Wrongful Death in Texas
The 1997 trial of O.J. Simpson in which he was found liable by a civil court for the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, after he was acquitted for murder in a criminal court, was probably the most publicized wrongful death trial in history. Like California, where Simpson was sued, wrongful death in Texas is a course of civil action that may be pursued by the victim’s survivors or estate, to hold a party liable and recover damages for causing the death.
Wrongful death is a death that results from someone’s carelessness or negligence. It is different from other personal injury claims in that the lawsuit is undertaken by the family or estate of the deceased instead of the victim. Like most, if not all jurisdictions in United States, the standard of proof for wrongful death in Texas is a preponderance of evidence, as opposed to beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal trials. A party sued for wrongful death is not immune to criminal prosecution, and vice versa.
Factors Affecting Damages Awarded in Wrongful Death in Texas
The amount awarded for wrongful death in Texas depends on various factors, many of which are highly subjective and require an experienced attorney to negotiate. Pecuniary loss refers to the financial loss to the family economy that was incurred as a result of death. These include the loss of support and services, lost prospect of inheritance, and medical and funeral expenses. The decedent's earnings at the time of death, the last known earnings if the decedent was unemployed, and potential future earnings are other factors that determine the pecuniary damages. The decedent’s non-economic contributions to the family or estate such as emotional support, domestic chores and family activities, can also be considered in the amount awarded.
Plaintiffs may also claim survival action, which compensates for the pain and suffering, medical costs and other expenses incurred between the accident and time of death. In survival action, juries may consider the degree of the victim’s consciousness, the severity of pain and the apprehension of impending death, along with the duration of such suffering.
In some states plaintiff’s can recover punitive damages to punish the wrongdoer, or deter others from committing similar deeds. Courts have ruled punitive damages permissible in some states that do not explicitly allow or disallow punitive damages. An experienced attorney will determine whether punitive damages apply depending on the state in which the lawsuit is filed.
The Milutin Law Firm provides legal representation for clients seeking damages in wrongful death lawsuits. Call us at 713-533-1400 or contact us to discuss how we may be of service.