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Can I sue for punitive damages in my Texas wrongful death claim?

The state of Texas recognizes that a wrongful death has occurred when someone is killed through the negligent, careless or unskilled actions of another. In most wrongful death cases filed in Texas, juries are permitted to seek punitive damages in cases where a person's wrongful death was caused by especially egregious actions. In other words, punitive damages are often awarded as a way to punish a party for his or her bad actions. Punitive damages also serve to act as a deterrent to similar future wrongful actions.

A 2013 case in Coryell County, Texas provides a good example of what constitutes actions deserving of punitive damages. In that tragic case, the surviving family members of a man killed by a drunk driver sued the truck driver's former employer. The drunk driver had worked at a nursing home and her employer had sent her home the day of the accident because she was drunk while at work. A jury found that the employer contributed to the wrongful death of the victim by knowingly allowing the driver to drive herself home after being dismissed.

Although, some wrongful death cases involve punitive damages, the majority of them don't. In most wrongful death lawsuits, surviving family members will seek economic damages related to their loved one's loss of income. They are also entitled to sue for medical and funeral expenses of the victim. These types of claims are typically referred to as economic damages.

Additionally, surviving family members may also sue for loss of society and loss of companionship in many wrongful death lawsuits. These types of claims relate to the family members' loss of love and emotional support from the victim due to his or her wrongful death.

If you are considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit, you should know that establishing your right to receive punitive damages is not always easy. You must demonstrate that those parties responsible for the loss of your loved one acted in an unusually bad way. An attorney familiar with Texas wrongful death cases can help you evaluate the circumstances of your case and determine whether punitive damages may be warranted. If so, you may be entitled to a much larger recovery from those responsible for your loss.

Source: Statutes of the Legislature of the State of Texas, "Chapter 71, wrongful death; survival; injuries occurring out-of-state" accessed Mar. 03, 2015

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