If an accident, intentional action, or medical mistake causes the death of a mother during pregnancy, the grief felt by her loved ones is compounded by the loss of her unborn child. Unfortunately, California law does not automatically recognize that additional loss felt by the family who is left behind, but the work of a California wrongful death attorney can allow the mourning loved ones to hold those at fault accountable to the fullest extent permitted under the law.
Any intentional or accidental death caused by someone else’s wrongdoing can potentially be the basis of a wrongful death lawsuit. Some of the more common situations include auto accidents, medical malpractice, abuse, and accidents caused by defective products.
When a person is killed in an accident or intentionally, the family may pursue compensation against those whose negligence or other wrong-going caused the death. The compensation can include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of financial support and/or inheritance
- Loss of the value of household services performed by the decedent
- Loss of companionship of a spouse
- Loss of care, comfort, guidance, and other non-economic impacts
To succeed, the victim’s family must be able to prove that the defendant owed a legal duty to the victim, that the defendant breached the duty, and that the defendant’s breach caused the victim’s death and the claimed damages. Proving some elements can be easy, but proving other elements can require some experience in complicated personal injury cases.
Unfortunately, while the plaintiffs may recover compensation for the death of the pregnant mother, California law does not recognize the additional loss that accompanies the wrongful death of a fetus. State statute provides for a wrongful death claim for the death of a “person,” but it also does not recognize an unborn baby as a “person.”
If the baby was born alive before passing away, then it may be possible for loved ones to include a claim for the baby’s wrongful death. At the point of live birth, the baby meets the definition of a “person” under CA law.
Only qualified persons are permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California. They include:
- The decedent’s surviving spouse;
- The decedent’s surviving children;
- Other minor dependents living in the decedent’s household
- Parents of the deceased victim
- The decedent’s other heirs
- Next of kin
- The estate representative
Families come in many forms, so if you lost a loved one, it may not be clear who has standing to file a wrongful death claim. If multiple individuals may file the lawsuit, an estate representative may be the most effective plaintiff. The estate representative may also be able to bring a survival claim at the same time if the victim survived for even a small amount of time after the accident and would have had a personal injury claim of her own had she ultimately survived.
If you believe that the loss of a pregnant loved one was caused by someone else’s carelessness, consider speaking with an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. At Salamati Law, a compassionate lawyer will listen to your case and explain your legal options, from California wrongful death settlements to bringing a lawsuit to trial. Consultations are always free, and there is no fee unless we win your case.