A pregnant woman was killed and two other women were injured after a crash on Monday, May 6, 2013. The accident occurred on Interstate 71. Latonya Hunt, who was 27 weeks pregnant, died at the University of Louisville Hospital about an hour after the crash. Hunt, 31, died of multiple blunt force injuries. According to the police, the accident happened around 8:25 a.m. on near the Gene Snyder Interchange when the driver lost control of the vehicle in an attempt to avoid a semi-truck. The vehicle flipped over a guardrail and struck a tree. Hunt, who was a passenger in the vehicle, was ejected. She was not wearing a seat belt. The two other women were taken to the hospital after a 50-minute rescue. The Worthington Fire Department had to cut the vehicle apart because the women were trapped inside.
- There are approximately 170,000 car crashes involving pregnant women annually.
- Car crash fatality rate for unborn children is four times higher than for the infants.
- Abruption placenta is the most common cause of fetal death in a collision. It is the separation of the placenta from the mother’s uterus.
- Getting hurt in an accident is among the most common reasons for hospitalizations during pregnancy along with having high blood pressure, vaginal bleeding and gestational diabetes.
Kentucky’s wrongful death statute, KRS 411.130, states that:
“Whenever the death of a person results from an injury inflicted by the negligence or wrongful act of another, damages may be recovered for the death from the person who caused it, or whose agent or servant caused it.”
A “viable fetus” is a “person” within the meaning of this statute. This means Kentucky law allows a civil suit for the wrongful death of a viable fetus whose life was ended by another’s negligence. If a pregnant woman died in a car accident, the negligent party has to pay damages for the wrongful death not only of the pregnant woman but also of her fetus. However, Kentucky law only allows the right to recover damages for the negligent death of a viable fetus. The state does not recognize an action for the wrongful death of a non-viable fetus.
In Mitchell v. Couch (Ky.1955), it was stated that a fetus generally becomes a viable child between the sixth and seventh month of its existence. Hence, a fetus less than 24 weeks is considered non-viable and his or her estate may not be allowed to recover damages for his/her wrongful death. This was evident in a case. Thomas A. Stevens v. Gina Flynn and Progressive Direct Insurance Company (2011) was a case where the Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Estill Circuit Court awarding summary judgment to the insurance company, dismissing a wrongful death action since the unborn fetus was only 13-14 weeks.