Most expecting parents go into the hospital expecting to bring home a healthy newborn. Unfortunately, for some parents, their anticipated joy turns into a nightmare when something goes wrong and their baby tragically dies.
While the unexpected death of an infant is sometimes due to unforeseen complications, it can also be the result of negligence on the part of a medical professional as well. If you suspect the death of your child could have been prevented, you should hire a wrongful death lawyer.
What is Considered a Wrongful Death?
Under Utah law, a wrongful death claim applies when a death is caused by a “wrongful act, neglect, or default” of another party. When it takes place in a hospital, the other party is usually a doctor or the nursing staff because they are the ones caring for the patient. The medical provider’s actions must have directly led to the infant’s death in order to support a wrongful death claim.
Medical professionals have a “duty of care” when treating you and your infant. Along with proving the actions of the doctor or nurses resulted in the baby’s death, it must be proven those actions constituted a breach of their duty of care. It must be shown that either mistakes were made or neglect caused the infant’s death.
Who can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death lawsuit must be filed by an heir of the deceased person or the personal representative of the estate. When a wrongful death claim is being made due to the death of an infant, either the surviving parents or parent can file it or a blood relative can as well under state inheritance laws. So, if a single mother died while giving birth and the baby also died, the grandparents, the mother’s parents, her siblings or children, if old enough, could file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Time Limits for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
In many states such as Utah, if you decide to file a wrongful death claim, you must do so within two years of the infant’s death. However, in many states if the claim is made against a government hospital or employee, you only have one year to file suit. Your attorney must file the claim in civil court within the allotted time frame or you will lose your right to pursue a wrongful death claim.
Compensation for Wrongful Death
Each claim is evaluated on its own merits, so there is no set amount the claimant may receive. However, if you win your lawsuit, you may be entitled to recover:
- Economic Damages – Medical, funeral and burial expenses.
- Non-Economic Damages – Included would be loss of companionship, emotional trauma and distress as well as the infant’s pain and distress.
- Punitive Damages – Punitive damages are available in rare cases involving particularly egregious facts. These damages are meant to punish the physician, hospital or nurses found responsible for the actions or neglect which led to the infant’s death.
Parents may have to testify in court, but most lawsuits are settled out of court in these cases. If the case goes to trial, it could take months before a decision is reached.