What Is A Wrongful Death Claim?
The Texas legislature enacted the Wrongful Death Act which allows one to make a claim, and to sue if necessary, when a company, person, or defective product wrongfully kills someone. Usually, the person bringing the claim, the “Plaintiff”, must prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the decedent’s death. A corporation is liable if its on the job employee negligently caused the death (other than an employee of the same company covered by workers’ compensations).
There are many types of wrongful death claims. A Wrongful Death Action simply describes the type of damage claim that is involved, and who has the right to bring the action. As long as a person or company’s carelessness has contributed to causing someone’s death, there is a possible wrongful death claim arising out of the incident. The law says that if none of the wrongful death beneficiaries have begun a wrongful death action within three (3) months after the death of an injured individual, then the personal representative of the estate has the obligation to bring and prosecute the action. (Unless ALL wrongful death beneficiaries request the representative not to do so.) See, Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 71.004 (c).
For instance, if someone negligently kills someone in a car accident, truck accident, or pedestrian accident, the claim is a “Wrongful Death Action.” Other times, a company is liable when its defective and unreasonably dangerous product kills a loved one. Sometimes, property owners and managers are liable when a dangerous activity or condition on the property kills someone. i.e. plant explosions, unsafe worksites, chemical releases, etc. When an employer wrongfully causes someone to die, it is necessary to prove that the employer was guilty of gross negligence in causing the death. Unfortunately, even health care providers wrongfully kill between 100,000-200,000 folks per year through medical malpractice. In those cases it is necessary to prove that the healthcare provider violated the standard of care which led to your loved one’s death.
Wrongful death claims also arise out of murders. I have prosecuted claims against murderers who killed for insurance proceeds. In one case, the killer was acquitted in a criminal trial, and was demanding the life insurance company to turn over the decedent’s life insurance benefits to him because he was the named beneficiary. The jury in the civil case stopped this injustice by finding in civil court that the killer had intentionally taken his life. Thus, the acquittal of the murderer in a criminal trial does not mean that the killer can necessarily escape Justice by going free, as well as collecting the insurance benefits.
Insurance companies do not and should not pay compensation to protect murderers from liability, but sometimes the killer does have assets. For example, I tried the Clara Harris case and proved that she murdered her husband in a jealous rage. After the judgment, using legal collection methods, I found monies that she had stashed away so that the wrongful death beneficiaries could not be compensated. These monies were paid to the survivors