The death of a family member is the most traumatic event in most of our lives. When the family member’s death is caused by negligence, the surviving family members can bring a wrongful death lawsuit to recover damages (money).
Often, the death leaves family members with emotional losses as well as financial losses. These losses include:
- Medical Bills
- Funeral Bills
- Lost Support (Lost pension, salary, health insurance benefits and other benefits)
A prompt investigation into the death can help the family understand what happened and deal with the “why” of their loss. If the investigation reveals that the death was caused by the negligence of a person or corporation, a lawsuit to recover money may be appropriate.
Wrongful deaths can occur as a result of work-related injuries, car wrecks, medical malpractice, pharmacy prescription error or by the use of defective products or drugs.
Texas Wrongful Death
In Texas, the surviving husband or wife, children, and parents can file suit to recover the losses that have resulted from the death. The Texas Wrongful Death Statute creates two types of claims: survival claims and wrongful death claims.
Survival claims are the claims of the deceased for the pain and suffering they endured before death. They are called survival claims because they “survive the death” of the person killed and are brought by the dead person’s estate. When a jury is asked to award survival damages they may award money for three distinct elements:
- Pain and mental anguish suffered by the person before their death;
- Medical expenses for treating the person before their death;
- Funeral and burial expenses “reasonably suitable the persons station in life.” (This quote is directly from the Texas Pattern Jury Charge, PJC 10.2)
Wrongful Death Claims
Wrongful death claims are made by the surviving husband or wife, children and parents for their loss of “companionship and society” and “pecuniary loss.” A pecuniary loss means the loss of the care maintenance, support, services, advice, counsel and reasonable contributions of a pecuniary (money) value. All of these losses are taken into account and may be recovered in a successful wrongful death case.