Recently, law enforcement in San Antonio identified a woman as the victim of a hit-and-run accident on South W.W. White Road. The person who struck the woman may not have been aware of it, as they failed to stop and render aid, but this does open them up to the possibility of both civil and criminal liability if they are located. Failing to stop at the scene of a hit-and-run accident is a crime in Texas, and in addition, the deceased person’s family may seek to bring suit against the driver for wrongful death. If you have lost a loved one in this manner, it is important for you to understand your options, as well as the relationship between civil and criminal law.
Wrongful Death in Texas
Texas’ wrongful death statute is fairly straightforward, stating that a person is liable for damages resulting from an individual’s passing if it resulted from their (or their agent’s) “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.” There are only a handful of family members who are permitted by law to bring a wrongful death suit - generally the deceased person’s surviving spouse, children, and parents. Anyone else is deemed to be too distantly related to have received tangible support from the deceased person in most cases.
In the hit-and-run accident example from South W.W. White Road, the woman’s family would conceivably be able to recover damages such as loss of companionship, mental pain and suffering, and lost wages, if they were able to establish the necessary legal criteria. To establish a case for wrongful death, the plaintiff (the decedent’s family) would have to show that the defendant’s lack of reasonable care was the direct cause of their loved one’s passing and that no other intervening cause played a role. This is difficult, but not impossible to establish if the facts are there....