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Losing a loved one is never easy. But losing someone in the aftermath of a car accident can make matters even more devastating. 

If you have recently lost a loved one in a car accident resulting in death, you might be wondering, What happens when someone dies in a car accident? 

When a loved one dies in a car accident, you may be forced to make difficult decisions in the midst of grieving. Additionally, you may be saddled with medical expenses and funeral arrangements, in addition to your regular bills and expenses. 

This can all seem overwhelming and complex. However, having a car accident attorney can alleviate some of these burdens you will inevitably face.

If you need help navigating the legal process regarding what happens when someone is killed in a car accident, contact a car accident attorney today. 

The car accident injury attorneys at The Zimmerman Law Firm have been helping accident victims and their families recover for decades. We hope we can help you too. Contact us today to get the answers to your questions and start the process toward recovery. 

What Happens After a Fatal Car Accident? An Overview of Texas Wrongful Death Claims

Moving forward after a car accident resulting in death can feel overwhelming. Nevertheless, it is important to have a general understanding of the laws regarding what happens when someone dies in a car accident. 

When Can Someone Be Held Legally Liable for a Car Accident Resulting in Death? 

In Texas, surviving family members of a deceased car accident victim may have a right to bring what is called a wrongful death claim. However, such a claim can be brought only where the victim’s death resulted from the negligence or misconduct of another. 

Specifically, Texas Statutes section 71.002 states that an individual is liable for a claim of wrongful death only if the victim’s death was the result of the individual’s: 

  • Wrongful act, 
  • Neglect, 
  • Carelessness, 
  • Unskillfulness, or 
  • Default. 

In theory, it might seem easy to show that a person acted wrongfully or carelessly. In practice, however, this can be quite difficult to prove. 

Thus, make sure that you have an experienced wrongful death attorney in your corner who can help you prove your case. 

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Action? 

Texas Statutes section 71.004 specifies who can bring a wrongful death action. 

While you may have many loved ones both within and outside your family, Texas law places limits on who may benefit from bringing a wrongful death lawsuit. 

The law states that an action to recover damages for a wrongful death is for the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased. 

This is an exhaustive list, meaning that other family members, regardless of how close they were to the victim, may not bring a wrongful death action. 

Examples of parties that may not bring such an action include the deceased’s: 

  • Siblings, 
  • Grandparents, 
  • Grandchildren, 
  • Cousins, and
  • Close friends. 

While this might be surprising to learn, it is important to know who can bring a wrongful death action. This way, you can avoid putting in the time and expense of pursuing a lawsuit only to discover that you are not legally entitled to do so. 

Proving Wrongful Death

Most wrongful death actions rely on the legal doctrine of negligence. To prevail on a wrongful death negligence claim, you must be able to prove four elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages. 


The first element you must prove is the existence of a legal “duty.” 

Essentially, you must be able to show that the responsible party owed your loved one a duty to use reasonable care under the circumstances to prevent harm to another. 


The next element you must prove is that the party breached their duty of care. This means that you must show that the opposing party failed to act as a reasonably prudent person would have under the same circumstances. 

Examples of a breach of duty in a wrongful death claim might include a scenario in which a driver:

  • Speeds or violates other traffic laws;
  • Operates a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs; or
  • Fails to properly maintain his or her vehicle. 

This is not an exhaustive list. In fact, there are many scenarios in which a driver might be found to have breached their duty of care. 

If you have questions about whether a driver in your case breached a duty of care, a wrongful death attorney can help. 


Once you show that the opposing party owed a duty of care and later breached that duty, you must then show causation. 

In short, this means you must prove that the opposing party’s breach caused the death of your loved one. 

This element can be difficult to prove because there may be additional factors that caused the accident and subsequent death of your loved one. However, an experienced personal injury attorney can analyze your case and determine how best to prove causation. 


Finally, you must be able to prove that damages exist.

Examples of recoverable damages in a wrongful death case include: 

  • Lost income or benefits of the deceased;
  • Lost earning capacity of the deceased;
  • Loss of inheritance;
  • Loss of companionship, love, and support of the deceased; and
  • Emotional pain and suffering as a result of the loss of your loved one.

If you have suffered damages in the aftermath of losing your loved one, reach out to a wrongful death attorney to work toward the compensation you need and deserve. Under the Texas statute of limitations for wrongful death, a claim must be filed within the 2-year time-limit or risk being barred from recovery.

What Happens When Someone Dies in a Car Accident? Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney for Help

So what happens when someone dies in a car accident? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer, and it can often be a long and arduous process moving forward. 

While this can seem overwhelming, know that you are not alone in this. There are actions you can take as you begin the difficult journey of moving forward. 

Nothing can bring your loved one back. But pursuing a wrongful death action can provide you with financial compensation to help you recover. More than that, it can also provide you with a sense of justice in holding the responsible party accountable for the death of your loved one. 

If you have questions about what to do after losing a loved one in a car accident, The Zimmerman Law Firm is ready to help. 

We are a Texas personal injury law firm focused on fighting for injury victims and their families. With over 8 decades of combined legal experience, we are confident that we can help you too. 

Contact our team today to get started and see what we can do to help you recover. 

Author Photo

Michael Zimmerman

Michael was born in Houston, Texas. His education at Baylor and Texas State Universities earned him a Bachelor of Science degree in 1987. His major was in Biology with a Minor in Chemistry. He finished his legal education at Texas Southern University in 1990, earning a Juris Doctorate from Thurgood Marshall School of Law. He was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 1990.

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