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Wrongful death and survival actions in Texas: an overview

When someone is killed by another person's negligence or wrongdoing, certain family members of the victim have the right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit to recover compensation for their loss. Under the Texas wrongful death statute, the lawsuit is for the exclusive benefit of the deceased victim's surviving parents, spouse and children. The jury in its verdict will apportion the damages among the surviving family members who are entitled to recover.

In a wrongful death action the plaintiffs are entitled to damages for their own loss resulting from the death of the decedent. These damages include loss of financial support and loss of companionship. If the death was caused by a willful act or particularly egregious negligence, the survivors may also be entitled to exemplary or punitive damages, which are designed not to compensate but to punish and deter.

A wrongful death lawsuit is distinct from a survival lawsuit, which is also allowed under the same statute. In a survival lawsuit, the personal representative of the decedent's estate, or the decedent's heirs, sue to recover on a personal injury claim the deceased victim had at the time they died. In a survival action the damages are those that could have been recovered by the victim had he or she lived. They can include such items as medical expenses and the pain and suffering experienced by the victim prior to death.

No amount of damages can replace a loved one lost in a fatal accident. But a wrongful death claim can help surviving family members get back on their feet financially, and give them a sense that justice has been done.

The information in this post is intended as general information only. It should not be taken as specific legal advice. If you have questions related to your specific situation, you should consult an experienced Texas wrongful death law firm.

Source: Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code ch. 71, accessed Nov. 11, 2014

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