The winter storm that hit Texas in mid-February is shaping up to be among the costliest disaster in state history. According to The Texas Tribune, the winter storm is likely to exceed Hurricane Harvey’s $125 billion in damage. That level of financial damage is stunning, but there was a more profound cost: the loss of dozens of Texans’ lives.
Officials are still working to fully count the number of lives we lost to the freeze, but early reports set the death toll at 80. Sadly, many of those lives might have been saved if electric grid operators and other officials had upheld their duty to protect vulnerable Texans. But they didn’t, and countless Texas families are grieving an unimaginable loss as a result.
However, our state’s wrongful death laws may allow families who lost someone to the winter storm some relief. To learn more about Texas winter storm wrongful death lawsuits, keep reading or get in touch with the Houston wrongful death attorneys at The Krist Law Firm, P.C.
The Texas Winter Storm: What Went Wrong
In Texas, our electrical grid is not beholden to federal law. We operate it ourselves; the Electric Reliability Council of Texas runs it. We trust them to prepare our grid to withstand severe weather. But in the case of the 2021 Texas winter storm, our grid was not stable enough.
And when the power is out, the heat is out. During freezing temperatures, that is a deadly situation. That is why families have already begun filing wrongful death lawsuits against ERCOT.
When Is a Death Considered ‘Wrongful’ in Texas?
Had people had sufficient power and heat, lives would have been saved. While that may sound like reason enough to file a wrongful death lawsuit, it’s important to remember that the law is a little more complicated.
To count as a wrongful death worthy of compensation from the at-fault party, the death has to have been the result of someone else’s negligent or purposeful actions. In the winter storm that hit Texas, proving that someone was negligent and that this negligence caused death can be challenging. That’s due in part to the legal concept of sovereign immunity.
Sovereign Immunity & Texas Wrongful Death Liability
Put simply, sovereign immunity protects Texas from lawsuits for negligence. This means the Texas legislature has to approve of any effort to sue the state of Texas for that suit to be able to go anywhere.
If Texas is at-fault for death for allowing its grid to be vulnerable to winter storms, how can families of those who died to get justice when the state is protected from liability? It’s a tough question that has made it to the Texas Supreme Court. The court is expected to decide this year whether ERCOT is entitled to sovereign immunity as an agency of the state.
Other Potential At-Fault Parties
While the state and state agencies may yet be held responsible for the wrongful deaths that resulted from the Texas winter storm, they may not be the only parties who should be sued. For example, if you rent an apartment or house, your landlord may be compelled to compensate you if their actions or misconduct caused you to suffer damages.
We discuss wrongful death lawsuits from the Texas winter storm, but this extends to any form of damages – even property damage. If your landlord failed to act to keep their property safe for tenants during the winter storm, you might be able to sue them if that failure caused you to suffer damages.
Wrongful Death Compensation From the Texas Winter Storm
In Texas, the goal of a wrongful death claim or a lawsuit is to compensate family members who are suffering because of a loss.
The following are some damages for which surviving family members recover:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental and emotional anguish
- Lost earning capacity of the deceased
- Lost love, comfort, society, and companionship
- Lost support or services the deceased would have provided
An experienced and compassionate wrongful death lawyer can help you accurately assess and maximize the value of your claim to ensure your family receives justice to the fullest possible extent.
Reach Out To The Krist Law Firm, P.C.
For help getting justice for the loss of your loved one in the Texas winter storm, contact the Houston wrongful death lawyers at The Krist Law Firm, P.C. We pride ourselves on our ability to get justice for our clients.
To learn how we can help you and your family in this difficult time, call (281) 283-8500 or contact us online. We offer 100% free consultations and never charge upfront fees. You only pay when we recover compensation for you.