The loss of a child is probably the worst and most traumatic experience for a parent. The pain and anger is even worse when it could have been avoided. The death of a child due to the negligent or intentional acts of others is heartbreaking. The state of California recognizes the right for grieving parents to file a wrongful death claim against those who caused the pain and suffering. If you are a parent who lost a child or knows someone who has, contact an experienced California accident lawyer who can help you through this difficult time.

What are damages a parent can claim?

Every case is different but generally speaking, a parent can claim the following as legal damages for the loss of his or her child:

  • direct expenses including hospital, medical bills and funeral cost
  • loss of future earnings potential – the amount the decedent child would have earned during his or her lifetime
  • loss of companionship (consortium) – the loss of community, love and affection and, if applicable, the financial support provided by the decedent child and the loss of benefits the decedent
  • child would have been entitled to in any trust or pension/retirement

Damages are generally financial or pecuniary but because each case is different, it’s important to speak with an experienced California accident lawyer. Some damages such as medical and funeral costs are easy to estimate but others such as pain and suffering and love and affection is more complex. Some factors that the court will consider are:

  • the nature of the parent’s relationship to the decedent child. In California, the closer the relationship between the child and parent, the more damages are presumed to be. Some evidence to
  • demonstrate the closeness of the relationship is through vacations and holiday photos, home movies, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards, etc.
  • how dependent the parent was on the decedent child. This would be applicable with an adult child in that the parent relied on the support of the child. Financial experts can be used to help determine this.
  • the anticipated lifespan of the decedent child – human life experts are sometimes used to quantify this.
  • the anticipated earnings and employment benefits of the decedent child. This is often very hard to determine if the child has not started his or her career.
  • the amount of comparative fault (if any) on the part of the decedent child. California recognizes the apportionment of fault theory which allows deductions in case value based on the percentage of any fault the decedent child may have contributed to accident-causing death.

Can parents of an unborn child bring a wrongful death case?

No. California law does not allow the recovery of wrongful death damages for the death of a fetus, even a viable fetus. However, if parents witnessed the negligence which caused the death of the fetus, they may be able to bring a lawsuit against the wrongdoer for negligent infliction of emotional distress. If the child was born alive, even if just a short amount of time, the parents can maintain a wrongful death action even if the injury which caused the death occurred before the child was born.

California Products Liability

When a child dies as a result of a dangerous product, a parent is able to sue for compensation. In order to win on a claim of a manufacturing defect in California, a plaintiff must show that:

  • the company or person sold, manufactured or distributed the product
  • the product contained a manufacturing defect when it left the custody or possession of the defendant
  • the plaintiff in the action was harmed by the defect
  • the products defect was a substantial factor in causing the harm

If your child or you know another parent who lost a child due to negligent behavior of third parties, you need to contact a California accident lawyer immediately for help.

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