When an adult's negligence leads to a child's death, the grief can feel overpowering

Few things are as devastating to read about in the papers as a child dying because an adult was careless. I'm thinking about the story in the Bellingham Herald about 3-month old Lucian Shields whose parents starved him to death. Though it will take time for the details and motivations to be revealed through the legal process, the devastating and incomprehensible question remains, "how could anyone do this?" While no one can truly answer it, many people wonder it.

It reminds me of a case I worked on awhile back, when the negligent supervision of a teenager on probation led to the murder of a young child. After a day-long mediation, I worked with the family of young Mikey to negotiate a wrongful death settlement on their behalf against Whatcom County. The County also agreed to send the Busby family a letter saying they were sorry for the death of their son. That meant a lot to the grieving family, just to know that responsibility was rightfully taken. Further, the County got rid of the faulty phone-monitored home arrest program that had failed. It's no longer being used by Whatcom County, which means that future mistakes like this can't occur. Another family I helped through the wrongful death of their child, was no less devastating despite the death's accidental nature. But even with justice served, grief remains.

How do survivors cope with a wrongful death? 

One's circle of family and friends dealing with their own grief and sadness might not be enough to help with the extreme grief survivors feel. At Bill Coats Law, we often advise clients to seek professional help, people who are trained to work with high levels of despair and emotional trauma. Also, grief support groups can offer help to grieving friends and family. People are social animals, which is why public gatherings after someone has died can help those dealing with the emotional aftermath find solace in others. It's why the memorial to Dragan Skrobonja, killed by a drunk driver, is still present over a year after his death and there was a vigil for Lucian earlier this week. It can't change what happened, but just having others around in a shared experience of grief can help. At the very least, it can help to know that grief is normal and natural, and that others share it.

Painful losses and wrongful death such as the aforementioned tragedies also include anger and despair when negligence is a factor. This is why grief counseling and support groups are so useful; these are powerful emotions and must be felt and processed rather than stuffed and buried. Remember, you are not weak…or alone!

If someone you love has been killed through someone else’s negligence, get all the help you can find at this painful time. And when you feel up to it, talk to us here at Bill Coats Law. We can explain the options available to you and your family. Call our office at (360) 392-2833 if you ever need legal support.

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