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What Damages Are Available in a Wrongful Death Claim?

Posted on November 21, 2023

Losing a loved one due to someone else’s negligence is devastating. In such tragic circumstances, the surviving family members may pursue a wrongful death claim to seek compensation for their losses. Wrongful death damages aim to provide financial relief for the impact of the loss. Here are the types that are commonly available.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are the most common types of compensation awarded in wrongful death cases. They provide reimbursement for both economic and non-economic losses. 

Economic Damages

Economic damages is compensation for actual financial losses that the surviving family have incurred due to their loved one’s death—for example:

  • Medical bills and injury-related expenses from the accident that caused a loved one’s death. 
  • Loss of the deceased’s future income and benefits
  • Loss of inheritance 
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Legal fees

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages is compensation for intangible losses—for instance: 

  • Loss of support and services that the victim provided, such as childcare
  • Loss of parental guidance
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress

Loss of consortium damages can also be awarded to the surviving spouse of the deceased person for the loss of their partner’s love, affection, and companionship.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages may also be granted if the defendant’s  (at-fault party’s) behavior was egregious or especially reckless. The purpose of this type of compensation is to penalize the defendant and discourage others from committing similar acts in the future. Examples of cases where punitive damages are more commonly awarded include those that involve drunk driving accidents or medical malpractice.

Modified Comparative Negligence in Texas

Texas has a law known as modified comparative negligence, which is applied to wrongful death claims. Under this statute, if the deceased person was partially at fault for their accident, their family’s damages will be reduced in proportion to the victim’s degree of fault, as long as they were less than 50% to blame. For example, if the deceased person was found to be 20% at fault for their accident, their family members will receive 80% of any award. However, if the deceased person is determined to have been 51% or more responsible, their family will be barred from recovering any damages. 

Who Can Recover Damages in a Texas Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

How compensation from a wrongful death lawsuit is distributed will depend on the parties involved. For instance:

  • The surviving spouse of the deceased.
  • The surviving children.
  • If there is no surviving spouse or child, the surviving parents of the deceased person.

In many instances, outstanding debts to healthcare providers, such as hospitals, will be settled before the remaining settlement is allocated to qualifying family members.

An Attorney Can Help

A Waco wrongful death lawyer can provide invaluable support by thoroughly investigating the circumstances surrounding the death, gathering evidence, and assessing the potential damages. They can guide you through the legal process, ensuring that your rights are protected. Additionally, a wrongful death attorney can skillfully negotiate a fair settlement and, if necessary, represent your family in court.