FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-12-11
The pain of losing a child is one of the worst things that can ever happen to a parent. When a child’s death occurs because of a completely preventable accident, the tragic loss is often accompanied by an overwhelming sense of injustice.
One South Carolina family has been dealing with this exact situation for nearly a year, after their 4-year-old daughter was killed in a March 2012 truck accident.
The girl was riding as a passenger in her father’s SUV when their vehicle was rear-ended by a semi-truck. The child died at the scene of the accident; officials said her death was caused by severe head trauma. Three adults were also severely injured in the crash and were transported to Grand Strand Regional Medical Center.
An investigation into the accident revealed that the driver of the tractor-trailer was using a cellphone at the time of the accident. They determined that the crash was caused by a combination of cellphone-related distracted driving and driving too fast for conditions.
After the crash, the truck driver was charged with vehicular homicide. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. His trial is expected to begin sometime in late 2013. The family is also pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court.
Damages for wrongful death of a child
After a fatal accident, a criminal conviction can help a grieving family achieve a sense of justice. However, it is important to remember that prosecutions are intended to punish criminal conduct and not to make victims whole. Further, there is a big difference between negligent driving and criminal behavior. It is not rare for a person to escape prosecution or conviction but still be at fault for causing the accident.
After a fatal motor vehicle accident in South Carolina, the victim’s family can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit to hold the negligent driver accountable and seek financial compensation for their losses.
When an adult is killed in a motor vehicle accident, much of the discussion around damages centers on the survivors’ pecuniary losses. In other words, the court will work to determine how the death affected the family’s financial standing. While other losses are also compensable, pecuniary losses often make up a very large share of the award.
This consideration is less relevant, though, when the accident victim is a minor child. Most minors do not hold jobs, nor do they provide financial support for their families. As such, wrongful death cases involving deceased children usually focus on the other compensable damage elements, including the survivors’ mental suffering, anguish and grief and the loss of the companionship of the child.
Since pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a deceased minor is such a complex endeavor, it is important for the child’s survivors to consult with an attorney soon after the accident. An experienced South Carolina personal injury attorney can help the survivors understand their options and seek justice on behalf of their child.