According to the Texas Department of Transportation, someone within the state died in a motor vehicle crash every two hours and 21 minutes. In one year, 3,721 people lost their lives on Texas roadways, and there were no days in the entire year on which there wasn’t a traffic fatality.
If you lost a loved one in a fatal car crash in or around San Antonio, contact an experienced car accident lawyer about your rights. Getting the right legal advice and representation is essential to your financial recovery and seeking justice for your deceased family member.
What types of accidents were the leading causes of death on Texas roadways? Below our experienced Auto Accident Attorneys in Texas break down the statistics and help you stay safe on the road.
The Single Vehicle Crash
More than 35 percent of all motor vehicle traffic deaths in 2017 were the result of single vehicle crashes, the state Department of Transportation reported. These types of crashes resulted in the deaths of 1,313 people during the year. Additional facts about single vehicle crashes, as provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveal:
- The are two types of single vehicle crashes: Run off the Road (ROR) crashes and on-road (OR) crashes.
- Drivers who are under the influence of alcohol are more likely to be involved in ROR crashes than sober drivers.
- 90 percent of single vehicle ROR crashes feature a driver who was speeding at the time of the crash. This type of single-vehicle collision is more common on roadways with higher speed limits.
- Curved road segments are the most likely place for a ROR crash, with RORs accounting for more than 90 percent of all curved-road crashes.
- ROR crashes account for more than 80 percent of all rural road crashes.
- ROR crashes occur more frequently at night than they do during the daytime hours.
- Vehicles with high occupancy—two or more passengers—are more likely to be involved in ROR crashes than those with only one occupant.
Passengers can sustain fatal injuries when a driver loses control and crashes. In these situations, the family members of the passenger can hold the driver liable for any negligent actions that caused them to crash.
On the other hand, many single-vehicle accidents are, in fact, the fault of a driver in another vehicle. Drivers can cause others to crash in many ways, including:
- Dangerous lane changes
- Cutting off drivers
- Driving the wrong way
If a third party caused a single-vehicle accident, that is the party who should be responsible for the fatality and the related losses of surviving family members.
Driving Under the Influence
About 28 percent of all traffic fatalities in Texas involve a driver who was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash, and alcohol was a contributing factor in the traffic-related deaths of 1,024 people, statewide, in 2017. According to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- 29 people die every day in the United States in motor vehicle crashes involving a driver impaired by alcohol. In 2016, 10,497 people were killed in car crashes that were caused by alcohol impairment, which is 28 percent of all crash fatalities nationwide.
- Drugs other than alcohol contributed to about 16 percent of all motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. in 2016.
- About 13 percent of nighttime and weekend drivers have marijuana in their system.
- Marijuana users are about 25 percent more likely to be involved in a crash than those who don’t have marijuana in their system.
- Just two alcoholic drinks will cause a decline in visual functions needed for driving, including rapidly tracking a moving object, as well as a decline in the ability to perform two tasks at the same time. It takes about four alcoholic drinks to reach the legal limit for driving, and at that point, several important functions needed for driving are impaired, including concentration, short-term memory, speed control, perception, and information processing capacity.
- Among drivers with a blood alcohol content over the legal limit of 0.08 percent who were involved in fatal crashes in 2016, nearly 30 percent were between the ages of 25 and 34.
- Drivers involved in fatal crashes that were driving over the legal blood alcohol content limit are 4.5 times more likely to have a prior conviction for driving under the influence as drivers who did not have alcohol in their system.
Driving under the influence is a criminal offense, but an arrest and criminal conviction do little to help families grieving the senseless loss of their loved one. Instead, it is necessary to file a wrongful death claim to recover the full amount you deserve for your tragic loss and the driver’s illegal and fatal choices.
Failure to control speed was the cause of 500 fatal crashes in Texas in 2017. Nationwide, in the same year, nearly 10,000 people lost their lives due to crashes in which speed was a factor, the NHTSA reported. Speeding accounts for more than a quarter of all fatal crashes in the United States, and is a leading cause of traffic fatalities in both single-car and multi-car crashes. Here are more facts about speeding:
- Speeding has been involved in about one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities in the past two decades.
- Speeding doesn’t just involve driving over the posted speed limit, but also driving too fast for the road conditions.
- Speeding reduces the effectiveness of a vehicles occupant protection equipment in a crash. It also reduces the driver’s ability to keep the car under control, increases the distance that a driver needs to come to a safe stop, and increases the severity of the crash.
- Speeding is considered an aggressive driving behavior. Some of the factors that cause drivers to speed include traffic congestion, running late, the anonymity that makes a driver feel more at ease about aggressive driving behaviors, and a habitual driving behavior stemming from a disregard for others or for the law.
- In 2016, 32 percent of male drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 who were involved in a fatal crash were speeding at the time. Young males represent the largest demographic of speeders.
- Speeding drivers involved in fatal accidents in 2016 were more than twice as likely to be alcohol-impaired at the time of the crash than those who were not speeding at the time of the crash.
Speeding can involve more than simply exceeding the posted speed limit on a given road. That speed limit applies to ideal weather and road conditions. As conditions change, so should a driver’s speed.
Drivers should slow down and maintain a safe speed in adverse weather, heavy traffic, and similar situations. If a driver is within the speed limit but still driving too fast for conditions, they can cause serious crashes and fatalities.
Distractions are also a major contributor to fatal crashes in Texas, resulting in 70 fatal crashes in 2017 in which the cause was listed as “distraction in vehicle” and another 294 fatal crashes in which “driver inattention” was the cause. Nationwide, distracted driving resulted in the deaths of 3,450 people in 2016, according to statistics provided by the NHTSA. Other facts about this leading cause of traffic fatalities include:
- There are three types of driver distraction: Manual distractions that take the driver’s hands from the steering wheel; Visual distractions that take the driver’s eyes off the road; and cognitive distractions, that draw the driver’s mind away from the task of driving.
- Texting while driving is particularly dangerous, as it is a manual distraction, a visual distraction, and a cognitive distraction all at the same time. In Texas, in 2017, 24 fatal crashes were caused by texting and driving. Dozens more were caused by general cell phone use, including talking on the phone, checking email, or browsing the internet.
- During daylight hours, approximately 481,000 people nationwide are using their cellphones while driving.
- Other distractions that drivers must contend with include distractions from passengers or pets in the car; people, other cars, or events taking place outside of the car; the controls for vehicle systems including air conditioning or the stereo; eating or drinking while driving; or even daydreaming.
Distracted driving can result in erratic and unlawful driving behaviors, and traumatic accidents such as, rear end accidents, sideswipe accidents, T-bone accidents, and more. Often, it can be challenging to prove the driver was distracted, as you cannot prove their state of mind at the time. For this reason, many distracted driving claims revolve around the driving behaviors themselves instead of the actual distraction.
Wrongful Death Claims in Texas
When someone suffers injuries in a car accident, they have the right to file a car accident claim to recover for their losses. However, if someone does not survive a crash, they can’t file a claim. Instead, the right to recover passes to close family members, and they have the right to file a wrongful death claim.
To learn whether you have a claim after losing a dear loved one, you should speak with a San Antonio wrongful death attorney. The following is a brief overview of how the claim process might go.
Claiming Wrongful Death
To recover after a loved one’s death, you must sufficiently demonstrate that their death was “wrongful” under Texas law. This means the death happened due to someone else’s negligence, default, carelessness, or wrongful conduct. Wrongful death can result from car accidents that happen because another driver or party acted negligently or unlawfully.
If you believe another party was liable for your loved one’s fatal accident, you must be an eligible family member to seek financial recovery.
- Surviving spouse
- Children, including adopted children and adult children
- Parents, including adoptive parents
If none of the above files a claim, the person designated as the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate can file a case.
Eligible parties can file a claim seeking damages. The damages available in a wrongful death case are set out by law and include:
- The deceased’s lost earnings
- Lost support, household services, advice, care, and counsel of the deceased
- Lost companionship, love, and comfort from the deceased
- Pain, suffering, and mental anguish
- Lost inheritance due to an untimely death
If the liable party’s conduct was willful or constituted gross negligence, family members might be eligible to receive exemplary damages. These are called punitive damages in other states, and they punish the defendant instead of compensating families for losses. Exemplary damages can increase the value of a claim significantly, so have a lawyer consider whether you might deserve this type of recovery. This is particularly common following drunk driving crashes and other criminal conduct.
Family members divide the damages awarded for wrongful death according to the percentage of their losses. The court will determine which family members receive how much recovery.
Wrongful Death vs. Criminal Cases
Many car crashes that cause fatalities might result in criminal charges of manslaughter against the at-fault driver. While it can bring some sense of justice when the criminal court convicts a driver and imposes penalties, it will not do much to provide financial recovery for the surviving family. Money certainly cannot bring back a loved one, but it can put your family in a better position to move forward. This is why it is so important to discuss a wrongful death claim with an attorney.
Wrongful death claims take place in civil court, and this is a separate case from a criminal case. However, a criminal conviction can be evidence of wrongdoing, and this can make proving a wrongful death claim easier for loved ones. Once you can establish wrongdoing, you will need to prove damages to prevail and receive compensation.
Do Not Delay
After a tragic loss, it is natural to want to take time to be with your family and support one another emotionally. However, you should never delay in discussing your legal options with a wrongful death lawyer. This is because the law provides only a limited amount of time to file a claim. Specifically, you have two years from the date of the death, with only a few exceptions.
If you do not prepare and file your claim in time, your family loses the right to seek recovery for your losses. A lawyer will handle every step of the process so that you can remain focused on your family’s well-being.
Call Us if an Accident Killed Your Loved One
Regardless of the cause of the accident, if you have been involved in, or lost a loved one to, an accident caused by someone else, you may be entitled to compensation. Let our experienced Texas personal injury lawyers help you understand your legal options. Contact us today at The Law Offices of George Salinas online or by calling (210) 225-0909.