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Georgia Law On Miscarriges, Stillbirths, and Injuries to Unborn Babies in Car Accidents

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Attorney Jeb Butler is here to talk t how Georgia law views unborn child injuries and whether compensation is available for them.

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► Today we’ll talk about every parent’s worst nightmare, and that is injuries to an unborn child. We’ll talk about how Georgia law views injuries like that and whether compensation is available for them. This topic, under George’s law, breaks down into two categories. One is injuries that cause the loss of life, like a miscarriage or stillbirth or other loss of the baby’s life. And then the second category, which we’ll talk about second, is prenatal injuries that don’t result in the death of the unborn baby.
► Now, if you were a loved one who was involved in a car accident or something like that, where the unborn baby lost his life, whether a claim exists under Georgia law depends on when it happened. So if the car accident happened after what Georgia law calls the quickening, then there is a claim. If it happened before the quickening, there is not.
► Now, if you’ve never heard of the term quickening before, you’re not alone. I don’t think anyone other than lawyers probably have. This is an old school term that comes from old English law, specifically, if I remember right, from 1803 and a fellow named Blackstone. So it isn’t used by modern people, it isn’t used in modern medicine, but courts have actually been pretty clear about what quickening means. A baby is “quick” when the baby is able to move inside the mother’s womb.
► Now, what kind of movement are we talking about? With a sonogram or other modern medicine, you can see some kind of movement, basically, any point after conception. So what does quickening mean? Well, quickening refers to movement, the baby being able to move in such a way that the mother can feel it, like feel the baby kicking. Or if the dad puts his hand on his wife’s belly and feels the kick, then the baby is said to be quick, the quickening has occurred.
► To bring a claim for the loss of life of a baby before birth, you have to have some evidence that the quickening had occurred. That can be the mom testifying that, “Yes, I felt the baby kicking.” The father or someone else saying, “I could feel it when I put my hand on her belly.” Testimony from a doctor, something like that. Courts have said that the quickening normally occur sometime between 10 and 16 weeks into the pregnancy.
► So the next question becomes, what kind of compensation are we talking about? If you or someone you love has lost a baby and it was after the quickening, it was through the fault of someone else, then what sort of compensation are we talking about? And the answer is that it is like any other wrongful death case in Georgia, the measure of damages is the “full value.” This comes from a statute or law enacted by the legislature, the full value of the life that was lost from the point of view of the person who lost it. That’s hard to figure, but the answer to the extent this helps is that the value of the claim is the value that the infant would have put on his or her life had he or she left. So Georgia is very serious about the value of life, and that applies here too.

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