If an accident claims the life of a loved one, families are suddenly faced with traumatic changes in their lives. They are forced to cope with their loved one’s passing and come to terms with their loss, while at the same time they may wish for some way to seek justice against the party whose negligent behavior caused the accident. Families searching for some sense of closure may choose to pursue legal action against the negligent party to help them better deal with their loss.
In legal terms, wrongful death is defined as “the death of a human being as the result of a wrongful act of another person.” Wrongful death is the basis for a lawsuit against the party or parties who caused the death filed on behalf of the members of the family who have lost the company and support of the deceased.” In short, wrongful death is when one party through malice or negligence causes the death of another party.
Wrongful deaths can happen in almost any situation, but the most common causes can include: car and truck accidents, medical malpractice, unsafe workplace and defective products.
WHA represents spouses, descendants, and family members in wrongful death claims whose loved ones may have been the victim of a wrongful death.
There are different claims that may be brought. When a person dies as a result of the negligent or wrongful acts of another, his or her loved ones may pursue a “wrongful death” claim. If the person was not killed instantly, his or her loved ones may also bring what is known as a “survival action” on the decedent’s behalf. A successful wrongful death claim allows a decedent’s loved ones to require the wrongdoer to compensate them for the financial and emotional hardship caused by the person’s death. A successful survival action allows a decedent’s loved ones to require the wrongdoer to compensate the decedent’s estate for the medical expenses incurred and the conscious physical pain and mental anguish endured by the decedent.
In Texas, the persons able to pursue a wrongful death claim and survival action may include the deceased’s:
- Surviving spouse;
- Parents; and/or
- The Administrator or Executor of the decedent’s estate
Loved ones successful in their wrongful death suit and survival action may be able to recover money for:
- The deceased’s medical expenses;
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- The deceased’s conscious mental and physical pain and suffering (actually considered a ‘survival action’);
- Loss of the deceased’s financial support and benefits for his or her expected lifetime (income, pension, medical coverage);
- Increased expenses incurred (such as for paying someone to perform the duties previously performed by the homemaker);
- Loss of consortium, companionship, care, guidance and affection; and/or
- In some cases, involving gross negligence or malicious acts, a decedent’s loved ones may also be able to recover punitive damages (damages intended to punish the wrongdoer).