Wrongful Death of an Unborn Child – Do You Have a Case?
Have you or someone you know lost an unborn infant as the result of a car crash?
Motor Vehicle Accidents (MVA) are the leading cause of fetal trauma in pregnant women, sometimes, unfortunately, resulting in fetal death. Such accidents during pregnancy may cause placental abruption. The fetus relies on the placental connection for blood circulation and oxygenation necessary for its survival in the womb. Any interruption or impairment of that connection places the fetus at high risk.
Sadly, pregnancies can be interrupted or ended because of ruptured membranes with loss of amniotic fluid. When this happens in a car or truck accident, fetal death can sometimes result from the trauma of the collision.
In this article we will discuss how a car wreck can bring on premature labor and birth. We’ll let you know if and how such an accident might be treated legally if it results in fetal death. We will let you know what evidence is needed to prosecute the wrongful death of an in-utero child, and how settlement amounts in such cases is determined. Finally, we will give you a few pointers on how to choose an attorney to represent you
- Courtney’s Story
- Can the death of an unborn child be grounds for a lawsuit?
- What evidence is needed to prove such a wrongful death case in Georgia?
- Who can establish a settlement amount to compensate for the loss of a child?
- Finding a legal team to help with an infant’s wrongful death case.
Courtney is a 31-year-old wife and mother. She works as a professional photographer and her images are frequently found featured in the sports section of local newspapers. Apart from her love of high-school and collegiate sports, Courtney enjoys hiking, bicycling, and traveling all of which adventures add to her growing portfolio of nature images. Courtney’s dream is to see her photos in National Geographic, so she and her husband often tuck their two-year-old son into his hiking carrier, and take to the Georgia backwoods trails. Courtney is also six months pregnant.
Late on a Saturday morning, Courtney is making a breakfast run to a nearby McDonald’s when an oncoming 1980’s model Buick, crosses the dividing line into her lane and hits her car head-on. Her airbag does deploy, but the impact of the two vehicles has crumpled the front driver’s side of her vehicle to such a degree that first responders must call in the Jaws of Life equipment. Extracting Courtney from her crushed vehicle takes far too many precious minutes.
While the hydraulic tool is used to pry apart the wreckage, Courtney experiences strong uterine contractions that come quickly one instantly following the other. She cannot see, but can feel that amniotic fluid and/or blood is soaking the seat beneath her. She is giving birth three months prematurely. The tiny, lifeless body is delivered in the emergency room of the hospital over an hour later. Her baby was the victim of a placental abruption – the separation of the placenta from the uterus as the result of the violent accident.
Apart from loss of blood and shock, Courtney herself seems relatively unharmed. Emergency room doctors administer stitches to close a gash on her dislocated left shoulder, a neck brace to deal with the pain she feels from whiplash, and sedatives to counteract her hysteria over losing her baby girl. Her husband, Drew, is also inconsolable.
The driver of the Buick told the police that his dachshund Fritz had become tangled in his seatbelt immediately before the accident. The driver was attempting to dislodge the dog when his car veered into the oncoming lane and struck Courtney’s car. The man was admitted to the hospital for observation, but Fritz was unharmed.
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The state of Georgia, as in about 2/3 of the other states across the nation, the law recognizes that an unborn child’s life can be wrongfully ended. Other states have different measurements for establishing life usually around how developed the fetus is, or how far into the gestational process it is. In Georgia, wrongful death can be established if the fetus is “quick,” meaning that the mother is able to feel the child moving within her womb.
In Courtney and Drew’s case, the baby was actively moving immediately prior to the accident. This is one of the facts they will have to establish as they prepare to file a lawsuit.
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Courtney’s baby girl was a healthy active fetus prior to the accident, but she will still need to provide proof of this. Her medical records, the testimony of her doctor and/or nurse, and her own testimony in court will help to establish this.
In addition to establishing that the fetus was ‘quick’ Courtney will also have to prove that there was no other reason she would spontaneously abort the fetus. Attorneys for the at-fault drivers insurance may make other arguments, such as attempting to prove that Courtney’s very active lifestyle was the cause of the fetal death.
Testimony that shows healthy pregnancies with healthy babies are not easily ended will be critical. Plaintiffs will need to provide medical records that establish that Courtney’s pregnancy was a healthy one with no indication of problems. There will also need to be testimony from specialists to prove that hiking in the woods wouldn’t end a pregnancy like Courtney’s, nor would lifting a two-year-old cause trouble. Friends and family will be called upon to testify that there was no previous indication that Courtney’s activities caused her any discomfort or concern.
Courtney’s legal team will speak with witnesses, interview Courtney’s doctors, and if need-be locate an expert to testify that it was the very violent car crash that caused her placental abruption and the death of her unborn daughter.
In order to establish the emotional trauma Courtney has experienced as the result of the wrongful death of her infant, Courtney and Drew will both be asked to keep detailed notes about how the death is affecting them. These notes should include how going into the empty nursery causes Courtney to burst into tears. Information on how often Drew finds Courtney curled up under the crib silent and staring will be important as will testimony from the psychologist she is now seeing for her deep depression. This same psychologist will be asked to differentiate between Courtney’s current emotional state and common post-partum depression.
Hospital bills, burial expenses, and the ongoing cost of mental health care will be necessary to calculate a settlement. Other hard expenses such as the cost of buying a new car will also be included when settlement talks begin.
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Quite frankly, there is no way on earth to compensate Courtney, Drew, and little Alexander for the loss of this baby. We have no way of knowing what the little girl’s life would have been like, what she would have been as an adult, or how she might have impacted the world. Nor can we come up with a number of dollars that will be ample compensation. It’s impossible.
What the legal team can do is look at similar cases and their settlements and use those settlement figures as a base-line for compensation. The lawyers from both sides will weigh the losses, and with due diligence, come up with a settlement amount that will help the family as much as possible under the circumstances and recognizes and honors the magnitude of their loss.
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If you have lost an unborn infant as the result of a car wreck, you need the help of an experienced personal injury team.
Not all lawyers are prepared to do the work of establishing damages in cases like these. In a case like this, there are injuries on many levels. It takes a specialist to understand the complicated grieving process, the medical facts, and to be able to see the future through the eyes of desolate family members. Personal injury law is a complicated and demanding field of law made even more challenging by the changes in the way statutes are interpreted by the courts. A personal injury specialist can do all of this and more.
It takes more than just an experienced lawyer. It takes an entire team of seasoned personal injury staffers to support the case as it moves forward. Who can help the jury understand the psychology involved in grieving? Who can demonstrate the resiliency of pregnant women and clarify what level of violence it takes to dislodge a well-seated baby? These are only some of the puzzle pieces your legal team must gather in order to provide a narrative to which a jury can relate. You need the best representation in order to finish this sad chapter of your lives with justice.
At the Millar Law Firm, we only handle personal injury claims. Our success at finding justice for injured families is well known in and around Atlanta and throughout the state of Georgia. We are dedicated to bringing the facts of our cases into the light of compassion, and it’s that dedication upon which our reputation is founded.
If you think you have a wrongful death case, allow us to review the facts during a free case consultation and evaluation. We will look at the facts and help you to know how you should proceed. This free evaluation is a good place to start your journey toward what is right and just.
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