When someone dies as a result of the careless, negligent actions, omissions or misconduct of another individual or at the hands of an entity, the death is considered a wrongful death in Texas. Surviving family members (i.e., surviving spouse, children and parents – siblings are excluded) of the decedent can sue whoever is responsible for causing the death for wrongful death through, and if the surviving family members do not bring the wrongful death action within three months of the death, the personal representative of the estate (or the executor) can bring the action instead, but for the benefit of the surviving family members.
A wrongful death action in Texas can arise from a number of negligent acts, such as:
- Motor vehicle accidents;
- Airplane or boating accidents;
- Medical malpractice or medical negligence;
- Death resulting during a supervised activity or sport;
- Criminal or negligent behavior of another; or
- Workplace accidents resulting in death.
In Texas, the statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits is two years from the date of the death.
Damages That May Be Sought In Wrongful Death Cases
Damages in a successful wrongful death lawsuit can include:
- A certain amount of funeral and burial expenses;
- The cost of the decedent’s medical bills prior to death;
- Pain and suffering and mental and emotional anguish leading up to the death;
- Loss of future earning capacity;
- Loss of consortium, companionship, comfort, etc. for the surviving family members; and
- Lost maintenance, support, parental guidance, services, and care for the surviving family members.
Texas also allows for exemplary, or punitive, damages for wrongful death cases. Punitive damages are damages in the form of punishment, which are meant to punish the negligent party that caused the death, in instances of willful acts or omissions, or gross negligence that led to the wrongful death.
Damages in a wrongful death case depend in part on what is lost to the surviving family members by the untimely death of the decedent. For instance, the damages associated with a young parent with a new dependent child might be higher than for the wrongful death of a child, since the parent had more fiscal responsibilities (providing for a family), likely had a job (after the death, the family suffers lost income), and the surviving family will suffer great loss (spouse will suffer loss of consortium, support, companionship and love; dependent child will suffer loss of parental guidance and support); whereas the deceased child, although tragic, will not amount to as much financial loss for the surviving family members.