Understanding Georgia Law Regarding Fetal Wrongful Death Claims
GEORGIA – In some states in the United States, families cannot pursue legal actions for the deaths of unborn children. However, Georgia law allows for fetal wrongful death lawsuits and actually has a different way of determining when these claims can be filed, compared to other states that allow fetal wrongful death claims.
Many U.S. states have either left the issue of fetal wrongful death claims undetermined or have determined that wrongful death claims may only be pursued on behalf of people who were born. Georgia is part of the majority of U.S. states (about two-thirds) that allow for fetal wrongful death claims under state law.
In those states where such claims can be filed, claims still cannot be filed on behalf of all unborn children. Rather, the fetus must have reached a certain point in development before the claim is possible. Most states have determined that this point in development is “viability,” which refers to the point in pregnancy when a fetus could potentially survive outside of the womb. Usually, this occurs around 24 weeks.
Georgia stands apart from many states in that it recognizes the point when a wrongful death claim can be filed as the stage of pregnancy when the fetus is “quick.” A fetus is considered “quick” under Georgia case law when the mother can feel fetal movement. This stage of the pregnancy often occurs around 18 to 24 weeks but can happen as early as 10 weeks.
Wrongful death claims are part of the civil justice system, but criminal actions can also be pursued in Georgia for the death of a fetus. An example of the criminal action can be seen in a news report from wtoc.com regarding charges that have been filed against a male driver who struck and killed a 25-year-old pregnant woman and her unborn child. The criminal action in Georgia is called fetal homicide or feticide.
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