Personal Injury Law FAQ: What is Wrongful Death?

by Tim O’Hare

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Understanding the legal system as it pertains to personal injury and wrongful death is not a simple task. The laws regarding injury accidents and death due to negligence can be confusing. If an individual dies as a result of the negligence of another person, how is justice served when that person is not alive and able to receive compensation?

The unfortunate truth is that no amount of money can ever fully compensate for the loss of a loved one. However, when an individual dies as a result of the negligence of another person, the victim’s survivors can sue the negligent party in a wrongful death lawsuit, and they (the survivors) are entitled to monetary damages. Laws regarding wrongful death have not always offered this provision for the survivors of the deceased individual, but over the years, laws have been passed in the United States which provide compensation to the survivors for damages resulting from the death of their loved one.

In the case of a wrongful death in Texas, only spouses, children, or parents of the decedent are eligible to recover damages in a wrongful death suit. There is one exception:  the executor or personal representative of an estate can bring a case for the damages suffered by the decedent to pass that money on to the decedent’s heirs. There is also a statute of limitations of two years in wrongful death cases in Texas. If more than two years have passed since the death occurred, a wrongful death suit cannot be filed.

In order to make a wrongful death claim, four elements must exist:

  1. The death was caused by the conduct of the defendant.
  2. The defendant was negligent or reckless with the victim’s wellbeing.
  3. There are survivors of the deceased (spouse, children, parents or other heirs) who are eligible to receive compensation.
  4. Damages have resulted from the death (this one is obvious if the other elements are met.)

Plaintiffs in a wrongful death suit may be awarded two types of damages: compensatory and punitive damages.

Compensatory damages may be awarded to the plaintiff to cover medical and funeral expenses, loss of future income or support, and grief or loss of companionship. Punitive damages, however, are intended to punish the defendant for gross negligence, and are awarded by a jury based on the defendant’s actions leading up to the death.

If you have experienced what you believe to be the wrongful death of a loved one as a result of an auto accident, construction accident, job injury or other negligent or reckless actions by another individual or company, call us. The experienced legal team at The Law Offices of Tim O’Hare will guide you through the wrongful death suit and ensure you receive all due compensation for your loss.

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