Can Someone Go to Jail for an Accidental Death in Texas?

There are intentional killings and there are accidental killings. When we say “accidental,” we’re referring to the kind that do not occur out of the heat of passion. Instead, they are unintentional. Think of someone dying in a drunk driving accident or drowning in a pool or getting attacked by someone else’s dog and killed – those types of accidental killings.

It’s known that if you kill someone on purpose, it’s illegal and you’ll be prosecuted in criminal court, but what if you kill someone by accident? What if you hit a pedestrian or what if you kill another driver because you fall asleep at the wheel? Can you be thrown in jail or prison for taking someone else’s life entirely by accident? Yes, it is possible to be prosecuted for accidental death and it’s possible to face a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the victim’s family.

Criminal Charges for Accidental Killings

In Texas, the various homicide offenses are covered under Title 5, Chapter 19 of the Texas Penal Code. The homicide offenses in the state include murder, capital murder, manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide with the latter, criminally negligent homicide, being the one that generally applies to wrongful death situations. Criminally negligent homicide is a state jail felony, punishable by 180 days to 2 years in jail and by a fine not to exceed $10,000.

What is criminal negligence? According to LegalMatch, “Criminal negligence occurs when a person acts in such a way that it can be considered an extreme departure from the manner in which a ‘reasonable’ person would have acted in the same or similar situation.

“In general, an act that rises to the level of criminal negligence typically involves one that shows an indifference or disregard for human life, or for the safety of other individuals.”

While not every accidental killing results in criminal charges, it can and does happen, especially when a vehicle is involved. If your loved one was killed in an accident and the at-fault party is facing criminal charges for the accident, that does not bar the decedent’s family from filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Contact our firm to learn more.

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