What is a wrongful death claim after a fatal car accident?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action for financial compensation taken against a person or entity whose negligence caused a person's death. This is distinct from any criminal charges, such as vehicular homicide or felony DUI, that may be brought by the State of Texas in connection with the same death. Civil court has a lower burden of proof than criminal court, so you may be able to recover financial compensation even if the driver responsible for your loved one's death is acquitted of criminal charges.
In Texas, the surviving spouse, children and parents of the deceased person have the right to file a wrongful death claim. After three months have passed since the date of death, the personal representative or executor of the estate can also file the claim. In most cases, the statute of limitations - the time limit for taking legal action - is two years from the date of death.
Depending on the circumstances of the accident, you may be able to take legal action against one or more different defendants. For example, if the accident was caused by a drunk driver, we may be able to pursue a case against the establishment that served alcohol to the driver in addition to the driver him- or herself. Likewise, if the death involved a defective vehicle or vehicle component, we may be able to take legal action against the manufacturer.
What's the purpose of filing a wrongful death claim?
No lawsuit can bring back your loved one after a fatal accident. However, a wrongful death claim can recover compensation for financial losses resulting from the death. Some of the costs that we may be able to recover include:
- Lost future wages that your loved one would have earned if he or she had lived
- Loss of services, such as childcare and maintenance
- Medical expenses for your loved one's final injury
- Pain and suffering and emotional anguish sustained by your loved one prior to passing
- Loss of love, companionship and comfort
In some cases, we may also be able to pursue "exemplary damages" - additional compensation designed to punish cases of gross misconduct. We can sometimes ask for exemplary damages if the death was caused by a drunk driver, for example.
It may seem strange to ask for financial compensation after losing a loved one. But we've seen over and over again that those damages can make a big difference in the lives of grieving Houston families. No amount of money can truly compensate for the loss of a human life, but compensation for lost income and services can make it easier for grieving families to rebuild. Moreover, holding the responsible party accountable can be a big step toward the closure you need.
We would be honored to meet with you at our Houston office for a free, confidential consultation. There's no cost and no obligation; we just want to help you understand your family's rights and options. Call (713) 955-7854 today, or contact us online.