When a loved one dies unexpectedly, families suffer overwhelming emotional trauma. There may be disbelief followed by a deep sense of loss and uncertainty about what comes next.

Upon learning that the death of a loved one didn’t have to happen, the law gives families the right to hold the responsible parties accountable for the damage they caused. A wrongful death lawyer can help the survivors of a tragedy seek justice and provide for themselves in the absence of the support of their deceased family member.

Compensating a family when the loss is a human being can never make up for the enormity of the damage, but it can help to ease the financial challenges facing surviving family members.

What Does Wrongful Death Mean?

The wrongful death laws in Texas allow people to sue the parties that caused the injury that led to the death of their loved one. Someone is liable for the death of another person if they (or their agent or servant) caused the injury that caused the death by means of their:

  • Wrongful act
  • Neglect
  • Carelessness
  • Unskillfulness
  • Default

The statute specifically holds owners and operators of public transportation liable for wrongful death when unsafe conditions lead to passenger deaths.

When Does Wrongful Death Occur?

Wrongful death can occur under any circumstances when someone makes a deadly mistake, but some activities and occupations have a higher risk of death when accidents occur. Claims for wrongful death are more likely to arise from the following:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Workplace accidents
  • Medical errors
  • Faulty consumer products

Automobile Accidents and Wrongful Death

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that national traffic fatality statistics have been trending upward in recent years. According to NHTSA’s statistical projection, traffic fatalities nationwide increased by 10.5% between 2020 and 2021. Some reported categories in particular showed a marked increase in fatal accidents, including:

  • Accidents occurring while traveling outside the state of residence – up 15%
  • Crashes involving a large truck – up 13%
  • Pedestrian fatalities – up 13%
  • On-road crashes – up 21%
  • Multiple vehicle crashes – up 16%

The percentage increase in traffic fatality accidents in Texas was higher than the national average between 2020 and 2021. Traffic fatalities on Texas roadways totaled 3,896 in 2020 and 4,489 in 2021 – a 15.22% increase. Speed, alcohol or drugs, and failing to drive in a single lane were among the top factors contributing to fatal car crashes on both urban and rural roadways.

Wrongful Death in Texas Workplaces

Fatal occupational injuries are more common in specific industries where the work involves more risks. The construction industry has the most fatal accidents in Texas. In 2020, more than 27% of our state’s fatal work accidents occurred on construction sites. Another 20% of work-related fatalities occurred in the transportation and warehousing industry. An occupation involving driving is the most likely to be involved in a fatal work accident.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, fatal transportation incidents were responsible for the largest percentage of fatal occupational injuries in Texas in 2020. There were 469 fatal work injuries attributed to the following causes:

  • Transportation incidents – 45.6%
  • Falls, slips, trips – 15%
  • Contact with objects and equipment – 14.9%
  • Violence or other injuries by persons or animals – 11.7%
  • Exposure to harmful substances or environments – 10%

Is Wrongful Death a Crime?

A person who causes the death of another person may have committed a crime, but criminal penalties are not imposed when a civil wrongful death claim is made. Wrongful death is a civil wrong, and the main penalties assessed against the wrongdoer are financial. Determining criminal liability for causing death is a separate proceeding handled in criminal court under criminal statutes.

Who is Responsible for a Wrongful Death?

The party that inflicts the harm is responsible for the resulting wrongful death, and so is the person or entity that was exercising control over the activities of that party.

Who has the Right to Make a Wrongful Death Claim?

Bringing a wrongful death action is the right given to surviving family members to be financially compensated for the value of what has been taken from them. Only select immediate family members are given the right to recover damages.

The Texas wrongful death statute gives the right to bring a wrongful death action to the decedents:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Children
  • Parents

If none of the family members entitled to bring an action have done so when three months have passed since the date of death, the executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate must bring an action unless all of the potential beneficiaries decide against it.

Is a Wrongful Death Action the Same as a Survival Action?

A wrongful death claim is not the same as a survival action – though often both can be brought at the same time and by the same people. A wrongful death claim compensates the survivors for their damages. A survival action is the personal injury claim that the decedent would have been able to make if he or she had survived. A survival action arises when the decedent lives for a period of time following the injury that eventually causes their death.

Both wrongful death and survival actions are subject to a two-year time period for filing a lawsuit. The statutes of limitation for the two actions will not run concurrently since the timeframe begins to run from the date of injury in a survival action and the date of death in a wrongful death action.

What Kind of Compensation is Available for Wrongful Death in Texas?

Families are entitled to recover the amount of out-of-pocket expenses they have incurred as a result of the injuries to their loved ones. They may also receive compensation for no longer having the decedent in their lives. The two main types of damages available in a wrongful death case are:

  • Economic damages – These quantifiable damages include things like medical expenses, lost future earnings, and funeral expenses
  • Non-economic damages – These damages are more difficult to calculate and include mental anguish, loss of companionship, and loss of support

Economic and non-economic damages are paid to compensate families for their losses. There may be times when a wrongdoer’s conduct is of such an extreme degree that exemplary damages (also known as punitive damages) are also awarded. These damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer and may be awarded in wrongful death cases when the decedent’s death is caused by intentional or reckless behavior.

Compensation for families who have lost a significant part of their lives cannot undo the damage. But it can help families continue to manage while going through a very difficult time and give them a chance to rebuild their future. You can learn what options your family has after losing your loved one by scheduling a free consultation with a Houston wrongful death lawyer.

Abogados de Houston especializados en muerte por negligencia

Si ha perdido a un ser querido, los abogados de Houston especializados en muerte por negligencia de Adame Garza LLP entienden que se enfrenta a un momento inimaginablemente difícil y estamos listos para ayudarlo con compasión y cuidado para que pueda concentrarse en su familia. Contáctenos hoy para debatir su situación y así podremos brindarle tranquilidad mientras seguimos con su demanda en su nombre.