When a loved one dies due to the bad acts of another, it can be devastating both emotionally and financially. Texas law provides for financial recourse against the responsible party or parties, but what damages are available can vary depending upon the facts of each case. In Texas, surviving family members may be able to file both a wrongful death lawsuit and lodge a survival action. Understanding the differences between Texas wrongful death and survival actions and the damages available for each is crucial to ensuring survivors work toward the best possible legal resolution. Below we will discuss Texas wrongful death and survival damages. If you have questions after reading, our legal team can help answer them.
Texas Wrongful Death Statute
Chapter 71 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, also known as the Texas Wrongful Death Act, allows these family members to sue for damages when a loved one is killed by the actions or inaction of another. If the death was caused by a wrongful act, carelessness, unskillfulness, neglect, or default of another person or corporation, a valid lawsuit can most likely be filed. The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to recover the “full value of the life” of the deceased individual.
Statute of Limitations
In Texas, wrongful death claims can be subject to two separate statutes of limitations – the limitations period on the claim a deceased person could have filed and the limitations period for the plaintiff’s own wrongful death claim. A plaintiff generally has two years from the date of their loved one’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Texas Wrongful Death Beneficiaries
In Texas, the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased person can file wrongful death lawsuits to recover damages suffered as a result of the death. The siblings, divorced spouse, and grandchildren of the victim are not able to file wrongful death claims. You are likely a Texas wrongful death beneficiary eligible to bring a claim if your case meets two basic criteria:
- You are a statutory beneficiary of the deceased (spouse, child, or parent)
- The defendant’s bad acts caused your loved one’s death
In addition, in some cases, an adopted child may file a wrongful death claim if their adoption was finalized prior to the death. Adoptive parents may similarly bring a wrongful death claim for their adopted child.
Individual wrongful death claims may be filed by each survivor on their own or all of the family members can file a claim together.
Wrongful Death Damages
Wrongful death damages serve to compensate the family members for the losses experienced as a result of losing a loved one. The types of recoverable damages often depend on whether the claimant is a surviving spouse, a parent, or a child; and, the plaintiffs receive these damages directly.
The most commonly recovered wrongful death damages include:
- Medical bills up to the date of death
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Mental anguish
- Lost earning capacity
- Lost inheritance (what would have been financially gained had the decedent lived a full life)
- Lost household services
- Lost care, support, guidance, or counsel
- Lost love or companionship
In some cases, when a defendant acted willfully or with gross negligence, the family may be able to recover exemplary — or punitive — damages to penalize or punish them for their behavior and to send a message to help ensure something like this does not happen again.
A survival action compensates the estate of the deceased for the losses they suffered prior to their death. A survival action can recover economic, non-economic, and punitive damages on behalf of the decedent’s estate. These survival damages may include pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages, and property damage costs, as well as the mental anguish the decedent experienced before dying. The damages in a survival action are the damages the decedent may have received had the incident not caused in their death. Medical expenses incurred in trying to save the decedent and/or burial expenses, both of which are debts of the decedent’s estate and not the surviving family members, are also recoverable as survival damages. These damages are meant to represent the compensation the deceased individual may have received if the accident hadn’t killed them. Survival damages are paid to the estate of the deceased, not directly to surviving family members.
Dallas Wrongful Death Lawyers
At Wolf Law, PLLC, we proudly represent surviving family members who lost someone they love because of a corporation or individual’s negligence. We aggressively seek to hold the legally responsible parties accountable and to help prevent another family from suffering a similar loss. Our Dallas wrongful death attorneys will explain the various legal issues surrounding wrongful death lawsuits so that everyone understands what to expect.