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Wrongful Death Claims vs. Survival Actions

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There are many personal, emotional, and financial challenges that tend to accompany the loss of a loved one. If your beloved family member was killed by the actions or choices of a negligent party, you could have grounds to file a wrongful death claim and/or a survival action. Both actions can help offset the economic impact of your loss while simultaneously holding the responsible party accountable for their carelessness or omissions.

But what is the difference between these two legal options, and how can they benefit your specific case?

Wrongful Death Claims

Texas has a unique sociopolitical history when it comes to establishing laws regarding wrongful death cases. Before the Wrongful Death Act, surviving family members couldn’t sue for monetary damages, and justice could only be obtained through criminal action commenced by the state. Now, however, a plaintiff can legally file a wrongful death claim so long as the “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default” of one party is responsible for their loved one’s loss.

According to Texas Statutes section 71.001, a plaintiff can file a wrongful death claim so long as their case meets 2 basic criteria:

  1. The defendant’s wrongful or negligent actions contributed to the fatality
  2. The surviving family member is a statutory beneficiary of the decedent (spouse, child, or parent)

It’s not unusual for surviving family members to suffer devastating financial problems after a tragic and fatal accident. A sudden loss can find a family struggling to pay medical bills and funeral expenses on top of their daily necessities. This struggle is only compounded if they’ve also been deprived of their primary source of income.

Fortunately, a wrongful death lawsuit can alleviate this burden by providing the following economic and non-economic damages:

  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Punitive damages (in cases of gross negligence)
  • Emotional and mental suffering
  • Loss of love, comfort, companionship, and society
  • Loss of earning capacity, financial support, and inheritance

Survival Actions

A survival action differs from a wrongful death claim in that it recovers compensation on behalf of the decedent’s estate – not the surviving family members. In other words, the monetary damages reflect the hypothetical compensation that could have been recovered if the accident hadn’t resulted in the decedent’s death.

The following parties can file a survival action in Texas:

  • A representative listed in the decedent’s will
  • A surviving child, parent, or spouse (if there is no will)
  • A personal representative appointed by probate court

If the action is successful, the estate can recover the following damages: lost wages, loss of earning capacity, medical bills, funeral expenses, property damages, and more. However, unlike in a wrongful death case, the monetary settlement or verdict is paid directly to the decedent’s estate and then distributed to any beneficiaries. This is the only way that surviving siblings and grandparents can benefit from the damages award.

Statute of Limitations

Interestingly, wrongful death claims are subject to two separate statutes of limitations in Texas. The first involves the limitations period for a claim the decedent could have filed had they survived the accident. The second is the 2-year deadline a plaintiff has to file their claim after the date of their loved one’s death.

Learn More by Scheduling a Consultation

Contact the Daspit Law Firm if you have questions about wrongful death claims or survival actions. By choosing to take legal action, you can recover damages, safeguard your standard of living, and protect other innocent people from suffering your loved one’s fate. Our experienced legal team can assess your unique circumstances, investigate your case, and help you secure a positive case outcome that reflects your personal goals and legal objectives.

We’re available 24/7. Contact the Daspit Law Firm at (888) 273-1045 to schedule a free case evaluation.

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