Can the Victim’s Family Sue for Vehicular Homicide in Texas?

Vehicular homicide cases are incredibly painful for families to deal with. Many families want to take legal action against the person responsible, and a civil lawsuit is possible.

You can file a civil lawsuit against the person responsible for the vehicular homicide of your loved one. However, you cannot control whether criminal charges are filed. Instead, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court. Damages in a wrongful death lawsuit can include the various losses, injuries, and expenses incurred by the deceased person that they could have claimed themselves had they survived. Families can also claim damages for their losses related to vehicular homicide. Generally, immediate family members, including spouses, children, and parents, can file a wrongful death claim. The deceased person’s estate administrator or representative may also file the case under certain circumstances. Plaintiffs have 2 years to file a wrongful death claim, although you might have more time if your case meets certain exceptions.

Losing a loved one to vehicular homicide is incredibly tragic, and our Fort Worth wrongful death lawyers can help you through this difficult time. Call The Queenan Law Firm, P.C. for a free case review at (817) 476-1797.

Taking Legal Action for a Vehicular Homicide in Texas

According to Tex. Civ. Prac & Rem. Code § 71.002, a cause of action for wrongful death may arise from injuries caused by someone’s negligence, wrongful actions, carelessness, lack of skill, or default. This includes acts or omissions by a person and their agents or servants (e.g., employees). Our Texas wrongful death attorneys can help you determine how your loved one passed away and whether the defendant is directly responsible.

The families of loved ones who passed away in vehicular homicide cases often want justice in the form of criminal charges and punishment. While this is certainly possible, the state oversees filing charges and criminal prosecution. Prosecutors might keep families in the loop and even seek their input about things like plea negotiations. Still, families ultimately do not control whether someone is criminally charged after a vehicular homicide incident.

Vehicular homicide cases often lead to both civil lawsuits for wrongful death and criminal charges for the defendant. Often, families must wait until the criminal proceedings are done before they can move forward with the wrongful death case. However, it might be worth your while to wait because a guilty verdict or guilty plea may be used against the defendant in your civil lawsuit.

Damages Available in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit for Vehicular Homicide in Texas

Damages range from the personal losses and injuries suffered by your family to the injuries sustained by your loved one before they passed away. Exemplary damages, though rare, might be awarded to punish defendants for their bad behavior. Our Houston wrongful death attorneys can help you determine the possible extent of your damages.

Damages for Your Family

First, plaintiffs may claim losses they and their families suffered because of the vehicular homicide. For example, a spouse might claim the lost income normally provided by the deceased person after the accident. They can also claim lost companionship and consortium. Similarly, children can claim the loss of parental guidance. If the deceased person provided valuable services (e.g., caregiving, childcare, household maintenance), you can claim the value of those services.

Survival Action

Second, you might be able to claim the injuries and damages incurred by the deceased person as part of a survival action. According to Tex. Civ. Prac & Rem. Code § 71.021, the damages the deceased person could have claimed in a personal injury lawsuit do not disappear after death. Instead, this action survives to any heirs or legal representatives. After a vehicular homicide, you might claim damages for your loved one’s medical bills, pain, suffering, damaged vehicle, and other damages typically involved in car accident cases.

Exemplary Damages

Third, exemplary damages, sometimes called punitive damages in other jurisdictions, are awarded to punish defendants for especially grievous or shocking behavior. According to Tex. Civ. Prac & Rem. Code § 71.009, exemplary damages may be awarded if we can prove that the defendant caused your loved one’s wrongful death by a willful act or omission amounting to gross negligence. For example, if the defendant intentionally caused the accident, you can claim exemplary damages. However, proving exemplary damages is very difficult, as the burden of proof is quite high.

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death Related to Vehicular Homicide in Texas?

Generally, the deceased person’s spouse, child, or parents are the first in line to file the claim. If no eligible family members come forward and file the claim, the administrator or representative of the deceased person’s estate may file instead.

The fact that not all family members are eligible to file a wrongful death claim can feel very frustrating. For example, a sibling, grandparent, or cousin might want to sue but cannot because of legal restrictions. According to Tex. Civ. Prac & Rem. Code § 71.004, one person might file the claim, but various family members may still benefit from an award for damages.

If no eligible family members have filed a wrongful death claim after 3 months, the administrator or representative of the deceased person’s estate may do so. However, if any eligible family members (i.e., spouse, child, parent) request that no action be taken, the administrator or representative cannot file the case.

When to Sue for Wrongful death Related to Vehicular Homicide

According to Tex. Civ. Prac & Rem. Code § 16.003(b), plaintiffs normally have 2 years to file a wrongful death claim beginning from the date of their loved one’s passing. However, certain conditions might allow for the statute of limitations to be tolled, and plaintiffs might be afforded extra time.

If the only eligible family member who can file a wrongful death case is a minor child, the potential plaintiff might be able to have the statute of limitations tolled until they reach the age of 18. Otherwise, the court might appoint a guardian to assist the minor child with the case. Our Plano, TX personal injury attorneys can help determine whom to sue and how to do it.

According to Tex. Civ. Prac & Rem. Code § 16.001, people with a disability might also have the statute tolled until their disability subsides. For example, if the potential plaintiff is not of sound mind and cannot file the case independently, the statute of limitations may be tolled, and the plaintiff might have additional time to file. However, disabilities that arise after the cause of action (i.e., the vehicular homicide accident) are insufficient to toll the statute. The disability must be preexisting.

Contact Our Texas Wrongful Death Attorneys for a Free Case Assessment

If you lost a loved one to vehicular homicide, our Arlington personal injury attorneys can help you take action for damages and justice. For a free evaluation of your case, call The Queenan Law Firm, P.C. at (817) 476-1797.