Austin Wrongful Death Claims
When a loved one dies unexpectedly, the family may experience financial hardship, in addition to emotional pain.
If the deceased family member was the primary earner, the family may be left with no income, and no long-term support. Medical bills and funerary costs can put additional strain on surviving members, during a time when they’re struggling with feelings of grief. And if a family member’s death was caused by the negligence of another, a family’s grief may be compounded by anger.
Under Texas law, applicable in Austin, a cause of wrongful death exists when a person dies due to another’s “neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.” A victim’s spouse, children, or parents – or the executor of the estate – may pursue a claim of wrongful death, seeking damages to cover financial losses and emotional suffering. In cases where the act that caused the death was grossly negligent, or willful, families may also be entitled to punitive damages.
Determining Fault in Austin Wrongful Death Cases
In 2013, a Texas woman was sentenced to 38 years in prison for causing a crash that killed two people and seriously injured one other. The woman had been drinking at a sports bar for several hours, and after she left the bar, she drove her pickup truck on the wrong side of the highway, causing a head-on crash. The woman’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit, and the bar’s security camera footage showed the woman had been stumbling when she left the bar. The sports bar’s insurer agreed to pay $1 million for the victims’ losses, and that sum was split three ways among the survivor and the estates of the deceased.
The outcome of that case illustrates a point of Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Section 71.001: The definition of “person” includes a corporation, and a corporation can be found negligent if its “agent” or “servant” acted with carelessness. A bartender who serves alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person could therefore be found negligent.
In another case involving a drunk driver who caused a fatal crash, a jury awarded the victim’s family $16 million in damages, finding the driver’s employer negligent. During the trial, evidence was presented showing that the woman who caused the crash had previously shown up at work intoxicated, and on at least one occasion, another employee had to drive the woman home. But on the day of the fatal crash, the employer ordered the woman to leave work because she was intoxicated. Her blood alcohol level was .40 – five times the legal limit. A jury found the nursing home shared 65 percent of the fault in the accident.
Drunk driving is just one of the criminal acts that may be the basis of a wrongful death lawsuit in Austin. When a person is the victim of homicide, or dies as the result of a criminal act, his family may be able to pursue a wrongful death claim. Even if the alleged perpetrator of the crime is found not-guilty in a criminal trial, that doesn’t preclude a civil case.
Cases and Outcomes
Wrongful death cases in Austin may arise for a number of reasons, including:
- Vehicle accidents
- Workplace accidents
- Child abuse or neglect
- Defective products
- Accidental poisoning
- Medical errors
- Landowner negligence.
The Evans Law Firm knows how the unexpected death of a family member affects survivors. When the survivors include children, a family may worry about how to provide for them in the immediate future, as well as in the long term. For many families who pursue wrongful death cases, monetary compensation matters less than ensuring someone is held accountable for the death of their loved one.
Our lawyers understand that grief may make it difficult to talk about what happened to your family member. If you believe you may have a wrongful death case, fill out our online contact form. If you want to talk to us, you can call us when you’re ready, at (855) 414-1012. Find out how we can help you.