How Can FVF Help with Your Austin Fatal Accident Case
To maximize your recovery following a fatal accident, it is your responsibility to prove who was legally responsible for the accident, and the full extent of the harms and losses you have suffered and will continue to suffer because of your loss in the fatal accident. While losing a loved one in a fatal accident seems like proof enough to maximize your recovery, it usually is not. Instead, there is generally a tremendous amount of work, time, and money that must be invested in the fatal accident case before your recovery will be maximized. With this investment, your fatal accident lawyer will investigate how the accident happened, identify any and all parties who caused or contributed to the accident, find the sources of recovery that will pay for your compensation, and help you formally prove the full extent of your loss. Doing this the right way can take more than a year.
The Austin fatal accident lawyers at FVF have more than 70 years’ combined experience with cases involving fatalities. We will make sure you are well-informed about your rights and options, and will work with you to customize a strategy that will ensure your questions are always answered and your goals always met.
What Compensation Can be Recovered After a Fatal Accident?
If you have lost a loved one in a fatal car accident, you might wonder whether it is worth filing a legal claim for compensation. That is up to you, but it is important to at least understand what the law allows you to recover in the event you assert a wrongful death claim. If you have legal standing to assert a wrongful death claim as the surviving spouse, child, or parent, you can seek compensation for:
- Financial Losses — The law recognizes the person who was killed might have contributed to the finances of the household by allowing you to recover the value of those financial contributions. Beyond wages earned, the law also places financial value on things such as advice, counsel, services, case, maintenance and support. The law is very flexible about these categories of financial losses, and recognizes that every situation is different. Trying to piece together the full value of these financial losses can be complicated, and often involves hiring experts.
- Mental Anguish – Like other tragedies, losing a family member in a fatal auto accident can lead to substantial, permanent emotional pain that fundamentally changes a person’s life. In a wrongful death case, the law allows you to seek compensation for that loss. What you should expect to recover for these emotional injuries will depend on the full nature of the relationship you had with your family member that was killed. A skilled Austin wrongful death lawyer will help you paint a clear and compelling picture of that relationship.
- Loss of Companionship – Beyond the emotional torment that comes with the tragic, avoidable loss of a family member, the law allows you to recover compensation for the loss of companionship you have endured. This is different from the financial losses and mental anguish, since it focuses not on the emotional trauma, but the value of the actual companionship you shared with your loved one. Like mental anguish, though, evaluating loss of companionship will depend on the strength of the relationship you had with your family member who was killed.
- Loss of Inheritance – If you can prove that your family member would have earned enough money to pay for living expenses and then some, and you would have likely been their beneficiary upon death, you can seek compensation for loss of inheritance. Proving this loss will be related, to some extent, to the earning capacity of the person who was killed.
Fully developing and proving these wrongful death losses can be very complicated. It often involves gathering significant financial records and interviewing friends in family. The only way to maximize your recovery in a wrongful death case is to fully explore and prove these losses. The Austin fatal accident lawyers at FVF have the resources and experience to do this the right way.
Who Can Assert a Claim for Their Loss in a Fatal Accident?
Texas law limits the people who have “legal standing,” or the right to assert a claim, in a wrongful death case. Only the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the person killed can seek compensation for the emotional and financial losses. Unfortunately, close friends and other family members, such as siblings or partners, cannot assert a wrongful death claim.
In addition to a wrongful death claim, the estate of the person killed in the fatal accident can assert a “survival” claim, which provides an opportunity to seek compensation for the losses sustained by the person who was killed for what they went through after the accident occurred, but before they died. In order to bring a survival claim, usually an estate needs to be created. FVF can help make this happen.
The Ongoing Problem on Austin Roadways
Even though the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) reported a decline in traffic fatalities in 2018, there were still 3,567 deaths on Texas roads. The number of car accident deaths has increased tremendously – about 25 percent – from the number of fatal accidents in 2010. To put things in perspective, this means there were 9.7 traffic deaths every single day in 2018 in Texas alone. TxDOT also notes that the last day the state of Texas saw no traffic deaths was November 7, 2000.
This means thousands of Texans lose their family members to wrongful death car accidents each year. Beyond the emotional trauma a sudden, unexpected traffic fatality can have on a family, many of these fatal accidents cause the family to lose a source of income, which can cause substantial and immediate financial hardship.
While criminal cases against the party who caused the accident may bring some measure of justice, the results don’t do much to fulfill the needs of the family of the person who was killed. Instead, the family must assert their claims in a civil case, known as a wrongful death case, in order to seek compensation for the financial and emotional losses caused by the fatal accident. FVF knows how to investigate and develop a case to make sure this compensation is maximized, while the needs of the family are met.
What Are the Main Causes of Fatal Car Accidents in Austin?
There are many common causes for fatal car accidents that lead to wrongful death. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, the most common causes include:
- Driver Intoxication and Drunk Driving – In 2017, alcohol was cited as a contributing factor in 544 fatal crashes. This is not surprising, since the public is fully aware of the extreme dangers involved when driving while intoxicated. These fatal crashes involved pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and, of course, other cars. When alcohol (or other intoxication) is involved in a wrongful death car accident, the family members can also see punitive damages, which are not designed to compensate them for their emotional and financial losses, but instead to punish the wrongdoer. This factor can be used to dramatically increase a wrongful death settlement, if properly investigated and proven.
- Failure to Control Speed – Speeding is another major contributing factor to fatal accidents in Texas. In 2017, there were 500 fatal car accidents in Texas that involved speed, making it one of the deadliest types of careless driving. It is not surprising that speed plays such a large role in Texas fatal car accidents, because the sheer size of vehicles, combined with excessive speeds, create substantial forces that result in catastrophic damage in the event of a collision. Failure to control speed is negligent, sometimes reckless, and can serve as the basis for a wrongful death claim in Austin.
- Failure to Drive in a Single Line – Carelessly changing lanes, or becoming distracted and swerving into another lane is a major contributing factor to fatal car accidents in Texas. In fact, this careless conduct resulted in more than 600 deadly car crashes, making it the most often-cited cause of traffic fatalities. With increases in traffic congestion, growing impatience, and increased distractions, like cell phones, it is not surprising that swerving results in so many fatalities on Austin roads. Like speeding, swerving into another lane of traffic is negligent, which means a person whose swerving causes a fatal car accident can be held legally liable in a wrongful death claim.
- Driver Inattention – Driver inattention comes in many forms. Whether distracted by the radio, signage, GPS, or cell phone (including texting while driving or using social media while driving), driver inattention has proven itself to be deadly. In fact, driver inattention, or distracted driving, caused 294 fatal car accidents in 2017 alone. Unfortunately, many people do not fully appreciate the dangers of distracted driving, making the roads much less safe than they could and should be. Distracted driving, and driver inattention generally, is negligent, meaning the distracted driver can be held liable in a wrongful death case.
- Driver Fatigue – Driving while fatigued or exhausted can be just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated or texting while driving. Studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control have shown that drowsy driving, or driving while fatigued or sleepy, causes many of the same impairments as alcohol. On Texas roads, drowsy driving caused 160 fatal car wrecks in 2017. Drowsy driving is common among truck drivers, shift workers, and other folks who work long shifts or late nights. Drowsy driving is negligent, meaning the driver is legally liable for paying for the damage caused. In egregious instances, drowsy driving is reckless, and can lead to punitive damages. In a wrongful death case involving drowsy driving, it is important to understand why the driver was so fatigued, and why they were on the road.
- Failure to Yield – Failing to yield the right of way contributed to nearly 450 traffic fatalities in 2017. Whether failing to yield at a stop sign, when exiting a private drive, while making a turn, or even stopping at a red light, failing to yield often gives other drivers inadequate warning to take evasive action. Since many of those drivers are operating at the speed limit, impacts can be blunt and extreme, resulting in serious injuries or fatalities. Failing to yield the right of way is clearly negligent, and can serve as the basis for a wrongful death claim in Texas.
- Motor Vehicle Defects – Defects in vehicle manufacture cause many accidents, as can a defect in a specific vehicle part. For example, if defective tires on large tractor-trailers blow out, this can cause truck drivers to lose control and cause a catastrophic accident leading to severe injuries or fatalities. Similarly, if a car is poorly designed or manufactured, those defects can result in death in a traffic accident. Unfortunately, failing to investigate the role a defective car or car part played in a fatal traffic accident leaves many victims compensated less than they should have been for their wrongful death claim. So, choosing the right Austin personal injury lawyer to make sure all potential recovery sources are identified is critically important to maximizing your wrongful death settlement or jury verdict.
How Can We Help with Your Austin Wrongful Death Claim?
The wrongful death lawyers at FVF have more than 70 years’ combined experience helping victims of fatal accidents understand their rights and options, and recover compensation to help them start putting the pieces back together after a tragedy. We understand how to identify all parties who contributed to the wrongful death, uncover all available sources of recovery, prove the extent of the emotional and financial loss, counsel the family members through the difficult legal process and, ultimately, maximize their recovery for their wrongful death claim.
We are committed to assisting Austin families through one of the most difficult experiences they will ever endure. There is no good reason to go through this alone, and consulting with an expert to learn your rights and options is absolutely in your best interest. Our Austin fatal accident lawyers are well-regarded for our skill as counselors, advocates, and trial attorneys, and our clients acknowledge our firm for the compassionate and caring way we represent the families who have suffered a devastating loss.
If you have questions about your rights after losing a family member in a fatal traffic accident, we promise we will take the time to listen to what you need, explain your options, and help you make informed decisions. Consultations are always cost- and pressure-free.