When someone is killed and it was the fault of another person or company Texas law allows certain family members to file suit for “wrongful death.” These family members include the decedent’s spouse, children, and parents. No one else may bring a claim. Grandparents, siblings, foster parents, and other relatives are not entitled to bring a wrongful death claim, no matter how close they were to the decedent or financially dependent upon him they were. Stepchildren and stepparents of the decedent may not bring a wrongful death claim unless there had been an adoption. The wrongful death claimants may sue for their mental anguish, “pecuniary loss” (such as loss of care, maintenance, support, services, advice, counsel and monetary contributions they would have received from the decedent if he or she had lived), loss of companionship and society, and loss of inheritance.
The decedent’s estate also has what is known as a “survival claim.” This is a claim for the pain and mental anguish the decedent suffered before death, medical expenses for treatment of the decedent’s injuries, and funeral and burial expenses. Any money recovered by the estate in a survival claim will be distributed according to the decedent’s will or, if there is no will, then to the decedent’s heirs under the Texas law of intestacy.
When a person is killed by another’s negligence and a close relative witnesses the event, that relative may have what is known as a “bystander claim.” Generally Texas law requires that 1) the person was near the scene of the accident, 2) the shock to the bystander resulted from a direct emotional impact from observing the accident, and 3) the bystander was closely related to the decedent. An example would be a fatal car wreck where a passenger witnesses the death of a relative.
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