Even if a personal injury or death is deemed an accident, the person who caused the harm could face civil and criminal charges. That is the case of a 17-year-old boy from Malta, who has been charged with negligent homicide in connection with a 2010 shooting death of his younger friend. Although the hunting death was ruled an accident by earlier investigations, a subsequent check into the matter revealed that the boy may have acted outside the scope of safe gun handling during the incident. The victim's family has filed a wrongful death suit in connection with the case.
Authorities report that the death had initially been ruled an accident because the perpetrator, age 14 at the time, inadvertently pulled the trigger while looking through the scope at his friend. The young man had looked through the scope and then shifted his body, which caused the gun to go off.
Firearms experts say that pointing a loaded gun at something you do not intend to shoot is poor practice, especially when the gun is pointed at a person. Even unloaded guns should not be pointed at others, just to maintain the highest standard of safety. The arraignment in the case is scheduled for late February.
Two other teens involved in the accident were charged with obstruction of justice for failing to cooperate during the initial investigation. Those boys were included in the wrongful death suit, which was brought by the victim's parents against his hunting companions.
The victim's parents in this case could include other civil charges in the wrongful death case. They could seek compensatory and punitive damages for emotional distress and pain and suffering, considering the nature of the incident. In addition, they could consider filing a loss of consort claim, which essentially seeks compensation for the loss of future companionship provided by their son. Additional claims could seek money for court costs and other legal fees, as well as loss of income and other sundry damages.
Source: Montana Kaimin, "Malta-area teen charged in 2010 hunting death," Associated Press, Jan. 29, 2013