Automobile accidents are an ever-present danger in today’s society. Each day, dozens of Maryland residents are seriously injured in collisions between automobiles or while walking as pedestrians. Sadly, a significant percentage of these people die from their injuries. Maryland wrongful death lawyers, unfortunately, see this all too often.
There is no debate that a victim’s family can collect a wrongful death award in the event that their loved one was killed as the result of someone else’s negligence. However, many people are not aware that wrongful death statutes very often apply to unborn children as well. That is, if an unborn child is killed as a result of an accident in which its mother was involved, the survivors of that unborn child have a legitimate cause of action against the negligent party.
In Maryland the law currently states that a complaining party can sustain a cause of action for the wrongful death of an unborn fetus if it can be established that the child would have been viable at the time of the accident. That is, the child would have to be capable of surviving outside the mother’s womb had the accident not occurred.
This is in stark contrast to a recent development in Nebraska, where legislators recently passed a bill that would allow a wrongful death recovery by the family of the unborn fetus at any stage of the pregnancy. What’s the connection? It was a Maryland family who had the misfortune of being the first people to which the new law would apply.
Sadly, all four members of the Schmidt family died in the collision on that Nebraska stretch of Interstate 80. However, the real issue was whether the surviving relatives could recover damages for the death of the unborn child in Mrs. Schmidt’s womb. Post-mortem examinations suggested that Mrs. Schmidt was pregnant at the time of the collision, but that the fetus was not sufficiently developed to survive outside of Mrs. Schmidt’s womb. Lawyers for the victims’ families eventually brought suit under the new fetal wrongful death law, but the case has yet to be decided. If the current statute holds up (and the plaintiffs’ attorneys are able to establish proof) it will be the first time the statute will have been successfully invoked.
This case is a clear example of how public perceptions on social issues can influence the outcomes of legal cases. Because Nebraska is a more conservative jurisdiction, the family members may very well be able to recover for the unborn fetus despite its not being viable at the time of the accident. By contrast, a Maryland plaintiff would have to introduce medical evidence as to the fetus’s viability at the time of the accident if the family members are to have any hope of recovering on a fetal wrongful death theory.
If you have sustained injury or perhaps lost a pregnancy as a result of someone else’s negligence, consider contacting a Maryland wrongful death attorney for a consultation. There may yet be justice for your loss.
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