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What are exemplary damages in a Texas wrongful death claim?

Under Texas state law the surviving spouses, children and parents of a person killed by a wrongful act are entitled to sue the responsible party for compensation. Texas defines a wrongful act as something which causes the death of another by means of negligence, carelessness unskillfulness or default.

Under the theory of wrongful death litigation, the statute creates a legal fiction in which the deceased sues the individuals responsible for the death as if he or she were still alive. Under that premise, a deceased person might sue for all of the money which one might have earned over the course of their lives had they not died prematurely. That deceased person might also ask the court to punish those individuals responsible for the death by making him or her pay a large amount of money to his or her family. Of course, no deceased person can file a lawsuit so instead, the statute allows the victim's relatives to sue for those same damages on behalf of the deceased.

Exemplary damages are sometimes called punitive damages in other states. In Texas, defendants may be ordered to pay exemplary damages in instances where the court finds that the wrongful death was brought about by grossly negligent or willfully careless actions. In other words, this is a way for the court to punish a wrongdoer for especially bad negligent behavior which contributed to the death of another.

If you are a Texas resident who has survived the wrongful death of a relative you may be entitled to compensation. Additionally, you may also be entitled to recover exemplary damages depending on the circumstances surrounding your relative's death. A consultation with your attorney should help you determine if your case meets the states statutory definition of those damages.

Source: Texas State Legislature- Civil Practice and Remedies Code, "Chapter 71- Subsection A, Wrongful Death- Section 71.001" Oct. 01, 2014

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