Categories of Wrongful Death Damages
Wondering what damages are available to you in a wrongful death claim? Houston wrongful death attorney Neal Davis explains your compensation options.
There is a tremendous toll felt by family members when a loved one dies unexpectedly. The sudden loss not only causes emotional trauma, but economic hardship as well. Wrongful death statutes in each state provide compensation to families burdened by financial obligations after the loss of a loved one caused by another person's negligence. This compensation is known as wrongful death "damages."
In the state of Texas, the deceased person's spouse, children, or parents can be awarded economic and non-economic wrongful death damages for:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral costs
- Loss of the victim's work wages
- Loss of benefits
- Emotional suffering
- Mental anxiety and stress
- Loss of companionship or parental guidance
In rare cases, punitive damages may also be awarded to surviving family members in a wrongful death lawsuit if gross negligence was a factor. Punitive damages are intended to punish the responsible party for particularly reckless behavior and deter similar behavior in the future.
Contact Neal Davis to discuss your rights.
Wrongful Death Claims: Different Categories of Damages
Damages awarded in Texas wrongful death cases are generally split into two broad categories based on different time periods: injuries to the deceased until their death and losses experienced by the deceased's next of kin.
The first category of wrongful death damages accounts for injuries experienced by the deceased before their death from the moment an act of negligence occurred.
For example, if a person suffered severe brain trauma in a car accident that ultimately resulted in their death after weeks of hospital care, then compensation may be owed to the family for the deceased's full medical expenses, their pain and suffering, as well as lost wages.
The second category of damages permits compensation for financial and emotional losses experienced by the deceased's surviving family members after their death. In addition to replacing the lost future earning capacity of the deceased, these damages are intended to help family members recover monetary compensation for funeral and burial expenses.
Texas law also grants compensation for "loss of consortium" for spouses, children and parents in certain wrongful death cases. A spousal loss of consortium claim can include recovery for loss of affection, comfort, companionship, society, assistance, sexual relations, emotional support, love, and felicity. For children and parents, compensation may be awarded for loss of love, affection, protection, emotional support, services, companionship, care and society.
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Wrongful Death Claims: Who Can Be Compensated for Damages?
Determining which wrongful death damages should be awarded in each case depends on the nature of the fatal accident as well as the relationship of the plaintiff or plaintiffs to the deceased. According to Texas law, only certain family members are permitted to file a wrongful death claim.
Individuals who CAN file a wrongful death claim:
- Children (including children over the age of 18, dependent children less than 18 years old, and legally adopted children)
- Parents (including parents of a minor or adult child who has passed away as well as adoptive parents)
Individuals who CANNOT file a wrongful death claim:
- Distant relatives
- Domestic partners
- Financial dependents who aren't an immediate family member
Among the family members who are permitted to file a wrongful death claim, Texas allows them the option to file individually or as a joint group within 2 years from the date of the accident. If a wrongful death claim is not filed by one of these family members within 3 months of the death, an executor or attorney may file a claim in representation of the deceased's estate, unless an eligible family member blocks such a claim.
If the family's wrongful death claim is successful and the judge grants compensation, the division of damages will be determined by the court. The amount each family member receives in a wrongful death settlement is typically based on the proportionate amount of economic and emotional injury he or she experienced due to the sudden loss of their loved one.
Talk to an Expert Wrongful Death Attorney
If you still have questions about the damages that are owed in the event of a wrongful death, consult an experienced wrongful death lawyer who handles these complex cases. Houston attorney Neal Davis has 20 years of legal experience and is deeply knowledgeable in personal injury and wrongful death legal matters.
We understand this is a difficult time for you and your family, which is why we make ourselves available to answer your most pressing questions during a free consultation. Contact us and let us help you obtain some closure amidst tragedy.