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Wrongful Death

Was a family member killed by someone else? What can you do? What does Texas law provide? Was someone negligent? Was the harm foreseeable? Did someone else’s negligence cause the death? Does the law recognize a remedy, and if so, what remedies are available? Are damages an available remedy? What can you do, and when must you do it? 

Wrongful death law in Texas has evolved over the years to provide legal recourse for individuals who have lost a loved one due to someone else's negligence or intentional act. The history of wrongful death law in Texas can be traced back to the early days of common law, where there was no recognition of a cause of action for wrongful death. Under the traditional common law, a claim for wrongful death would abate upon the death of the injured party.

However, in 1846, Texas became the first state in the United States to enact a statute explicitly allowing wrongful death claims. The Texas Legislature recognized the need to provide a remedy for the surviving family members who suffered both emotional and financial loss due to the death of a loved one caused by the actions of another.

Under Texas law, a wrongful death claim arises when a person's death is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, or default of another party. To establish a claim for wrongful death in Texas, the following legal elements must generally be proven:

Duty of Care: The defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased person.
Breach of Duty: The defendant breached that duty of care through negligent or intentional conduct.
Causation: The defendant's breach of duty was the proximate cause of the deceased person's death.
Damages: The surviving family members have suffered pecuniary loss or other damages as a result of the death.

The Texas wrongful death statute specifies who can assert a wrongful death claim. Initially, only the surviving spouse, children, or parents of the deceased could bring a wrongful death action. However, in 2019, the Texas Legislature expanded the scope of potential claimants to include siblings and dependent grandparents.

Regarding remedies, the primary purpose of a wrongful death claim in Texas is to compensate the surviving family members for their losses. The damages available in a wrongful death case may include economic damages, such as loss of financial support, loss of inheritance, and loss of household services. Additionally, non-economic damages, such as mental anguish, loss of companionship, and emotional pain and suffering, may also be awarded. Punitive damages, intended to punish the defendant for particularly egregious conduct, may be available in cases involving gross negligence or intentional acts.

It is important to note that the specific details and limitations of wrongful death claims may vary. The Dietrich Law Firm has experience representing people in court concerning negligence claims. If you think your family member died as the result of someone else’s negligence, The Dietrich Law Firm may be able to help. Give us a call to schedule an appointment. The firm only represents clients based upon a signed, written agreement. The firm sometimes offers a free, no obligation, initial, in-office consultation. 

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