Losing a loved one unexpectedly can cause dramatic changes in your life. For example, you may lose a spouse who provided you with both financial support and assistance in your daily obligations, like picking your children up from school.
It is never easy to process a loss, but it is much harder to grieve when your family did not expect or plan for the death, which is often the case in circumstances involving a wrongful death. Wrongful deaths occur when an individual or business causes the death of another person through inaction/default, carelessness, negligence, unskillfulness or misconduct.
Surviving dependent family members can file a civil claim against the person or business responsible for the death. What kinds of damages can the surviving family members potentially seek?
Lost wages and benefits
The money your loved one earned and the benefits that they provided for your family through their employment are valuable. Under Texas law, you can potentially make a claim for all of their future earning potential and the cost of replacing the benefits that they provided.
Spouses and children may also be able to claim the loss of the inheritance that they could have expected to receive if their loved one had lived a typical lifespan instead of dying tragically.
Loss of services and practical support
If your spouse always made dinner or mowed the lawn, it would cost a lot of money for you to hire a professional to take over those responsibilities. If you start doing those tasks yourself, you can expect that the extra labor will cut into your earning potential and free time. The support and services offered by your loved one have an economic value that you can calculate and request from the party responsible for their death.
The suffering of survivors and their loss of companionship
The wrongful death statute in Texas allows the surviving family members to request compensation for their pain and suffering over the loss. They can also make a claim related to the loss of companionship and the emotional relationship that they had with their loved one.
Beyond that, in cases of extremely inappropriate behavior and misconduct, it may also be possible to seek punitive damages, although actually receiving them is rare. Understanding what kind of compensation you can request can help you plan for a possible wrongful death claim.