Gun violence is tragic in any circumstance, but a child's death due to an unsecured firearm is heartbreaking. If your child was fatally wounded after gaining access to an unsecured firearm, you may have the basis of a valid wrongful death claim.
About Firearm-Related Wrongful Death Claims
Children do not understand the risks involved in handling a firearm. A very young child may associate guns with what he has seen in cartoons and not realize the consequences of a shooting.
A child who is old enough to understand that guns are dangerous may not fully understand how to safely use a gun. Firearms require special knowledge and training to operate. Accidental shootings involving guns the shooter didn't realize were loaded often occur when preteens or teens gain access to an unsecured weapon.
Gunshot wounds are classified as grazing injuries, penetrating injuries, or perforating injuries. A bullet that strikes a person but doesn't break the skin is called a grazing injury. A bullet that becomes lodged inside the body after penetrating the skin is called a penetrating injury. A bullet that enters and exits the body at two different points is called a perforating injury. Both penetrating and perforating wounds can be fatal.
Wrongful death cases are a type of personal injury lawsuit alleging that a person's death was caused by the negligence of the defendant. Children can't be held responsible for their actions to the extent that an adult would be, but someone who doesn't take steps to store guns away from curious children can be held liable for a death that results.
Eligibility to File a Wrongful Death Claim
In Louisiana, a wrongful death claim must be filed within one year. The parents of the child must file the claim in most cases. However, parents who are considered to have abandoned their children are not eligible to file. Parental abandonment is treated as though the parent is deceased for the purpose of filing a wrongful death claim.
If a child's parent is not eligible to file a claim, the surviving siblings must file. If there are no siblings, the claim must be filed by the grandparents.
Liability for Firearm-Related Deaths
There are a number of different parties who might be legally responsible for a child's wrongful death from an unsecured firearm:
- The owners of the home where the child was killed
- The owner of the unsecured firearm
- The owners of the business, if the child was killed at a daycare center or other public establishment
- The parents or guardians of the underage shooter, if the incident involved more than one child
Criminal Charges and Civil Cases
In many cases involving the shooting of a child, criminal charges are filed. Any criminal charges related to the incident can be used to support your claim that the defendant was negligent.
However, it is important to remember that a wrongful death claim is a type of civil action. This means, you can still pursue a case even if no one was criminally charged in the child's death.
Types of Damages in a Wrongful Death Settlement
No amount of money can ever replace a child's life, but legal action can provide families with a sense of closure regarding the incident. A wrongful death settlement for a child's firearm-related death can include:
- Medical expenses incurred before death
- Funeral and burial costs
- Loss of the child's future earning potential
- Pain and suffering in the deceased child's final moments
- Loss of the child's personal care, companionship, and support
Punitive damages are not awarded in all wrongful death cases, but they can sometimes be included if the circumstances involve especially severe cases of reckless disregard for the safety of others. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and deter future misbehavior.
The Value of Skilled Representation
In any wrongful death claim, it's vital that you work with an experienced attorney who is familiar with Louisiana's personal injury laws. Your attorney will gather evidence to support your claim of negligence, find applicable expert witnesses to testify on your behalf, and work to negotiate the highest possible settlement.
Has Your Loved One Died Due To The Negligence Of Others?
If your loved one died due to someone else's negligence you need to speak with a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Alexandria office directly at 318.541.8188 to schedule your free consultation.