Wrongful death cases are one of the most traumatic types of cases that exist. Losing a loved one is hard enough; but losing a loved one in a way that could have been avoided or that should not have happened can be truly devastating. If you are considering contacting a personal injury lawyer or a wrongful death attorney, this article will provide you with a bit of background information to help you begin to understand the legal dynamics involved.
Wrongful Death In The State Of Texas
The Supreme Court of Texas has called Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code §§ 71.001—011 the “Wrongful Death Statute.” Russel v. Ingersoll-Rand Co., 841 S.W.2d 343, 344 (Tex. 1992). Tex. Civ. Prac. and Rem. Code §§ 71.001—003 lay out the definitions for instances where wrongful death is a viable action. As a general rule, the wrongful death action is for instances where “an injury causes an individual's death” by “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.” § 71.002(b). Further, the statute lowers the threshold for finding liability on the part of owners (and not just the individual employees and operators) where there are dangerous premises, equipment, or facilities involved; these include industrial plants, railroads, street railways, and “vehicles for the transportation of goods or passengers.” § 71.002(c). Incidents involving these types of vehicles could include train wrecks, bus wrecks, public transportation accidents, collisions with eighteen wheelers, truck wrecks, etc.
Types Of Damages In A Wrongful Death Case
The statute additionally states that a wrongful death action can only be brought by “the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased.” § 71.004(a). Thus, the first type of damages available in wrongful death lawsuits is economic damages. These damages typically include loss of expected earnings or future earnings that the deceased would otherwise have been able to contribute to the family members who depended and continue to depend on him or her in their absence. Loss of benefits—like pensions, insurance coverages, etc.—may also come into play in a wrongful death suit. Economic damages in this context can also include medical expenses that may have accrued in the final days, weeks, or months of the deceased's life. Additionally, expenditures related to your loved one's passing—like funeral expenses—can usually be recovered in these cases.
Aside from economic damages, the types of non-economic damages available include: pain and suffering; mental anguish; loss of companionship; and loss of society. Lawhorn v. Hidinger (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi [13th Dist.] 2019). Texas courts have described mental anguish as “the emotional pain, torment, and mental suffering that the plaintiff experienced as a result of the death of the family member. Id. Loss of companionship and loss of society “are intended to compensate the plaintiff for the positive benefits flowing from the love, comfort, companionship, and society that the plaintiff would have received had the decedent lived.” Id. In laymen's-terms: these types of damages are to compensate you for the loss of your loved one and the life and love you would have enjoyed had they not passed. Loss of a father, loss of a mother, and the loss of a child are certainly regarded as some of the worst pains any of us will experience, and this is all the worse where their passing is the result of wrongdoing. If you are successful in bringing a wrongful death action, the law allows for you to be compensated for your losses.
Additionally, in certain cases, the statute allows for “punitive” or “exemplary” damages where “the death is caused by the willful act or omission or gross negligence of the defendant.” § 71.009. In such cases, these types of damages are available in addition to the economic and non-economic damages explained above. This portion of the law essentially allows for the jury or judge to make an example or send a message in particularly shocking or outrageous instances. A personal injury lawyer can help you understand legal issues like these.
Contact Us For A Free Consult
If you have recently suffered the loss of a loved one by carelessness, negligence, or other similar means, we invite you to call us at (817) 424-5999 or to fill out our form on this website. We would be honored to provide a free case analysis and explain your legal options to you. We are sorry you are going through such a troubling time, but we hope this article provided some useful information, and we here at the Glenn Law Firm are ready to help you through it.