Recently, the Bellingham Herald wrote a story revisiting some past murders in Whatcom County. These were special cases because the killers were juveniles at the times of their crimes, and they occurred right here in Whatcom County. One of these terrible, tragic and painful cases, the death of an 8-year old child, received national attention. It also took on special meaning for Bill Coats Law. We helped the victim’s family recover damages in a lawsuit again Whatcom County for failing to protect their son from his killer, a teenager on probation for reckless burning, theft, and burglary.
Of course no one would have expected a 16-year old to kill an 8-year old neighbor in Bellingham's Columbia neighborhood, even with his criminal history. But Ryan Alexander, the killer of Michael Busby, did just that. He had broken the terms of his probation days earlier, but instead of facing repercussions for it, he was still free to harm Mikey. Mikey’s family will forever wonder if Alexander’s probation officer had brought him in, would their son still be alive. Our lawsuit covered damages for his wrongful death and also required that Whatcom County end the flawed home-monitoring system that failed to hold Alexander accountable for breaking the terms of his probation.
Wrongful death lawsuits are special cases, and have unique circumstances. Wrongful death lawsuits for adults involve calculations and formulas that are too speculative for children. For example, it is possible to calculate a deceased adult’s wage loss, based on the person’s work history and current job. That record does not exist for a child.
The damages recoverable for the wrongful death of a child usually begins with something called special damages. That is the exact cost of things like medical, hospital, and medication expenses that the child incurred before death. This is a factor since it is common for a child to accumulate healthcare costs immediately before death. This may include an ambulance ride, emergency surgery, life support, etc.
But how do you figure out love, joy, companionship, and the destruction of the parent-child relationship? These are emotions and joys that the child provided to the parents, which they will now be deprived of. Parents can claim loss of consortium for this. The actual amount recoverable for loss of consortium will depend on various factors like the child’s age, health, the capacity of the child, and the situation of the surviving parents.
Similarly, parents may be able to recover for their own grief, mental anguish, or suffering caused by the death of their child. These damages may also include expenses that were inevitably caused by the child’s death, like psychological treatment, grief counseling, professional support for siblings, and psychological medication. Attorneys representing the wrongful death case will often present expert psychiatric or psychological witnesses to testify to the parent’s claim for these damages.
It is so painful to think about, and no one should ever have to go through the wrongful death of their child. But these things do, unfortunately, happen. If you or a loved one or friend lose a child through someone else's negligence, please call Bill Coats Law. We can help you recover financially while you focus on healing your heart.