Rights Available to Family Members in a Wrongful Death Case
We're sorry for the loss of your loved one. We're sure that you have many questions, and we hope this article will answer some of them. We'll look at who the law says is eligible to file a claim, the kinds of remedies that are available, and what steps you should take from here.
Who Files the Claim?
The Texas Wrongful Death Act names three parties eligible to file wrongful death claims. They are called statutory beneficiaries. Statutory beneficiaries include:
- Parents of the decedent
- Spouse of the decedent
- Children of the decedent
Additionally, If none of the statutory beneficiaries files suit within three months after the decedent's death, the executor or administrator of the decedent's estate must bring and prosecute the wrongful death suit unless asked not to do so by all the statutory beneficiaries.
What Remedies are Available?
While there is no monetary denomination that will take the place left by your lost loved one, this is the only kind of compensation available to the courts to acknowledge and seek to recover the damages that resulted from your loss. The remedies available cover many areas and can be complex to wrap your mind around. Let's look at a few examples.
- Actual damages - In a wrongful death action, the plaintiff can recover the actual damages she suffered. There are four basic types of damages recoverable in a wrongful death action: pecuniary losses, mental anguish, loss of companionship and society, and loss of inheritance.
- Pecuniary losses - These are defined as the loss of the decedent's earning capacity, advice, counsel, services, care, maintenance, support, and reasonable contributions of a pecuniary value. Pecuniary losses may also include certain expenses incurred by the plaintiff, such as psychological treatment or funeral expenses.
- Loss of advice and counsel - The plaintiff can recover damages for loss of "advice and counsel," which includes the pecuniary value of professional recommendations and personal guidance the decedent might have rendered to the plaintiff if the decedent has survived.
- Loss of services - The plaintiff can recover damages for loss of services. Appropriate evidence should be offered to prove the value of the services lost, but the jury is given wide discretion.
- Expenses for psychological treatment - The plaintiff can recover pecuniary damages for the reasonable and necessary expenses to treat the plaintiff's emotional trauma.
Again, there are still more kinds of damages that can be recovered, it all depends on the case, what evidence is available, and how the jury decides. Talking to an experienced attorney can help answer your questions and give you a better idea of how to move forward and what kinds of remedies you might expect to recover.
What Happens Now?
I can't emphasize enough, reach out to an experienced Texas attorney. Our law firm has over 25 years of experience handling wrongful death claims. We know this area of the law backwards and forwards and we're more than happy to answer whatever questions you might have, even if you don't decide to work with our firm. Give us a call 24/7 at (855) 326-0000.