This is the third post in our series on the handling of wrongful death cases in Austin, Texas. Our last article focused on identifying defendants in wrongful death cases. It is important to understand that multiple parties may be liable in such matters. It is also important to begin the process of identifying all possible defendants early on so that a Plaintiff does not risk missing their statute of limitations. In this post we will discuss how damages are calculated in such matters. Determination of compensation will involve several aspects and it is important that you retain a personal injury lawyer experienced in handling such matters.
The first component of damages in a wrongful death case is the earnings which the deceased would have contributed to their family and loved ones. Calculation of the amount which the deceased would have earned will require an expert economist. The economist will consider factors such as the deceased’s age, education, career, and background and will use such factors to determine an amount which the deceased could have been expected to earn over the remainder of their life. The defendants will be given an opportunity to designate their own experts who will then come up with a competing figure. It is the role of the jurors to determine which of these figures more accurately reflects the amount of money the deceased would have earned.
The second component in such cases is the pain, anguish, and loss of companionship suffered by the surviving family members. It is important to understand that when one tragically loses their life they leave behinds spouses, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and sometimes parents. Some of these family members may be entitled to be compensated for their loss through the civil legal system. To determine the amount of this damage the jury will look at what the family member meant to the survivors as well as expenses which must now be incurred due to the tragedy. An example of new expenses may include day care. Say, for example, that the deceased’s widow was a stay at home mother. Due to the loss she must now return to the work force and must pay for daycare in order to do so. The cost of daycare, as well as the cost of education or other expenses incurred to return to work, are only necessary due to the tragedy. This means that such amounts should be included in any request for compensation.
A third component in such cases may be punitive damages. Such damages are awarded when an injury is caused by egregious conduct or reckless disregard on the part of a defendant. Examples of wrongful death cases, which may result in punitive damages, include a drunk driver hitting a car, an employer knowingly disregarding an employee’s reckless history, and more. While such damages are rare there are instances, especially in cases involving death, where they are justified.
Contact our office to speak with an Austin wrongful death attorney. We also service Travis County cities which include Rollingwood, Round Rock, Elgin, Jonestown, Manor, Bee Cave, Lago Vista, Sunset Valley, Lakeway, Creedmoor, the Williamson County cities of Georgetown, Cedar Park, and Leander, as well as other areas of Texas.