The Process Of Determining Damages In Wrongful Death Cases
Interviewer: How are damages actually determined in wrongful death cases?
Stephen Boutros: There are two aspects of a wrongful death case. The beneficiaries of wrongful death case are the parents, the spouse and the children. That’s one aspect of it. The other aspect is what we call a survival claim and that would be the claim owned by a decedent, the person who died. The beneficiaries of that person’s estate are entitled to compensation for the conscious pain and suffering that the decedent suffered before the death. So, you often see insurance companies and defense firms hiring experts to say that someone died very quickly and they had very little pain and suffering and they’re so sorry that this person died but they didn’t really suffer.
Insurance Firms Often Hire Experts To Prove that the Decedent Did Not Suffer or Feel Pain
Of course those are just paid experts to say whatever the insurance companies and the defense firms pay them to say when the reality of it is that the evidence often shows that people went to extreme suffering through a drowning of their lungs filling with blood or a death from burning fire. You see insurance experts saying, “No. They inhaled smoke and they became unconscious and they didn’t have any conscious pain and suffering or very little”, when the truth is that the evidence often shows the opposite that that person burnt to death and they felt the pain of that.
The Wrongful Death Beneficiaries Are Compensated for the Pain and Suffering Endured Due to the Loss of a Loved One
That’s a separate aspect of a death case as the survival claim owned by the beneficiaries of the estate, based on the conscious pain and suffering of the decedent, as well as the funeral expenses and future lost wages and things of that nature. The wrongful death beneficiaries are being compensated for the pain and suffering that they have to endure because their loved one has been taken away. That’s limited to parents of the decedent, spouse of the decedent and children of the decedent.
Accidents at Workplace are Also a Major Cause of Wrongful Death Cases
Interviewer: Have there been any sorts of wrongful death cases other than auto-accidents and drowning?
Stephen Boutros: We see wrongful deaths in Texas happening in work plants all over the state. It’s rare that we don’t see on the news that workers have been killed in explosions at plants usually because safety protocols haven’t been followed. When you’re working around the type of machinery that operates in power plants, just the slightest breach of the safety protocol can cause explosions or chemical releases that can kill the workers in the plant. These are usually people that are working very hard and long hours, just trying to support their families and their lives become endangered from someone higher up in the management level breaking a safety protocol or not properly supervising the workers.
A Person May or May Not Recover From Emotional Impact of the Death of a Spouse
I deal with a lot of deaths in the personal injury industry and depending on where someone is in their life in the relationship to the person who died; it can be something that’s impossible to recover from. When children have to bury their parents, they’re burying their past and it’s extremely painful but that relationship is usually based on the past. When a person has to bury their spouse, their husband or their wife, I think of it as they’re burying their present, which is extremely painful to recover from. Maybe it’s something emotionally and mentally you can, maybe it’s something you can’t. It depends on that particular relationship.
Parents Seldom Recover From the Impact of Having to Bury Their Children
When parents have to bury their children, think of it as them burying their future. There’s no recovering from that. There’s never been a parent I’ve represented in 18 years who’s buried a child who recovered from the death of their child. Their future is gone. It’s a pain that most of them live with daily for the rest of their lives and these people often fall into severe lifelong depressions that they can’t recover from.