Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

dark roadway

Motor vehicle accidents are not planned. As the recent east Texas accidents highlighted below reveal, a crash can happen in a split second, sometimes under highly improbable circumstances, forever changing the lives of innocent motorists, passengers, and even pedestrians in the process.

Those who are injured (or whose loved ones perish) in a traffic accident caused by another party’s negligent or reckless conduct have a right to file suit in a court of law against the responsible party.

While monetary compensation cannot bring back lost loved ones or undo a permanent disability suffered in a crash, a settlement or judgment can help ease the financial strain caused by a serious accident or a loved one’s wrongful death.

Continue Reading

exit signGenerally speaking, when someone is hurt due to the negligence of another party, the injured person has a right to pursue compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages via a negligence lawsuit. (If the accident victim is killed, his or her family may seek compensation through a wrongful death claim.)

When the party that allegedly caused an injury or death through its negligence was a governmental entity, however, it can be much more difficult for the injured person (or deceased person’s family) to receive fair compensation. This is because special laws protect the government from suit or limit its liability.

These laws are based on a holdover from the English common law. Under the sovereign immunity doctrine, “the king can do no wrong.” Although neither the United States nor the State of Texas has ever been under the authority of a king (at least after the signing of the Declaration of Independence), many of the provisions of sovereign immunity still hold true.

Continue Reading

big rig

Four young women from North Central Texas College were killed in a motor vehicle accident in 2014. Several others were seriously injured. The women were all members of a college softball team, and they were on their way home from a sporting event in Oklahoma.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the crash and determined that the accident was probably caused by the failure of a truck driver to control his rig. According to the Board, the driver was operating a semi that crossed the median and collided with the bus in which the young women were riding.

Recently, several new developments have occurred in the case.

Continue Reading

oil field

The primary reasoning behind the civil tort of negligence is that those who fail to act in a reasonably prudent manner should be held accountable to those hurt by their actions (or inactions).

Just as direct negligence can be used to hold a careless individual liable in court, vicarious liability (sometimes known as respondeat superior) can be used to hold an employer responsible for the conduct of an employee.

Of course, not every action by a worker amounts to liability for the company for which he or she works. A recent case explored the law in Texas with respect to this issue.

Continue Reading

Supreme Court

In order for a trial court to adjudicate a case, it must have jurisdiction (both personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction) over the matter at hand. The same is true for an appellate court. It also must have jurisdiction over an appeal before it may proceed.

The mere fact that a lawsuit has been filed in a trial court (or an appeal taken to the court of appeals) is not enough. The court must have the legal authority to act, or else its decision will be invalid. Recently, a Texas appellate court was called upon to determine an interlocutory appeal in a case in which a private company that had contracted with the Texas Department of Transportation sought interlocutory review of a trial court’s denial of its motion for summary judgment based on immunity. First, the court had to determine whether it had jurisdiction over the appeal.

Continue Reading

truck on overpass

Truck accidents hurt or kill thousands of motorists, passengers, and pedestrians each year. Sometimes, even truckers themselves perish in these accidents.

A recent case illustrates the challenges that arose when a deceased trucker’s family attempted to seek compensation for their loved one’s wrongful death in a lawsuit that claimed a particular braking system caused the trucker to lose control and plunge off an overpass.

Continue Reading

cell doorWhen a driver’s negligence or recklessness causes a vehicular accident that results in an injury or death, the at-fault driver can be held financially liable for damages resulting from the accident. In personal injury cases, these damages include lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and more. In wrongful death cases, the deceased accident victim’s family may be able to recover funeral and burial expenses, lost companionship and society, and other damages.

In addition to a civil lawsuit sounding in negligence, there may also be a criminal prosecution if the at-fault driver’s conduct was more than simple negligence. Typically, the criminal case does not yield any financial recovery for the accident victim (although the court may order the defendant to pay reparations in some cases), but a finding of guilt in the criminal case can be of assistance in proving fault in the civil case.

The decision to bring criminal charges after a motor vehicle accident rests with the State, namely the police and the district attorney. The exact charges depend upon the facts of the accident.

Continue Reading

A close up of a steering wheel inside a car, keys dangle from the ignition.

When pursing a personal injury case against a negligent or reckless driver, it is in the plaintiff’s best interests to thoroughly investigate all theories of liability and identify all potential defendants prior to filing suit. If the driver was employed and arguably “on the job” at the time of the collision, his or her employer may be named in the lawsuit in addition to the driver himself or herself. In many cases, the employer has “deeper pockets” (i.e., more assets or higher insurance coverage limits), so a finding of liability can result in a more adequate financial recovery for the injured person.

Of course, the employer may have an argument that the employee was not acting in the course of employment at the time of the accident, thus relieving the employer of potential liability under a theory of respondeat superior (by which the master may be held liable for the torts of the servant). The employer may also have possible defenses against an allegation of negligent entrustment or another cause of action by the injured person.

Continue Reading

crashOne of the most important reasons to contact an attorney as soon as possible after a car accident is so that the injured person, or the family in the case of a fatal accident, can be represented during the critical investigation phase of the case. Since the negligent party’s insurance company typically has representatives working on the case from the moment that the insured gives notice of the wreck, the plaintiff can be at a substantial disadvantage if he or she waits weeks or months before talking to a lawyer.

While it would be nice to assume that insurance companies “do the right thing” and pay out settlements when fault is obvious, this is rarely the case. Insurance companies stay profitable by looking out for the bottom line, not by doing what is fair to injured people. Even when liability is clear, there is still the matter of the amount of damages sustained by the plaintiff, especially if punitive damages are at issue.

Continue Reading

FPSO with supply vessel.

Before a court can render judgment in a lawsuit, it must have both subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction. Subject matter jurisdiction, also called in rem jurisdiction, refers to the general category (i.e., subject matter) of the case. For instance, a state probate court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over a federal criminal matter, and a Texas state court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to determine a boundary line dispute arising in Tennessee.

In addition to subject matter jurisdiction, a court must also have personal jurisdiction over the parties to the suit. Jurisdiction over the “person” includes not only individuals but also corporations. If a court lacks personal jurisdiction over a party, it cannot render a judgment against that party, regardless of the merits of the plaintiff’s claim.

Continue Reading