Most people know that surviving dependents can file a lawsuit against someone who causes a death. These lawsuits, called wrongful death actions, give surviving spouses, children and parents some form of compensation for a tragic and unnecessary loss in their lives.
A wrongful death lawsuit can help family members recoup medical and funeral costs related to a wrongful death. They also offset other forms of impact related to their loss, such as lost wages, loss of household services or even the loss of the love and companionship from their deceased family member.
Fewer people may understand that even those without familial dependents can still be the cause of a wrongful death action. Just because an individual dies without a spouse, children or dependent parents does not mean that the responsible party won't face consequences.
When there is no family to file a claim, the executor of the estate can file
Family members who depended on the deceased for support always receive priority in wrongful death lawsuits. However, in the event that there is not a dependent family member to bring the lawsuit, the individual serving as the executor or administrator of the estate for the deceased can also bring a wrongful death lawsuit under Texas law.
Of course, in order for the estate administrator to bring such a lawsuit, they have to demonstrate grounds for a wrongful death claim. That means there needs to be reason to believe that the death was the direct result of either negligence or a wrongful act on the part of the other party.
Provided that such evidence exists, the executor of the estate can pursue similar damages to the damages sought by family members, including medical and funeral expenses.
Wrongful death suits are as much about justice as they are about money
When someone makes a mistake that has fatal implications for other people, there need to be consequences. It isn't a universal truth that those who cause accidents eventually face criminal charges.
In some cases, the burden of proof for criminal charges may be too high. In other cases, negligence, and not a crime, is the cause of the death. A prosecutor may decline to charge someone in those circumstances. However, a wrongful death lawsuit is another way to hold someone legally and publicly accountable for the consequences of their decisions.
Those charged with handling the estate of someone killed in an accident may need to consider wrongful death actions as part of their position as executor. Talking with an attorney who understands the complicated personal injury laws in Texas is a good first step toward determining if such a case is a good idea for the estate in question.