Drunk driving is a serious problem all across the United States, and Texas is no exception.
Impaired drivers cause billions of dollars in damage every year, leaving a trail of devastation in the lives of their victims—and their families. Many times, the only way the family of someone who has been killed by a drunk driver will see any restitution at all is with a wrongful death lawsuit.
Here’s what you should know about drunk driving accidents and wrongful death lawsuits in Texas, including DWI statistics, who can file a lawsuit when someone is killed, how to prove your case in court, and how to get legal help if you’ve lost a loved one.
Texas Drunk Driving Statistics
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDoT) maintains statewide statistics that includes DWI (driving while intoxicated) accidents for 2016. The state found that there were 884 fatal DWI crashes that resulted in 987 people killed; this accounted for over a quarter (26 percent) of all traffic fatalities that year. There were an additional 9,458 DWI crashes, as well, including incapacitating accidents, non-incapacitating accidents, or accidents with possible injuries. TxDoT statistics also show that there was one person killed every two hours and twenty minutes, and that there were no days in Texas in which nobody was killed in an accident.
Filing a DUI Wrongful Death Lawsuit
DUI drivers often face criminal penalties after an accident, but a criminal conviction doesn’t help the survivors recover from the financial expenses of losing a loved one. The immediate family of the victim, including a spouse, child (including adult children), or parents are all typically eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court. Surviving siblings, however, are not able to file this type of lawsuit in Texas.
A wrongful death case is a civil lawsuit, and as such, is completely independent from any charges filed in criminal court. While criminal court punishes those who break the law, a wrongful death lawsuit lets the survivors recover damages from the person responsible for the accident. This may include compensation for:
- The loss of companionship, love, comfort, and society.
- The loss of services, care, support, counsel, and advice.
- The pain, suffering, and anguish caused by the loss.
- The lost earning capacity of the deceased.
- The loss of future inheritance that the deceased would have provided.
In some cases, exemplary damages (sometimes called punitive damages) may also be awarded. This type of damage is not designed to compensate the survivors for a specific damage; instead, it is intended as a punishment to the responsible party, and to deter others from committing similar acts in the future. Seeking this type of damage requires a higher standard of evidence than other types of awards, so it is typically reserved for the most severe and egregious situations.
If the family chooses to not file a wrongful death lawsuit, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate may elect to file the suit, but only after three months since the date of death have passed.
Under most circumstances, there is a two-year statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit to be filed. Exceptions to this rule are rare, so it’s important that survivors stay aware of this time limit and begin the legal process as soon as possible.
Proving a Wrongful Death Case in Texas
A wrongful death case functions much like a personal injury case with regards to how survivors must prove their case in court. With the help of your attorney, you will need to demonstrate to the judge and jury that the actions of the defendant were the direct cause of the death of your loved one, and that it resulted in specific harm to the survivors who are filing the lawsuit.
Get Legal Help Now
If you’ve lost a loved one due to an accident with a drunk driver, know that you do not need to fight this battle alone. Wayne Wright LLP is here so that you and your family get the justice that you deserve in a court of law, and we would like to help you today. To arrange a free, no-obligation consultation to talk about your situation with an experienced legal professional, call us by phone, use our contact form to send an email, or click the live chat box on this page right now.