In Texas, the law allows certain individuals to seek compensation for the death of a family member, when the death is caused by the carelessness of another. However, Texas wrongful death law can be complicated and difficult to navigate. Whether a death is related to a car or trucking crash, a construction accident, or any other type of negligent conduct, the basic structure of the Texas wrongful death law is the same. The purpose of this page is to provide a basic understanding of the Texas wrongful death laws for victims who have lost a loved one because of another person’s negligence.
The Texas Wrongful Death statute limits who has the legal right to assert a wrongful death claim. In Texas, only the spouse, children, and parents of the person who was killed (the “decedent”) are legally permitted to bring a wrongful death claim. The law does not allow siblings of the decedent to bring a wrongful death claim.
Determining whether someone is considered a spouse, child, or parent of the decedent can be complicated. For example, there are specific and complicated rules that apply to adopted children and adoptive parents, and common-law spouses. There are also complicated rules for the wrongful death of unborn children.
Pecuniary losses are sustained by the family members who have lost the decedent’s earning capacity, advice, services, care, maintenance and support. These losses might include the actual monetary value of the decedent’s professional advice and guidance, household and domestic services, and child care and maintenance. Additionally, pecuniary losses can include expenses for medical treatment for the family member’s emotional trauma as well as funeral expenses. Essentially, these are economic losses that the claimant can account for because of the loss of their family member.
Proving mental anguish that is compensable is typically a very difficult hurdle in most personal injury cases. However, mental anguish is generally available to help compensate victims of a wrongful death. This includes compensation for emotional suffering and pain the victims of a wrongful death go through because of the loss of their family member. To prove the extent of the wrongful death claimant’s mental anguish, courts will rely on a variety of factors, focusing on the true nature and depth of the relationship between the claimant and the decedent. Unlike compensation for pecuniary losses, which are economic in nature, mental anguish damages are highly intangible and difficult of calculation.
Damages for loss of companionship and society are designed to attempt to compensate the wrongful death claimant for losing the love, companionship, and togetherness they would have otherwise received from their loved one who was wrongfully killed. Like mental anguish damages, damages for loss of companionship and society are intangible and difficult to calculate. Also like mental anguish damages, the amount of compensation a wrongful death claimant should expect to recover will depend on a variety of factors, focusing again on the true nature of the relationship between the claimant and decedent.
When the decedent was capable of earning income and contributing to an estate, wrongful death claimants can seek to prove how much of an inheritance they have likely been deprived of as a result of the wrongful death. Loss of inheritance can be an important element of a wrongful death claim in cases where the decedent’s lifetime earning capacity would exceed their lifetime expenditures, such that the decedent, had they survived until a natural death, would have left their heirs with an inheritance. Like pecuniary losses, loss of inheritance is economic in nature and should be calculated if the wrongful death claimant wants to prove the loss.
Yes. At the outset, it is important for a wrongful death claimant to learn as much as they can about the circumstances surrounding the death of a loved one, and identify all parties that might be responsible for the wrongful death. In many cases, proving the extent of damages is not the hardest part of the wrongful death case (though it can be complicated and challenging). Rather, the challenge comes from identifying all of the potential sources from which the wrongful death claimants can be compensated.
By talking with a personal injury and wrongful death lawyer, a wrongful death claimant should develop a deeper understanding of their rights and responsibilities after the wrongful death of a loved one, so the claimant can focus more on getting their life back on track, knowing what action plan they should have in place for asserting their wrongful death claim.