Pecuniary Damages In Texas Wrongful Death Cases

In a Texas Wrongful Death case a wrongful death claimant is entitled to recover “pecuniary losses”. Pecuniary losses have been held to be the present monetary value of the benefits that the claimant had a reasonable expectation of receiving from the deceased had he not been killed. Pecuniary losses in a wrongful death case include not only money but also things that can be valued in money. They include the loss of care, maintenance, support, services, advice, counsel, and reasonable contributions including loss of inheritance.

Loss of inheritance requires a showing of the decedent’s probable loss of earnings less what would have been consumed during the decedent’s lifetime. The proof of loss of inheritance is often extremely speculative and for this reason this element of recovery is less common.

The most common component of pecuniary loss is loss of support. The jury has considerable discretion in determining loss of support. Establishing loss of support requires that lifetime earnings be determined. This usually involves retaining an economist to review the deceased’s employment and earnings history and calculate the net present value of the after tax earnings. Then the amount of the contribution to the claimant is determined. There is no precise mathematical formula for determining the contribution to the claimant and the jury is given broad discretion. Currently the leading case regarding the recovery of pecuniary damages is Christus Health v. Dorriety, 345 S.W.3d 104(Tex.App.-Hous.(14th Dist.), rev. den. ( Aug. 26, 2011).

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