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Why When a Child Dies Outside the Home Parents Aggressively Seek to File a Lawsuit

Updated on August 23, 2016

Money answers all things and the loss of a child can just as fanatically fall into that category. However, can this be a good fit? If one truly values life, it cannot because contrary to general consensus, money does not answer all things. There is no amount of money that can replace a loss of life, in particular, a loss of life owing to a wrongful death occurrence.

A Heated Debate

In a conversation with a public service individual, he articulated that parents who seek monetary compensation for the wrongful death of their children care nothing for them. His passionate retort was, if parents truly love their children who died accidentally or otherwise, their initial reaction would not be to seek to file a lawsuit. But what this passionate person overlooks is that in capitalistic American the paying out or receipt of money suggests a high level of victory and a keen sense of justice. “Let’s make them pay for what they did” is the mantra and the best way to do that is via the pocketbook.

How It Was Done In The Past

Man’s prehistoric laws uncomplicated and unpretentious were clear when it came to wrongful death or any taking of life. If for whatever reason someone died at the hands of another then the penalty was death. If however the death was accidental and there was no malice the Hebrew God of biblical times designated several cities of refuge that the perpetrator can go to and remain until the death of the ruling high priest. If the wrongdoer was to venture outside of this selected city and was discovered by the relative of the deceased then the family member was within his right to kill the person whom he viewed as a criminal. There was no monetary amount for loss of life, premeditate murder in particular. In those days a life for a life was the only option, and not once did our predecessors consider any pecuniary payout could compensate for the death of a loved one.

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CC by Flickr | Source

What Can Be Done Today

Today’s legal action on wrongful death plays out in civil courts. The grieving members when unable to get justice in criminal courts seek justice monetarily. The burden of proof concerning culpability is not as stringent as in a criminal trial. The opposing side need only establish reasonable doubt as governed by previous civil cases that connects to the type of wrongful death. Within the burden of proof the plaintiff must show that consecutive events lead up to the death of their loved one. The responsible party may have caused the death accidentally or directly as the result of professional negligence. If a child drowns because preventive measures were not in place or if a car seat malfunctions due to manufacturing defects these are occurrences of wrongful death which can result in civil suits.

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Who Can File?

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit can be initiated by parents of underage children and vice versa minor children can file for deceased parents. The legality of filing is set from state to state. The one exception to being able to initiate a law suit is “family immunity”. This means that family members cannot sue each other. This restriction is established by state and directly depends on the state’s restriction. Some states such as Maryland, Louisiana, and Mississippi rule against minor children suing parents but may allow an adult child to take legal action against a parent. Another restriction on civil suit as declared from state to state is “sovereign immunity”. Community members under this law cannot file civil suits against state of local government. This act first established in 1960 protected states such as Texas, Florida and Oklahoma from frivolous law suits. Should a plaintiff decide to take legal action against local or state government their lawyer must submit intent within a certain period. Consequently, any filing against the local or state institution must be executed within 30, 60, or 90 days contingent on the state.

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From State To State

The success in a lawsuit can result in monetary damages. The amount received falls again under the jurisdiction of the state in question. Most states allow for funeral expenses, medical and financial compensation. Every state, similar to that of insurance companies, has a “standard actuarial tables” they use in the calculation of the compensated amount. Punitive damages calculated separate from living expenses and life style, is paid only when the death was caused by careless disregard for human life or when the death occurred from horrendous social conduct. There are some limitations on the punitive amount paid. These amounts yet again are set from state to state.

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CC by Flickr | Source

Reacting To Grief

When a child dies parents, in particular single parents, experience grief tightly wrapped up with guilt and anger. Single parents’ grief coupled with hardship produces an anger that is not easily appeased. Consequently, their first instinct is to lash out, to seek relief from the egregious pain. How best to do this but by focusing on making someone pay. How best to do so but by effecting a financial loss on the company or persons responsible for the death of their loved one. If there was a way to make them feel what it feels like in that moment to no longer have a child present. How best to do this but by what American society values the most - money. Subsequently, for many who believe that actively seeking civil lawsuit, means that parents did not truly love their children does not understand the many faces of grief. Some parents process grief by going straight to revenge, straight to someone has to pay; someone has to feel a loss.

Apology Not Accepted

As parents go through the grieving process how they respond to loss is directly affected by the details leading up to the loss. Negligent and blatant disregard for safety and human factors prevent any acceptance of apology from the responsible party. When individuals liable for the death of a child, approach the child’s parents with a heartfelt apology, it will be rejected. The initial apology will usually come across insincere. How can such a person come to a grieving parent knowing that they caused the death of a child with three little words such as “I am sorry”? Most parents will not believe the remorse unless that person approaches the parents with accountability and painful regret for the loss of life. Just to say “I am sorry” will only anger parents and propel them into taking legal actions.

Legal action against wrongful death is easy to fall into but with time most parents drop the civil lawsuit as they work through the grieving process. Parents must move from denial, to anger and ultimately to acceptance before walking away from any legal quest. Accepting the loss of a child can sometimes only happen with an aggressive act of making someone pay and hence attaining the truth of cause of death. It is a difficult time and if taking legal actions help parents to manage their grief then lead the way to the court. Eventually their interest might fain or get to court proceedings, either way it is parents’ right to deal with loss the best way they know how.


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