Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

oil pump jack
East Texas truck accidents can be very difficult. Truckers and trucking companies fight liability as fiercely as possible in most cases.

Sometimes, there may be others who could potentially be liable in a truck accident case – for example, a party who failed to properly secure a load that later spilled and caused an accident – but these defendants, too, pull out every possible defense to avoid liability. Fortunately, these tactics are not always successful.

Facts of the Case

cellular telephone

First, the good news:  according to data maintained by MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a nonprofit organization founded by the mother of a child who was killed by a drunk driver), the annual death toll from drunk driving crashes has been steadily declining over the past few decades. When the organization was founded in 1980, over 20,000 people per year were killed by drunk drivers, but now the number of annual fatalities is less than half of that number.

Now, the bad news:  a new menace, distracted driving, now claims between 3,000 and 4,000 lives annually across the nation and injures close to another 400,000 individuals.

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trainIf every dispute arising under the law of negligence had to go all the way to a jury trial in order to be resolved, there would be a huge backlog in the courts. Those injured by others’ carelessness might have to wait many years for justice. The defendant also would have to live with a great deal of uncertainty, waiting on the outcome of the case.

This is one of the many reasons that settlements are highly favored as a way to end a legal dispute arising from an accident. A recent case explores some of the issues that a court may encounter in determining whether a particular agreement is binding on the parties.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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