Texas wrongful death claims are brought to support the surviving family members by helping they pay costs, plan for the future, and get some closure after the unexpected loss of a loved one.
While we can’t provide a standard settlement amount for the typical wrongful death settlement, we can list the things you may be eligible to claim and seek compensation for.
Wrongful death settlements tend to cover two major types of compensation: economic and non-economic. Punitive damages may also be considered in some situations.
Economic damages are losses you can measure or estimate in specific dollar amounts. This usually includes medical expenses (before the death itself), lost future wages, lost inheritances, and funeral and burial costs. You may hear phrases like “loss of household services” to refer to how the deceased person helped keep the home.
We advise family members to hold on to all their bills, receipts, and other financial documentation to make the economic damages easier to calculate.
Non-economic damages are losses that can’t be measured by specific dollar amounts. This can include what might be called pain and suffering, mental anguish, and emotional distress. You may hear phrases like “loss of companionship, comfort, and advice.”
You might think it’s impossible to put a price on something like the loss of a lifetime of love, protection, or guidance. And to some degree, that’s true. But in a wrongful death case, financial compensation is the only benefit you can seek. Texas recognizes that non-economic damages are serious and traumatic for survivors, and so non-economic damages typically represent a significant portion of the financial settlement.
We advise loved ones bringing a wrongful death case to keep notes on the mental and emotional pain caused by the loss of their loved one. Your personal injury attorney will use the information to negotiate for fair compensation.
Note that non-economic damages are capped at $500,000 (and $250,000 per provider in the event of multiple defendants) in Texas medical malpractice wrongful death cases. These caps do not apply to other wrongful death cases in the state.
Punitive damages serve only to punish the at-fault party and discourage their negligent behavior in the future, rather than being tied to specific economic or non-economic damages suffered by the victims. (However, the damages are still awarded to the survivors bringing the wrongful death claim.)
Because they’re meant to “make an example” of the negligent parties, punitive damages are awarded relatively rarely. Usually, the personal or organization at fault needs to demonstrate especially reckless behavior with flagrant disregard for the safety of others.
Factors That Might Influence Wrongful Death Settlement Amounts
Certain losses are more complicated to calculate after a wrongful death. For example, an injured person can add up their lost wages quite easily. But when a loved one dies and the family needs compensation for their future lost wages, the amounts are suddenly less obvious.
Factors that might influence the amount of your compensation include:
- The age of the person at their death: Someone in their 20s had decades of earning potential to influence a settlement amount, while someone in their 70s had already earned most of their wages.
- Their general health while alive: The level to which someone’s overall health contributed to their death may influence the settlement.
- Whether they contributed to the accident at all: Texas’ rule of comparative fault dictates that partial responsibility for an accident can reduce how much compensation wronged parties are eligible for.
- Their typical roles in the household: Losing a family member who takes care of all home repairs, auto maintenance, or childcare impacts survivors more than someone who was relatively inactive.
Figuring out all your damages and getting the at-fault party’s insurance company to agree on a settlement amount is challenging. Your best bet is to work with a legal professional.
RELATED: What Families Should Know About Texas Wrongful Death Statute