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Texas wrongful death laws protect families and survivors

Losing a loved one is never easy. When the death was the sudden result of a traffic collision, it can be particularly difficult to adjust to the "new normal" of life without a beloved family member. Shock and a sense of unreality may dominate your emotional reactions for the first few days. Then, you will have to assume the responsibilities involved with celebrating the life of your loved one and handling the final arrangements.

With so many obligations and the strain of grief, families may overlook the fact that there are legal options available to them. Specifically, if the fatal crash resulted from another driver's negligence or law-breaking, you may have grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit against that driver.

What are the requirements for a wrongful death suit?

Under Texas law, only certain people can file a wrongful death claim. These people include surviving spouses, parents and children of the deceased. The Wrongful Death Act allows for pursuing damages against the person who caused the accident. In fact, wrongful death grounds can arise from any situation where the death resulted from someone's wrongful act, carelessness, neglect, default or lack of skill. That most certainly can include drivers who cause a crash due to mistakes on the road.

Whether the crash resulted from intoxication or swerving due to distraction, if the evidence shows driver mistakes caused your loss, the courts may rule in your favor in a wrongful death lawsuit. You can seek actual losses, including the cost of medical care and the funeral expenses, as well as lost wages and loss of companionship. In cases of drunk or distracted driving, which may qualify as willful acts or gross negligence, the survivors can also seek punitive damages.

The civil courts can offer justice even if the criminal courts cannot

There is a much higher burden of proof to establish a crime in Texas than there is to establish losses due to a wrongful act. In order to secure a conviction, the prosecutor must have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. Civil trials require less evidence and do not require the ability to prove intent.

Regardless of whether or not the driver responsible for the collision gets convicted of a crime related to the crash, you have the option of pursuing justice through the civil courts. While no amount of compensation can make up for what your family has lost, winning a lawsuit against the other driver can provide you with a sense of justice and offset the many losses and expenses you've incurred as a result of the crash.

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit after losing a loved one can help your family recover from the loss and ensure that you don't wind up financially struggling due to someone else's mistakes.

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