No court verdict or settlement agreement can bring a person back to life. Nevertheless, a wrongful death lawsuit often is the best way for a grieving family to seek justice from the person, business or other entity (or entities) that negligently allowed their loved one’s death to occur.
In Texas, both the estate of the deceased and their immediate family are entitled to compensation after a wrongful death. Specific types of damages that plaintiffs can seek include:
- The deceased’s pain and suffering
- Medical bills
- Funeral expenses
- Lost earning capacity
- Loss of the deceased’s guidance, care, maintenance, companionship and society
- Loss of potential inheritance of what the deceased likely would have passed on to their children and other heirs had they not been killed when they were
- In some cases, punitive damages
These damages include those suffered by the deceased as well as those experienced by their surviving spouse, parents, children and other relatives. Besides determining the types of damages the parties sustained, the purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to find how much compensation they are entitled to.
Determining the unknowable
Figuring out compensation in a wrongful death case is not an exact science. It largely forces attorneys and (if the case goes to trial) jurors to predict what the deceased’s earning power and income would have become had the defendant not ended their life prematurely. While what might have been cannot be known with perfect certainty, facts about the deceased at the time of their death help. These facts include:
- How old the decedent was when they died
- Their education and training
- Their health and disability status before the incident that caused their death
- The value of the benefits they provided to their family that is now lost — health insurance, pensions, etc.
- The ages and needs of the decedent’s children and other dependants at the time of death
For families, the proceeds from a lawsuit settlement or verdict can rescue them from financial peril following the loss of a loved one.