Earlier this month, a pickup truck and a motorcycle collided in East Austin. The 45-year-old motorcyclist was transported to an area hospital with severe injuries. He died a few hours later. 

According to reports, the fatal motorcycle accident happened because the driver of the pickup truck lost control of his vehicle and hit the median. This collision sent debris onto the roadway that the motorcyclist wasn’t able to navigate around. He crashed and sustained catastrophic injuries.

It has yet to be determined why the pickup truck driver lost control of his car. An investigation is currently underway. However, the investigation doesn’t have to be concluded in order for the motorcyclists’s family to take action. They may decide to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver and demand compensation for the tragic loss of their loved one.

Some Immediate Family Members Can Seek Damages Through a Wrongful Death Claim

Under Texas state law, some family members can file a lawsuit to seek damages related to the wrongful death of a loved one. This lawsuit can be filed against anyone who might have contributed to an untimely and accidental death. However, not all family members have this right. It’s reserved for the victim’s:

  • Children
  • Spouse, and
  • Parents.

This includes both biological and adoptive family members. Siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, or other family members do not have the right to pursue a wrongful death claim. 

Should the motorcyclist’s family decide to file a wrongful death lawsuit, they can ask to be compensated for their loss. The damages available in a wrongful death case are different than those up for grabs in other types of personal injury cases. A successful wrongful death claim can allow family members to get money for:

  • Funeral and burial costs, as well as related expenses
  • Medical expenses
  • Lost financial support that the victim would have provided
  • Lost inheritance
  • Lost companionship, society, comfort, and love
  • Loss of care and support, and 
  • Emotional distress.

These damages are often subjective, so expert input is often necessary in assessing the value of a wrongful death case.

Additional Damages Available When Victims Survive Their Injuries For a Period of Time

Not everyone who is killed because of injuries sustained in an accident dies right away. Not all accident-related deaths are instantaneous. Some victims, like the motorcyclist in this particular case, survive for a period of time. When this happens, additional compensation might be available.

Specifically, the victim’s estate may have the right to file a survival action. Through a survival action, the estate can seek damages that the victim would have been able to pursue themselves, had they survived.  Damages for the following might be available:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Lost income and wages, and
  • Medical bills.

The damages sought often depend on how long the victim lived after the accident. If a victim succumbs to his injuries a few hours after an accident, a survival action might only be successful in recovering money for medical bills or pain and suffering. If a victim survives for days, weeks, or months, there might be a stronger case for damages related to a loss of income or disability. 

What if the Defendant is Charged With a Crime?

So, let’s say that an investigation reveals that the pickup truck driver was breaking the law in some way at the time of the accident. Maybe he was going way too fast or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Either way, the state decides to place him under arrest and charge him with a crime. Can the fact that the defendant is involved in a criminal case affect the family’s ability to recover compensation? Maybe, but probably only temporarily.

When criminal and civil cases arise from the same cause of action, the defendant can ask to have the civil case put on the back burner. This is because the consequences of a criminal conviction are considered to e much more serious than the results of a civil lawsuit.

Your freedom is on the line with one, and your bank account with the other. So, a judge may grant a request to pause – or stay – a related civil case. The civil case will be stayed until the criminal matter is resolved. That could be if the state decides to drop the charges, a plea deal is accepted, or when a verdict is reached. The civil case starts up again once the stay is lifted.

Now, it’s important to point out that there’s a statute of limitations for personal injury and wrongful death cases in Texas. Plaintiffs typically have two years to file an action. In wrongful death cases, the clock begins to tick when the victim dies. The lawsuit has to be filed within this period of time, regardless of any related criminal action.