality in a Houston-area school zone, the Chronicle reported.
Texas School Zone Laws
Local towns and municipalities have the authority to impose special driving laws for vehicles in school zones when children are present. These laws can significantly change the way a motorist drives. For example, a road that may normally have a 30 mph speed limit may have a 15 mph speed limit during school hours. Schools located on highways with speed limits of 55 mph or more may have a buffer zone with a speed limit of 35 mph before and after the actual school zone.
There are multiple ways Texas cities can identify school zones. In addition to speed limit signs noting the lower speed, there will also be school zone and children present signs. There may be flashing yellow lights during school and extracurricular hours. “School zone” may also be painted on the pavement itself.
Additional school-related laws include stopping for school buses that have their stop sign out or red light flashing, no passing school buses that are stopped, and no texting or using a handheld device in school zones.
The purpose of all of these laws is to prevent what happened to the student mentioned above. When motorists slow down and keep a watch out for children near schools, they are less likely to hit a child. However, when motorists disregard school zone traffic laws, they may be acting negligently or recklessly under the law. If a driver’s actions lead to the death of a student, the parents of that student may be able to hold the motorist responsible under Texas’ wrongful death statute.
Filing a Wrongful Death Suit in Texas
When someone is killed due to another person’s negligence, carelessness, or wrongful act, then that individual’s family or estate is entitled to file a civil action against the at-fault person. When a student dies, his or her parents can file for wrongful death. If an adult is killed, his or her parents, adult children, or spouses can file the wrongful death suit. Families also have the option together, but if no one chooses to file suit, the executor of the individual’s estate can do so.
However, a wrongful death suit is not always available. Under Texas law, certain elements must exist for a family or estate to bring this claim in court. A wrongful death claim is available if:
- The individual who died would have had a personal injury claim had he or she lived; and
- The family or estate can prove they suffered actual damages due the person’s death.
If the court finds the defendant of the suit was responsible for the individual’s death, then the family or estate can receive compensation for:
- Monetary losses;
- Loss of companionship;
- Loss of inheritance; and/or
- Mental anguish.
Contact a Texas Wrongful Death Attorney
If you lost a loved one in an accident, you may be able to financially recover. Contact the New Braunfels wrongful death lawyers of the Bettersworth Law Firm to learn about your rights.