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It was a crime with no apparent motive and no answers. Four years after Jenna Nielsen was killed behind a convenience store in Raleigh, North Carolina (NC), the killer has not yet been found. But the death of the 22-year-old from Utah (UT) has helped lead to a change in North Carolina’s wrongful death law, according to

Although the statute won’t apply to Nielsen’s killing, North Carolina has become one of 36 states to classify the unlawful killing of an unborn child as a homicide, boosting protection for the unborn child.

In April 2011, North Carolina passed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, known as Ethan’s Law, referencing the name Nlsen had chosen for what would have been her third child. The law goes into effect on December 1.

As experienced North Carolina wrongful death attorneys, my colleagues and I welcome anything positive resulting from this appalling tragedy.

Thankfully, cases like Nielsen’s murder are rare. But we see many incidents in unborn children are injured or killed in car crashes. Although the full extent of this problem is unclear because states are not required to report fetal deaths to federal authorities, it appears to be significant. Researcher Stefan Duma of Virginia Tech recently told USA Today that between 300 and 1,000 fetal deaths occur each year in car accidents.

In July 2011 we reported on how a woman who was driving under the influence of alcohol crashed her car into a tree in Louisiana (LA), injuring passengers in the car, who included a pregnant woman who lost her baby in the incident.

If the life of an unborn child is lost, relatives may be able to pursue a wrongful death suit. Parents may also be able to recover damages for future medical expenses if a child is born prematurely due to a car crash.

To learn more, read our FAQ on premature births as a result of a car crash.


About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.

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