Wrongful Death and … Wrongful Birth? – Aronberg and Aronberg

Mar. 12th, 2012   /   , , , , ,

Wrongful Death and … Wrongful Birth? – Aronberg and Aronberg

In the field of personal injury law, we seldom come across cases involving wrongful death (which is good thing) — and we almost never come across cases of wrongful birth. The former is, albeit rare, a part of life for personal injury lawyers. While most of our practice involves dealing with fallout from auto accidents, we do sometimes deal with wrongful death cases stemming from a number of issues. In this article, we will explore the notion of “wrongful death” and make you aware of a top story that has been making headlines as a “wrongful birth” settlement.

A wrongful death case is fairly self-explanatory. It occurs when someone dies as the result of the wrongdoing—or negligence—of another. This could be as a result of misdiagnosis by a doctor, faulty brakes having been manufactured, or even a spill of butter on a subway stairway. Death (like taxes!) is an inevitable part of human existence. However, when it’s caused unnaturally, the surviving family members can, in certain cases, take legal recourse against the negligent party.

When someone dies, and a wrongful death suit is filed, there are specific criteria that courts and lawyers look at when determining a fair value of compensation (after, of course, it is proven that the death was indeed wrongful and the result of someone’s wrongdoing). What is looked at is how much the deceased made, how much they were able to save, and how heavily the family members relied on the deceased. This reliance could be purely financial or also emotional. If, for example, the deceased provided emotional support to his/her family members, the court can determine the value of said emotional support based on average rates for psychologists. The court will also take into consideration relevant medical expenses and the unexpected funeral expenses.

So, now you’ve got some background on wrongful death. But how about wrongful birth? Well, there’s a story making its way through the airwaves about a couple in Oregon who were recently awarded $2.9 million dollars for their daughter’s down syndrome disability. No, they aren’t getting money simply because of their misfortune; they are being compensated because the doctors (mis)diagnosed their daughter as NOT having down syndrome during prenatal screenings. This improper evaluation cost them dearly; with the information that they were expecting a baby with down syndrome, they may very well have prepared for the birth—and childhood—of the baby quite differently. Their attorney has claimed that the doctors were “negligent in their performance, analysis and reporting” of the test results after their child was born as well (i.e., not just during the pregnancy). Maybe “wrongful birth” is a misleading label; the fact is that there was wrongdoing prior to the birth at the hands of negligent doctors.

For more information about this story, or about any other legal matter, please contact the Law Offices of Aronberg and Aronberg at 561-266-9191 or email us at daronberg@aronberglaw.com.

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