Jason Stephens | September 9, 2022 | Car Accidents
In 2021, a person died in a car accident about every two hours in Texas. Statewide, fatal traffic accidents increased by 15.22% in 2021. That year, there were 4,489 traffic fatalities, including 130 traffic deaths in Fort Worth.
There are many causes of fatal car accidents in Fort Worth. Deadly car crashes occur because of:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs
- Distracted driving, including texting while driving
- Speeding and reckless driving
- Drowsy driving
- Failing to yield the right of way or obey other traffic laws
When a person dies in a traffic accident in Fort Worth, the person who caused the accident could be held financially liable for damages. The deceased person’s family could sue the at-fault driver for wrongful death.
However, causing a fatal car accident in Fort Worth could also result in a driver going to jail.
When Could I Go to Jail for Causing a Fatal Car Accident in Fort Worth?
A driver could face several criminal charges after a fatal car accident. Several criminal offenses could result in going to jail for a fatal car accident.
Under the Texas Penal Code, a motorist could face charges of vehicular manslaughter if their actions while operating a vehicle cause the death of another person. Offenses that could lead to vehicular manslaughter charges include, but are not limited to:
- Driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) (intoxicated manslaughter)
- Racing on a highway, including drag racing, acceleration contest, and setting speed records
- Negligent driving
- Reckless driving
- Driving with a suspended license
- Hit and run accident
Vehicular manslaughter is a wobbler offense. Depending on the underlying criminal offense, it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The punishment for vehicular manslaughter includes jail or prison sentences.
Wrongful Death Claims for Fatal Car Accidents in Fort Worth
In addition to facing criminal charges, you could also be sued by the family if you cause an accident that results in death. A spouse, children, or parents can file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking damages for the death.
Damages for a wrongful death action include:
- Loss of financial support (i.e., loss of earnings and income the deceased would have earned had they not died in the car wreck)
- Loss of inheritance
- Medical bills incurred between the accident and the death
- Loss of household support
- Reasonable expenses for cremation, burial, and funeral
- Loss of companionship, guidance, care, counsel, and support
- Mental anguish
In some cases, the court may award punitive damages for a wrongful death claim. Punitive damages “punish” the defendant for conduct including gross negligence, malice, and fraud. DUI accidents and racing accidents are examples of cases that might justify punitive damages.
A civil case for wrongful death is separate from any criminal charges the person might face for a fatal car crash. However, even if the driver is not charged with a crime or is acquitted of a crime, the family can still pursue a wrongful death claim against the driver.
However, the family has the burden of proving the elements of a wrongful death claim to recover compensation.
What Are the Elements of Wrongful Death for a Fatal Car Accident?
If your loved one died in a car crash, you could hold the at-fault driver liable for damages. However, you must prove by a preponderance of the evidence the following legal elements:
- The at-fault driver owed your loved one a legal duty of care
- The at-fault driver failed to uphold the duty of care (breach of duty)
- The breach of duty was the direct and proximate cause of your loved one’s death (causation)
- Your family member’s death resulted in losses and damages
All drivers have a duty of care to operate their vehicles in a manner that does not put others at risk of injury. That duty includes obeying traffic laws.
However, the duty of care also includes avoiding negligent driving behaviors that could cause an accident. Examples of negligent driving behaviors could include:
- Drunk driving
- Distracted driving
- Reckless driving
- Drugged driving
In addition to proving that the at-fault driver breached their duty of care, you must prove causation. Being arrested for DUI might not be sufficient proof to establish a “direct and proximate” cause for the collision.
However, a Fort Worth car accident lawyer can help you gather evidence proving the at-fault driver caused the crash. Evidence that might help prove causation and fault includes:
- Copies of accident reports
- Eyewitness statements
- Statements from the at-fault driver
- Physical evidence at the crash scene
- Videos of the car crash
- Photographs of the accident scene
- Medical records
- Expert witness testimony
An accident lawyer has the resources and skills to conduct a thorough investigation to gather the evidence necessary to prove the case and help you get justice for your loved one.
Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm in Fort Worth, TX
If you’ve been injured in an accident in Fort Worth and need legal help, contact our Fort Worth car accident lawyers at Stephens Law Personal Injury | Wrongful Death | Truck Accidents to schedule a free consultation.
Stephens Law Personal Injury | Wrongful Death | Truck Accidents
1300 S University Dr # 406
Fort Worth, TX 76107