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Types of damages in a wrongful death claim

In an earlier post, we briefly discussed the types of damages that are recoverable in a wrongful death claim. This post explores those damages in depth.

A wrongful death claim is a special type of personal injury claim. It can only be brought by the family members or loved ones of a person whose death was caused by someone else’s negligence. Under Texas law, there are different types of damages that can be recovered in a successful wrongful death claim.   

The primary measure of damages in a wrongful death action is pecuniary, or financial, losses. These damages are designed to compensate the family members for the losses they incurred as a result of the victim’s death. Pecuniary losses include things like the following:

  • Medical bills
  • Funeral expenses
  • Loss of future financial support of the deceased
  • Lost care, services, or support the deceased would have provided
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost companionship
  • Lost prospect of inheritance

Determining the amount of pecuniary losses is complicated. It depends on a variety of factors such as the victim’s age, earning capacity, life expectancy, and health. Other circumstances may be taken into account. For example, if the victim was a parent at the time of death, the jury may award his or her family members damages to compensate for loss of parental guidance. Because these factors can be very difficult to figure out, experts may be used at trial to help the jury. Through expert testimony, either side can present evidence regarding any one or more of the factors listed above.

Another type of damages allowed under Texas law is called exemplary, or punitive, damages. As the name suggests, this type of damages is intended to punish the wrongdoer. Exemplary damages also serve to deter others from acting in a similar manner.

One thing to keep in mind is that a jury’s decision regarding the amount of damages is not a final award. The judge has the discretion to adjust to increase or decrease the award.

If your loved one was killed as a result of another person’s actions, you should contact an attorney as soon as you can. An attorney who is experienced in wrongful death claims can help you understand what steps you should take next. 

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