Wrongful death – $1,700,000

Location: Charlottesville, Virginia
Injuries: Miscarriage
Settlement: $1,700,000

On September 13, 2021, in Albemarle County, the defendant lost control of his vehicle. He hit a guardrail, careened across the median, and T-boned the plaintiff’s vehicle. This sent her car across a lane of traffic and into the sidewalk and grass along the roadway. Both vehicles suffered extensive damage. Two independent witnesses saw the crash and liability was not disputed in this matter.

Our plaintiff suffered her own personal injuries, which were resolved separately. However, the most significant damage was the loss of her healthy, 7-month-old fetus.  EMS workers found her RAV4 off the side of the road with the plaintiff in the driver’s seat. Multiple airbags had gone off. The plaintiff was awake and alert. She reported pain in her abdomen and right ankle. She told the EMS staff that she was 7 months pregnant. They noticed a slight discoloration in her belly button area, with tenderness. They also noted that the area was rigid. The plaintiff told the EMS workers she felt fluid below her waist, from her vagina. The EMS workers were unsure if this was urine, amniotic fluid, or blood.

The ambulance rushed our plaintiff to UVA hospital. The trauma team at UVA had been alerted and was waiting for her. Once there, the plaintiff immediately stated that she was worried about her baby. The emergency physician noted mild abdominal tenderness in the suprapubic region, as well as abdominal pain and bruising. Upon admission to the Emergency Department, the fetal heart rate was 125 and the uterus was soft.  The plaintiff was transferred for a CT scan and upon return, no fetal heart rate was noted.  A bedside ultrasound revealed no fetal cardiac activity and a color doppler with no flow.

Our plaintiff’s unborn child was dead.

After the trauma team treated the plaintiff’s own injuries, she was moved back to Labor and Delivery. She was very uncomfortable and having contractions. Delivery was induced and the dead fetus was delivered in the early morning. UVA allowed our plaintiff to spend time with her dead baby.

The autopsy determined that the baby died of “acute placental abruption due to motor vehicle collision.” Additional diagnoses were: epicardial petechiae and subarachnoid hemorrhage of the brainstem, subdural hemorrhage of the spinal cord, focal intraventricular hemorrhage, and focal intradural hemorrhage.

An expert grief counselor issued a report concluding that the plaintiff suffers from prolonged grief syndrome. Prolonged grief syndrome is an ongoing yearning for a dead loved one. It is associated with emotional pain, difficulty accepting the death, a sense of meaninglessness, and difficulty engaging in new activities. It is common among those who have lost a child or romantic partner and is more likely to occur after an abrupt or violent death, such as a traumatic accident.

After depositions were taken, the parties agreed to mediate the case with James Barkley of the McCammon Group.  After a full day of mediation, the parties agreed to settle the matter for $1.7M.