Determining “Full Value of Life” in Vehicle Crash Fatalities
Under Texas law, if the “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default” of one party causes the death of another, certain family members—the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased—may file a wrongful death claim. The death will have been caused by someone else’s negligence, for example, in a vehicle crash for which the victim was not responsible. In such tragic cases, the family will need the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney to reach a fair settlement. Liability in a wrongful death claim is expressed in terms of money damages. What will be the amount of the settlement? The decision will be up to a court of law, but how will the court determine the dollar value of a human life?
The calculation of fair compensation in a wrongful death case is never easy. Naturally, to a bereaved family the death of the bereaved is an incalculable loss. The law, however, provides guidelines for calculating the damages appropriate to compensate the family for the wrongful death. According to nolo.com, damages in a wrongful death lawsuit will take into the account the family’s losses due to:
- The deceased’s lost earning capacity;
- The family’s loss of care, maintenance, services, support, advice, and counsel the deceased would have provided;
- Mental and emotional anguish, pain, and suffering;
- Lost love, companionship, comfort, and society; and
- Lost inheritance—what the deceased would likely have saved and left to surviving family members after a normally expected lifetime.
In some Texas wrongful death claims, “exemplary” (in other jurisdictions, known as “punitive” damages) may be recovered when a wrongful death is caused by a willful act or omission, or by gross negligence. The purpose of exemplary damages is not to compensate the family, but to punish a wrongdoer.
Any damages awarded in a Texas wrongful death claim are divided among the surviving family members in proportion to the injury they suffered (the proportions are determined by the court) as a result of the wrongful death.
At Hudson Law Firm, we put PERSONAL back into Personal Injury Law. For an injury claim evaluation, call us at (972) 360-9898, or visit our website to chat with an associate. We understand and care about your injury, and look forward to helping you with your accident claim.