Can You Sue a Daycare for a Wrongful Death?

Categories: Wrongful Death

wrongful death

The following blog article was updated in January 2022.

Washington State’s Compassionate Wrongful Death Attorneys

You see these tragedies on the news and think this could never happen to your family. After all, you have carefully screened your daycare options. You picked one that was certified, had a positive record, and one that you had every reason to trust. You might have even used that daycare center for years before something happens.

After you lose a child, you may feel betrayed, confused, and unsure of where to go next. You know that the daycare was at-fault, whether from abuse or negligence. While no amount of money will bring back your child or make up for the loss of your child, filing a claim against the daycare protects other children from meeting the same fate. Furthermore, it helps you and your spouse recover financially.

Understanding Wrongful Death Claims for Daycare Centers in Bellingham

Today, most households require two incomes to stay afloat. When you and your spouse take on full-time jobs, you turn to daycare centers to care for your children during the day. These companies, whether in a facility or private home, are supposed to be childcare experts – and should be able to handle children of all the ages that they accept.

Furthermore, they are state-inspected; therefore, you assume that any issues would be caught in a state inspection. When a child is injured or dies because of inadequate care from these facilities, you may wonder what options you have for holding them accountable and protecting children from encountering the same treatment in the future. While you have numerous options, the situation that caused a child’s death determines how you move forward.

What Must Be Proven in a Wrongful Death Case?

When someone dies, including a child, due to another party’s negligence or reckless acts, surviving family members can file a lawsuit under Washington’s wrongful death laws. A wrongful death claim is a civil action that allows families to seek compensation from the at-fault party. These are not criminal cases. While the state might also file a criminal case, surviving family members must initiate the civil lawsuit to receive compensation.

When Criminal Charges Are Filed

In most daycare center deaths, police are called in to investigate. They may find that the caretakers were abusive, or that their negligence led to the child’s death. The caretakers may then be charged with homicide or manslaughter, depending on the circumstances.

Even though there are criminal charges, you can still file your civil lawsuit. However, your attorney may wait to hear the verdict in the criminal case. A guilty verdict could make proving your case easier. Even if the party is found not guilty in criminal court, you can still file your civil case and receive damages.

A criminal case is not the same as a civil when it comes to proving fault. In a criminal case, the jury must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant caused the child’s death. In a civil case, the jury must only be convinced by the preponderance of the evidence. That essentially means that in civil court you only have to present evidence that shows that it is more likely than not – or at least 51% likely – that the defendant committed the negligence that caused the injuries. In other words, if you present a case with enough evidence to tip the scales in your favor, you can win your case.

The Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim

Wrongful death claims hinge on four critical elements. Also, what makes these cases unique is that the four elements are the same elements that you would use to prove an injury claim where the victim survives. That is because, in a wrongful death suit, you must show that if the victim had lived, a personal injury lawsuit would have been filed for their injuries.

The four elements you must show include:

  • The daycare center owed you and your child a duty of care.
  • The daycare center breached the duty of care owed.
  • The breach of reasonable care is what caused your child’s death.
  • Your family has suffered damages because of your child’s death.

Exploring the Right to Reasonable Care

You must show that the daycare center owed a duty of reasonable care for your child. Even an unlicensed daycare provider is required to give reasonable consideration to children they take in. That includes understanding child care, feeding and ensuring children are hydrated, and watching children while they play to ensure no accidents occur. Ultimately, the daycare center must have the child’s best interests at the forefront of their operation always. If they deviate from that expected standard, they could be considered negligent.

The Loss of a Child – and How the Court Compensates These Tragedies

When an adult dies, the financial losses are easy for the court to decipher. However, even with an adult earning a living, losses in a wrongful death case are not solely based on financial gain. They are also based on love, nurturing, companionship, and other services.

When a child dies, parents are limited to recovery based on financial losses associated with their child’s death. The court determines the economic damages based on a few factors:

  • The age, gender, life expectancy, work expectancy, and habits of the child
  • A work-life expectancy for the child’s earning potential had they had a career
  • The relationship between the parents and the child
  • The circumstances of those claiming a wrongful death suit

A younger child, which is typical in a daycare wrongful death claim, is purely speculation. The courts will have to consider the work-life expectancy of the child and determine how long he or she would have lived, what they might have earned, and so forth. It is harder to speculate earnings, especially when the child has not been to school or there is no way of telling how the child would have worked in adulthood. Regardless, the courts will use specific tables and then determine the child’s earning potential and the life expectancy of the parents to determine what compensation could be offered.

In addition to wages, parents will receive all medical costs associated with their child’s death. For example, their child was severely injured in daycare and spent months in a hospital. These medical expenses are associated with the injury that led to death; therefore, the courts will require that the at-fault party pay for all medical expenses, funeral, and burial expenses.

How a Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help

A wrongful death lawsuit against a daycare center can be difficult to prove. When a daycare facility fails to protect your child, they must be held accountable. The attorneys at Brett McCandlis Brown, PLLC are experienced wrongful death attorneys in Washington ready to keep these centers accountable and prevent the same tragedies from happening to others in the future.

Schedule your free case evaluation now at 206-693-4657 or request more information online.

Author Photo

Matt Conner

Matt Conner has a proven track record of success. Following his graduation from Willamette University with a double major in mathematics and economics, Matt worked as an economist for the Office of Economic Analysis for the State of Oregon before moving onto working in mortgage banking and real estate.