What Damages Can Be Claimed in a Texas Wrongful Death Suit?
After a loved one passes, many people are left with important questions. This is particularly true when the loved on was the primary source of household income.
In Texas, certain family members can file a “wrongful death claim” when the loved one has passed away because of the negligent, or worse—intentional—actions of a person or company. These types of claims allow the family members to recover certain types of compensation (or “damages”) for their loss.
We’ve walked countless families through these tragedies over our nearly 40 years in business. Our wrongful death attorneys stand by ready to help you investigate your claim and learn about your legal options today.
Compensatory Damages (Damages that Compensate You)
There are two basic types of damages in a Texas wrongful death claim. The first types of damages are called “compensatory damages.” These damages are exactly what they sound like—they compensate family members for the actual loss and suffering associated with the needless death of their loved one.
In a Texas wrongful death case, family member may recover:
- lost earning capacity (i.e., loss of household income);
- lost care, maintenance, services, support, advice, and counsel the deceased would have provided his or her surviving family members;
- mental and emotional anguish, pain, and suffering;
- lost love, companionship, comfort, and society; and
- lost inheritance, including what the deceased would have saved and left to surviving family members if he or she had lived to normal life expectancy.
Punitive Damages (Damages that Punish a Wrongdoer)
In some wrongful death cases, a special type of damages may be available. These damages are known as “punitive” or “exemplary” damages.
These types of damages are reserved for egregious cases. Specifically, these damages are available when the wrongful death is caused by a willful act or omission, or by “gross negligence” (in other words, the deliberate and reckless disregard for the safety and reasonable treatment of others).
The purpose of punitive damages is not necessarily to compensate the grieving family, but to punish a wrongdoer and send a message that society will not tolerate the willful or grossly negligent conduct of the wrongdoing person(s) or company.
Survival Claim (Another Type of Claim)
Keep in mind that family members may be able to bring more than a wrongful death claim. Texas law allows for what is known as a “survival claim.” This type of claim has its own separate types of damages available to surviving family members.
In short, survival claims are essentially the claim that the decedent family member would have been able to bring on their own, had they remained alive. In other words, this is their own claim, which “survives” their death.
In Texas, a survival claim allows family members to recover medical and funeral expenses related to the decedent’s injury and death. Moreover, these claims compensate for the pain the decedent suffered between the relevant incident and the time of death.
Division of Damages Among Family Members
When damages are awarded in a Texas wrongful death claim, they are divided among the surviving family members in proportion to the injury they suffered as a result of the untimely death. These proportions are typically determined by the court.