What’s the Difference Between Criminally Negligent Homicide and Wrongful Death under Texas Law?

No amount of consolation is ever enough for a grieving family. When a loved one is killed because of negligence, the pain is more pronounced, the guilt is amplified, and the regret is unmeasurable. This blog will help you understand the difference between negligent homicide and wrongful death.

Wrongful Death

Under Texas law, a wrongful death claim is filed in civil court when a person dies because of negligence, carelessness, or unskillfulness. It allows the surviving family to demand accountability from the company, individual(s), or government agencies to blame.

Wrongful death claims are generally filed for motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice incidents, workplace accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, defective product use, poor service use, etc. The defendant in a wrongful death case may or may not face criminal charges for their negligence. The criminal case is a separate legal case that is tried in criminal court, but the evidence and the verdict could be used to boost the case of the plaintiff in a civil wrongful death case.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Texas?

Under Texas law, a wrongful death claim can be filed by the deceased person’s spouse, children, or parents. If the deceased person was an adoptive parent, the legally adopted children could file the claim. Siblings, grandparents, and any other relatives are prohibited from filing the claim.

a family grieving the loss of a loved one

Recommended Read: Felony vs. Misdemeanor: What’s the Difference?

Criminally Negligent Homicide

If you cause the death of someone due to irresponsible or negligent criminal acts, you could be charged with criminally negligent homicide. In Texas, there are four classes of homicide: negligent homicide, manslaughter, murder, and capital murder. These charges carry the most serious punishments of any crime in Texas. However, criminally negligent homicide carries the lightest punishment of the four charges but can still be devastating to someone’s life.

Section 6.03(d) of the Texas Penal Code defines criminal negligence as “…an unjustifiable risk of such nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint.”

This means that if you accidentally cause the death of another person while doing something reckless or unreasonable, such as DWI, BWI, or DUI, you may be charged with criminally negligent homicide. Some additional examples of criminally negligent homicide include vehicular homicide where you were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol or other intoxicants. Speeding, driving distracted or recklessly, and hit and run are common charges in this category.

If you accidentally kill someone in a fight, fail to call emergency services, or leave a child in a hot car, you can be charged with criminally negligent homicide.

Attorney JL Carpenter has defended several clients facing criminally negligent homicide charges. If you’re looking for an experienced, qualified, and persistent criminal defense lawyer in the Greater Houston area, call JL.

She’ll build a strong defense and protect your rights. JL’s practice areas also include DWI, BWI, drug possession, family violence, and domestic violence, among others.

JL serves clients in Friendswood, Clear Lake, League City, Galveston, Webster, and the neighboring communities. Click here to schedule a consultation today.