Wrongful Death

Fatal storm-chasing crash leads to lawsuit for Weather Channel

On March 28, 2017, near the city of Spur, Texas, the two stars of “Storm Wranglers,” the Weather Channel show, were speeding down the highway chasing a tornado when they ran a stop sign and crashed into a jeep, killing themselves and the driver of the jeep. The mother of the jeep driver is now filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the network for $125 million in damages.

The driver of the jeep was a 25-year-old storm spotter who was employed by the National Weather Service. He was heading away from the tornado at the time of the crash. The storm-chasing duo had broken a traffic law. Moreover, the Weather Channel knew of the duo’s long history of reckless driving and could have hired a more responsible driver instead.

The network actually encouraged the show’s stars to act recklessly to increase the sense of danger in their viewers. In-studio representatives themselves would even instruct the duo during the live streams. Previous live streams of “Storm Wranglers” show the duo speeding, ignoring traffic lights and stop signs, driving on private property, off-roading and going down the wrong side of streets and freeway ramps. The Weather Channel has said that it cannot comment on the pending litigation.

A typical wrongful death lawsuit can cover a decedent’s families or other eligible dependents for funeral and burial costs, pre-death medical bills and loss of support or loss of consortium. Those who believe they have good grounds for such a lawsuit may wish to see a lawyer first for a case assessment. The suit must be filed within two years of the fatal incident. With an attorney’s assistance, the plaintiff may be able to establish the other party’s negligence and, if possible, negotiate for a reasonable settlement out of court.

Source: Fox News, “Weather Channel sued for $125M over death of man killed in ‘horrific’ Texas crash with storm chasers,” Katherine Lam, March 27, 2019

Who can file a Texas wrongful death lawsuit?

There are millions of cars on the Texas roadways, and a small portion of them wind up in crashes every day. Of those collisions, the majority result in only property damage or minor injuries. However, sometimes people get hurt badly. In fact, sometimes people die because of a collision.

When one person drives dangerously, breaks the law or is negligent in their operation of a vehicle, they can cause the death of another person. Those left behind after such a crash may find themselves wondering what rights they have after such a tragic accident. While nothing can undo the tragic damage caused by a fatal collision, it is possible for surviving family members to seek justice under Texas law.

Certain people can pursue civil action through a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death statutes allow individuals to seek financial compensation from someone who causes an accident that kills someone. Determining whether you qualify to file is the first step in learning whether you should pursue a wrongful death claim.

Typically only close relatives can file a wrongful death claim

Texas law is explicit about who has the right to file a claim against the party responsible for a crash that kills someone. Wrongful death claims can only come from the surviving spouse, children or parents of the deceased. Other relatives typically will not have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

However, there is an exception to that rule. Specifically, if the deceased did not have a spouse, children or surviving parents to file a claim, the executor of their estate can take action three months after the date of death. At that point, the executor can file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the estate to seek compensation from the person responsible for the fatal accident.

Wrongful death lawsuits help families recover after a loss

Losing a loved one often has a direct impact on a family’s finances. There are the immediate expenses related to the crash, which are often significant. These could include medical care, towing and vehicle repair costs, and funeral costs for the internment of their loved one. Then there are secondary financial consequences, which include lost wages, and loss of support and services in the home.

All of this can add up to a substantial impact for the surviving family members. A wrongful death lawsuit helps defray some of those expenses. It also provides family members with a sense of justice or closure, as the courts formerly hold someone accountable for the loss they experienced.

Discussing your situation with an attorney who understands Texas wrongful death cases can help determine if you have sufficient cause and evidence to pursue a wrongful death case.