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Would Abortion Complications Count In A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The circumstances surrounding a wrongful death lawsuit are highly emotional and often contentious. No one likes to be accused of wrongfully causing the death of another human being, and the idea of having to pay a large financial settlement if found negligent is also not a pleasant thought. It does not take criminal charges to incite a wrongful death lawsuit. All it takes is an accidental death and a negligent party.

Queens Doctor Performs A Fatal AbortionFamily mourning

Performing an abortion is not only controversial, it is also a very complicated procedure. As with any other type of medical operation, performing an abortion comes with a long list of potential issues that could become dangerous to the patient if the doctor is not careful.

In October 2016, Dr. Robert Rho of Queens was charged with manslaughter after performing an abortion on Jamie Lee. Ms. Lee bled to death in the hospital after the abortion, and Dr. Rho was immediately charged by the Queens district attorney’s office. The district attorney’s office contends that Dr. Rho was negligent when he mistakenly made a cut across Ms. Lee’s uterine artery. The doctor did not properly contain the profuse bleeding, and Ms. Lee had to be rushed to a hospital by her sister hours after the procedure. She later died in hospital.

There are several angles to this event that are interesting to note. Despite the instance by the district attorney’s office that Dr. Rho was negligent, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has ruled the death accidental. Another interesting fact about this case is, so far, the Lee family has not indicated whether or not it will pursue civil action against Dr. Rho.

Can a doctor be named in a wrongful death lawsuit for complications stemming from an abortion? It is important to remember that the circumstances surrounding a criminal investigation have no bearing on a civil procedure. If the Lee family decides that Dr. Rho was negligent, which would make sense given the findings of the district attorney’s office, then the family could file a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court.

What Is A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit is based on the negligent actions of an individual or group that lead to the death of one or more persons. There are several ways to present a wrongful death lawsuit, and it depends on the circumstances surrounding the death. If the Lee family decides to file a lawsuit against Dr. Rho, it could be a medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit. Filing the lawsuit as a medical malpractice will likely help the courts to decide how to treat the case and how to look at the evidence.

A wrongful death lawsuit is a form of personal injury lawsuit that can be filed by the family of a person who was killed due to someone else’s negligence. When a wrongful death lawsuit is filed, the courts will look at the evidence in the context of the death, and the compensation awarded would also be dependent upon the death as well. Each state has its own wrongful death guidelines that the courts will follow when the lawsuit is filed.

Filing Wrongful Death Lawsuit Infographic

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The Awards Given In A Wrongful Death Lawsuit

When you look at how a wrongful death lawsuit is decided, it can affect how the Lee family may approach their lawsuit. In order for there to be a judgment in a wrongful death lawsuit, the courts must see that some kind of financial damage has been done to the family. There needs to be a loss of future income, the loss of financial support, or some kind of financial loss for the family to be awarded compensation. Once the courts decide there has been financial loss, then they will usually look at the severity of the event to help enhance how much compensation to award.

Other factors that influence compensation for wrongful death lawsuits include the loss of potential inheritance and the potential cost of supporting any children that may be left behind. If Ms. Lee had a good job that was helping her to build a valuable estate, then the family could definitely use that as part of its wrongful death lawsuit. The wrongful death lawsuit can also be used to recover funeral expenses and any other expenses involved with handling the final issues of the estate.

Breakdown Of Awards

Pecuniary Losses

The financial losses associated with the death of an individual are called pecuniary losses. When the court deliberates compensation for a wrongful death lawsuit, it is deliberating pecuniary losses. When the court determines these losses, it is trying to decide the financial damage done to the family because of the wrongful death. Some of the elements used to make the decision include:

  • Potential income lost
  • Parental guidance lost for children left behind
  • Last known earnings if the deceased was unemployed at the time of death
  • Potential estate value lost

The guidelines for pecuniary losses are different from state to state and, in some cases, they can also be different from court to court. The court is charged with determining if the loss of the deceased will have a significant negative financial effect on the family, and then a value has to be put on that loss.

Jury Adjustments

After the court has determined the pecuniary losses, the jury on the case might adjust those losses based on the situation. If the deceased was in line to get a large promotion and pay raise, then the jury might adjust the compensation upward to reflect that change. If the deceased was known for chronic gambling or wasting away their money on frivolous things, then that could cause the jury to adjust the compensation downward.

Punitive DamagesMoney loss

When O.J. Simpson lost the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Ron Goldman, the final award was tens of millions of dollars. The court did not decide that Ron Goldman would have made tens of millions of dollars in his life. The excessive compensation for that case came from punitive damages.

Punitive damages are a judgment call by the court that is used mostly to punish the defendant and send a message to others who may be considering the same type of action. Some states do not allow punitive damages, while other states have limits that courts can award for punitive damages. Before you file your wrongful death lawsuit, it is important to ask your attorney about the punitive damages guidelines for personal injury lawsuits in your state.

Dr. Rho will first face the criminal charges against him and have his day in court. His defense attorney is prepared to offer a defense, and it does help that the medical examiner ruled the death an accident. However, even if Dr. Rho is acquitted on his criminal charges, that would not prevent the Lee family from filing a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court.

An abortion is a complicated medical procedure that should only be done by a qualified doctor. The discussion as to whether or not Dr. Rho was qualified will more than likely come up in both the criminal and civil trials. But as with most situations like this, the results the doctor gets in each type of court could be very different.

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