Pursuing a Houston Wrongful Death Claim
Feb 16, 2021
Losing a loved one in a preventable accident is a tragedy that no family should ever experience. However, each year, thousands of Texas families are impacted by the loss of a family member. In fact, Texas has the third greatest number of preventable deaths in the country, behind only California and Florida.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
When someone is fatally injured due to another’s negligence, their family can claim compensation against the at-fault party. This is referred to as a Texas wrongful death claim. Under state law, a wrongful death claim can be filed when another person’s “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness or default” caused another’s death.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Texas?
Under Texas law, a spouse, child and parent can bring a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death action is a type of Texas personal injury cause of action or claim that family members can bring to obtain compensation for the loss of their loved one.
To establish liability in a Texas wrongful death claim, the claimant must show that their loved one died as a result of the defendant’s “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.”
Types of Wrongful Death Cases in Texas
Any of the following may result in a wrongful death claim:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Workplace accidents
- Industrial accidents
Regardless of the nature of the accident, a wrongful death action results if another’s negligence caused someone’s death.
Damages in a Texas Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Of course, nothing can bring back a family member who was killed in a senseless accident. However, the surviving spouses, children, and parents may seek damages through wrongful death claims. Monetary damages consist of actual damages, and in some cases, exemplary (punitive) damages.
Actual damages include (1) pecuniary losses, (2) mental anguish, (3) loss of companionship and society, and (4) loss of inheritance. Pecuniary losses, in turn, include the loss of the decedent’s earning capacity, advice, counsel, services, care, maintenance and support; they may also include expenses for the family member’s psychological treatment that resulted.
Loss of inheritance is defined as the present value that the victim would, in reasonable probability, have added to the estate and left at natural death to the statutory beneficiaries, but for the wrongful conduct that resulted in the death.
In some cases, a judge or jury can award exemplary (punitive) damages. Unlike actual damages, punitive damages are not designed to compensate the plaintiff for their injuries. Instead, punitive damages focus on punishing the defendant for their especially egregious behavior. Punitive damages are rare and are awarded when the plaintiff can prove that the death was caused by the wrongdoer’s willful act or omission or gross negligence.
Texas Survival Action
When a negligent person or company causes a fatal accident, the victim’s estate can recover damages that the deceased victim herself suffered as a result of the wrongdoing. The “survival” action is brought on behalf of the deceased for the deceased’s damages, including their physical pain and mental anguish that preceded the death, their medical bills, and their funeral expenses. It is called a “survival” action because the claim “survives” the death of the deceased, allowing the deceased’s estate to bring the claim.
Economic/Non-economic Damage Language
In Texas, there are two types of actual or “compensatory” damages: economic and non- economic. Economic damages are meant to compensate a claimant for actual economic or pecuniary loss and can often be determined by presenting receipts, medical bills or through the testimony of an expert witness. Examples of economic damages include the following:
- Medical expenses in the past and future
- Loss of earning capacity in the past and future
Non-economic damages are more subjective in nature. Examples of noneconomic damages include the following:
- Physical pain in the past and future
- Mental anguish in the past and future
- Physical impairment in the past and future
In a wrongful death claim after an accident, the claimant’s non-economic damages include loss of consortium and the loss of companionship and society.
Both economic and non-economic damages are crucial to ensuring that an accident victim is fully compensated for their physical and emotional injuries.
At The de la Garza Law Group, we know that no two cases are the same. Every client is special. Every case is personal. We know that in order to help our clients obtain the justice they deserve, we must get to know our clients and how the accident has impacted their lives. For this reason, we spend significant time getting to know the details of each client’s case and always maintain awareness of the client’s goals for the representation.
If you recently lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, contact The de la Garza Law Group today. We offer a free, no-obligation case evaluation. To learn more, call 713-784-1010, or call toll-free at 844-784-1010.
We proudly represent clients throughout Texas, including all major metropolitan areas. We represent many clients throughout the greater Houston area, including Harris County, Fort Bend County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Jefferson County, Chambers County, Waller County and Montgomery County, including The Woodlands, Pearland, Pasadena, Baytown, Clear Lake, Galveston, Conroe and Sugar Land.