What Are The Economic Damages That The Survivors Are Entitled To In A Wrongful Death Case?
There are a number of damages that survivors recover. These can be broken down into two categories:
Loss of the deceased’s estate:
- Medical expenses incurred before death
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Physical pain before death
- Mental anguish before death
Loss of the survivors
- Pecuniary loss – loss of the care, maintenance, support, services, advice, counsel, and reasonable contributions of a pecuniary (monetary) value. This includes loss of household services (compensation for things the deceased did around the home – cook, clean, mow the grass, etc.)
- Loss of companionship and society – loss of the positive benefits flowing from love, comfort, companionship and society
- Mental anguish – emotional pain, torment and suffering
- Loss of inheritance
How Is The Amount Of Damages Determined?
Loss of income and inheritance can be calculated using past earnings history projected into the future. Loss of household services can be calculated using values published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor. Typically, economics and/or earnings expert is retained to prepare reports calculating these amounts.
Other losses like pain, mental anguish, loss of companionship, and society can be extremely difficult to calculate. Ultimately, a jury is asked to award an amount they believe fairly and reasonably compensates for the loss. This can vary greatly from jury to jury.
Are Punitive Damages Recoverable In Wrongful Death Action?
Punitive damages, sometimes called “exemplary” damages, are dollars awarded as an example to others and as a punishment for wrongful conduct. Punitive or exemplary damages are recoverable in Texas if it can be proven by clear and convincing evidence that the death was caused by a willful act or gross negligence.
Gross negligence is an act by the wrongdoer that
- involves an extreme degree of risk and
- the wrongdoer had actual awareness of the risk but proceeded to act anyway.
A classic example of gross negligence is drunk driving. Texting and driving may also rise to the level of gross negligence. In Texas, most awards of punitive damages are capped at an amount proportionate to the amounts given by the jury for the other losses.
How Are Damages Divided In A Case With Multiple Heirs?
If the case goes to trial, the jury awards separate amounts to each family member. Since most cases settle before trial, a “family agreement” is typically reached early in the case. This sets out the percentage of the settlement each family member receives.
If you need information about the Types Of Damages That Are Recoverable In Wrongful Death Cases, call the law office of Greg Jackson for a FREE Initial Consultation at (817) 926-1003 and get the information and legal answers you’re seeking.