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New Bill Allows Parents to Sue for Wrongful Death of Fetus

Virginia parents who have lost a child know it is a devastating experience. The pain often lasts a lifetime.

The Virginia Senate recently approved a bill that allows parents to sue for the wrongful death of a fetus. The bill is part of several bills related to abortion rights that were also introduced during the current legislative session.

The bill creates a cause of action for death of a fetus caused by a wrongful act or neglect. It creates the greatest expansion of a cause of action for wrongful death in Virginia since it was first recognized in 1871.

Many other jurisdictions have passed similar bills. A majority of states require a fetus to be viable in order to bring a wrongful death suit. Virginia is part of a minority of jurisdictions that allow a suit to be brought for both a viable and nonviable fetus. It is important to note that the bill does not provide a right to sue for lawful abortions performed in Virginia.

The suit can only be brought by the natural mother. An administrator of her estate, a guardian or a personal representative may sue if the natural mother is not available due to death or disability. However, no suit can be brought against the natural mother of a fetus.

Previously, expectant mothers could obtain emotional distress damages for loss of a fetus, but no wrongful death cause of action was available. The new bill provides compensation to family members when a fetus dies from a number of different causes. These include medical malpractice, domestic abuse, or negligence.

The bill took effect July 1st. It corresponds with another recent bill, which classifies fetal homicide as a criminal offense.

Parents who have lost children are impacted by the new bill because they have recourse against those responsible for the child's death. The bill provides several different options for bringing claims.

Doctors may be sued for medical malpractice if they are negligent or refuse to follow accepted medical practices. Claims may also be brought against hospitals whose poor health and safety standards result in the child's death.

A claim can also be brought against a person who commits domestic abuse against the child, resulting in death. A person who neglects a child and does not provide reasonable care may also be held accountable for their behavior if it results in the child's death.

Parents who have lost a child due to the negligence, abuse, or medical malpractice can benefit from an experienced personal injury attorney. The attorney can provide knowledge and guidance as well as assist with obtaining any available compensation.

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