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The accidental death of a child is always tragic, but for parents, it can mark the beginning of a long legal battle of which they may find themselves on the losing end.
Parents may find that they are responsible for the death of their child to some degree, or entirely, and could face legal penalties as a result. Knowing what to expect as a parent after the accidental death of a child can help you take the right steps in the aftermath.
When is a Parent Responsible for Their Child’s Death?
Even though a child’s death was accidental, the conditions that led to it may be the responsibility of the parent, and they may be held liable for the death accordingly. Parents that engage in the following behaviors could be responsible for the accidental death of their child:
- Illegal activities
- Consumption of controlled substances
- Chronic neglect
- Placing the child in a dangerous situation
- Fostering reckless attitudes in the child
Parents may face liability for their child’s death in surprising ways In one notable instance, a woman who was jaywalking with her child, who was hit by a car, was sentenced to a longer period of probation than the driver of the vehicle.
A court may decide that it’s ultimately the parent’s responsibility to protect their child, and could levy stiff penalties against them should they endanger a child and lead to a fatality.
Can Parents Sue for Wrongful Death?
Parents who aren’t held liable for the wrongful death of their child may be able to sue the party that is responsible for it. There are a variety of collectible damages in the event of a child’s early death, including the following:
- Medical bills
- Funeral expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Lost future earnings
Even though your child was not yet making financial contributions to your household, the party responsible for their death can be held liable for financial damages. If your child is the victim of accidental death, working with a lawyer who is experienced in these cases can position you to collect the compensation to which you’re entitled.
Rights to Custody of Surviving Children
Parents that are found to be responsible for the accidental death of their child, such as due to neglect, may face the loss of custodial rights to their surviving children. In Louisiana, there are grounds for termination of child custody for parents that are determined to have neglected their children. This is especially important for divorced parents who may have split the custody of their children.
What Happens to Surviving Children?
The accidental death of a child tears families apart. In some instances, this happens literally, as surviving children are displaced from their homes into new ones. Surviving children who lost a sibling due to an accident may be placed under the custody of another parent or family member for their safety.
If there are no other family members who can care for them, they may be placed under the custody of the state and moved to foster homes.
The loss of a child is never easy to bear, especially when it was due to an accident. Determining the responsible party and seeking compensation from them can aid in the process of finding closure.
Doing so can also protect other children, especially if no criminal charges are pressed against the party that is ultimately responsible for the child’s death. Stiff civil liabilities can work to prevent that the responsible party even harms another child again, and can send a powerful warning to other potential violators who may be watching.