Texas Law for Pain & Suffering in Wrongful Death CasesMarch 13, 2023
Wrongful death can cause pain and suffering unlike any other personal injury, traumatizing victims before they pass while leaving the surviving loved ones with lasting pain and losses. To address this, Texas law establishes certain rights and available remedies, creating a path for some parties to recover damages after losing a loved one to a wrongful death.
Specifically, the law in question is the Texas Wrongful Death Statute (Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code § 71). It details two different options for recovering damages for pain and suffering related to wrongful deaths. Those include:
- Filing a wrongful death case
- Pursuing a survival action
Here’s a closer look at what pain and suffering mean, as well as the available recovery options, who can pursue them, and how they can result in damages.
Brief Background: What Is Pain & Suffering?
In personal injury and wrongful death cases, pain and suffering can actually describe two different forms of trauma, including:
- Psychological pain and mental anguish: Severe anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder are just a few of the ways psychological pain can affect those who lose loved ones to wrongful deaths. With this type of pain and suffering, surviving loved ones may experience diminished quality of life while also finding it difficult to hold down a job or even face day-to-day life.
- Physical pain and bodily suffering: Chronic pain, loss of sensation, mobility limitations, and other extreme discomfort can characterize physical pain and suffering. This type of trauma is generally suffered by decedents who survive their injuries for a bit before succumbing to them later.
Damages for both forms of pain and suffering can be available after a wrongful death.
Mental Pain & Anguish in Texas Wrongful Death Cases
Filed by the children, spouses, and/or parents of decedents, wrongful death cases in Texas focus on the losses those plaintiffs have personally suffered. Consequently, the pain and suffering in these claims refer to the psychological trauma that the surviving loved ones have sustained as a result of losing their loved one — and not the physical pain and suffering that the decedent suffered before death.
As non-economic damages, pain and suffering in wrongful death cases are not simple to quantify. Instead, it generally takes complex calculations, multiplier formulas, and more to calculate damages for psychological trauma.
How Survival Actions in Texas Handle Pain & Suffering
In contrast to wrongful death cases, survival actions are centered on the losses suffered by the decedent as a result of some negligence (with the name derived from the fact that the legal action can “survive” and proceed, despite the death of the victim). With survival actions:
- The decedent’s pain and suffering prior to death would come into play.
- The decedent’s estate could pursue a survival action on behalf of the decedent, seeking the damages that would have been available to the decedent, had (s)he survived.
- Any compensation for pain and suffering, as well as other losses, would go to the estate.
As with wrongful death cases, valuing pain and suffering in survival actions can be challenging, especially if the decedent survived catastrophic injuries for some time after a traumatic event.
Pain & Suffering & Wrongful Death: The Bottom Line
Following a wrongful death, there can be various ways to seek justice and recover damages for pain and suffering. Those options, however, come with some specific requirements and deadlines, per Texas law, and figuring out how much to seek for pain and suffering can be challenging. That’s why it’s so crucial to talk to a wrongful death attorney when it’s time to evaluate a potential claim and seek full, fair compensation for pain and suffering.