The unexpected loss of a loved one is one of the most traumatic experiences a family can go through. When the death should have been prevented, the loss is that much more devastating. If a negligent party acts in a way that causes you to lose a loved one, you can take legal action. An Atlanta wrongful death lawyer from Bey & Associates is prepared to help you with your case.
If someone is killed unexpectedly, the family has the right to file a claim in an attempt to hold the alleged guilty party responsible and seek compensation for their loss. These claims can be complicated, and proving the correlation between the accident and death can be difficult, depending on the circumstances. You’ll need a strong team of attorneys to support you along the way.
If you’ve lost a loved one and you believe their death should have been prevented, our law firm can investigate your situation and determine how best to proceed for the benefit of your surviving family. Along the way, you’ll benefit from some background knowledge on litigation. We’ll start with how the state of Georgia defines the concept.
Defining Wrongful Death in Georgia
Every state has its own definition and laws regarding wrongful death. In Georgia, the state defines it as the death of a person that was caused by the negligent, reckless, intentional, or criminal acts of another person or entity. An entity could be an employer, business, or hospital. Negligence needs to be proven for the death to be deemed wrongful. In most situations, negligence occurs when the duty to provide reasonable care is ignored and someone is harmed as a result.
Many families struggle with the idea of taking legal action after their loved one has died because the value of a person’s life can’t be calculated; however, this is essentially the personal injury claim your loved one would have filed had they lived.
If the person had survived the accident, they would have been able to take legal action against the negligent party and they would have been able to seek compensation to cover their related expenses. A wrongful death action gives the family the opportunity to file on their loved one’s behalf, so expenses are taken care of and the wrongdoer is held accountable.
There are a number of accidents that can result in the loss of human life in Atlanta and all over the state. No matter what the incident, if your loved one’s death could have been prevented, you have the option for legal recourse with the help of an experienced wrongful death lawyer. Here are some of the different types of accidents and other scenarios that an attorney can help you deal with:
- Car accidents. Someone else’s negligence when they’re behind the wheel of a car can create a collision that not only injures other people on the road, but it can also lead to the wrongful death of those passengers or other drivers.
- Drunk driving accidents. One of those negligent actions that drivers can illegally partake in is driving while under the influence of alcohol. Even though drunk driving is illegal and known to be a dangerous choice, some drivers still do this and end up killing innocent people on the road.
- Distracted driving. Even though drivers are supposed to pay attention to the road at all times, drivers can easily become distracted in their car. Cell phones, entertainment systems, and eating are all common distractors that can lead to drivers causing accidents from inattention.
- Speeding. A reckless decision like speeding can easily lead to a collision on the road. At high speeds, accidents are even more dangerous and can become deadly for those involved.
- Truck accidents. When large trucks collide with regular sized vehicles, the accident is likely to be deadly. The size and weight difference of the trucks can cause severe injuries that can be fatal, and the occupants of the passenger vehicles involved are usually the ones who suffer the most in these accidents.
- Motorcycle accidents. Much like accidents between large trucks and regular sized vehicles, there is a large size and weight discrepancy between regular vehicles and motorcycles. Motorcycles are also more vulnerable while on their bikes because they don’t have the same protection that drivers and passengers in a car would have. Because of all of these factors, motorcycle accidents can easily become deadly for the rider, even if they’re wearing a helmet and following all of the proper safety precautions.
- Defective products. When a company makes a product that is defective or malfunctions, and those defects end up harming and killing the consumer, then a wrongful death claim could be filed based on product liability. Medications, car parts, and toys can all be made, distributed, and consumed improperly and lead to the unintentional death of the consumer.
- Nursing home abuse. Unfortunately, the elderly community in long-term care facilities can experience abuse or neglect that can lead to their death. Nursing home residents are likely already in poor health, and when a staff member or fellow resident mistreats them, the abuse or neglect could be fatal.
- Medical malpractice. When a doctor or other health professional makes a medical error that causes further harm to a patient, it’s considered medical malpractice. When that mistake ends up killing the patient, the family can choose to file for wrongful death against that negligent doctor.
- Work accidents. Some jobs are more dangerous than others, but a work accident can happen at any job. Labor jobs, like construction or roofing, are considered more dangerous because they require physical labor, heavy machinery, and heights that can all cause strain and injuries. When a worker is involved in a work accident that ends in an injury that leads to their death, their families are likely interested in filing a wrongful death claim to get justice for their loved one.
Bey & Associates is here to stand up for those who have lost their loved ones due to the negligence of others. We’ll be at your side every step of the way.
What’s the Difference Between Wrongful Death and Criminal Cases?
When someone has passed away because of another person’s actions, you may be wondering what legal action to pursue. For example, you could question which type of court where your lawyers will represent your case.
Wrongful death is a civil case where the family or decedent’s dependents come forward. They’re seeking compensation for the negligent party’s actions that led to the unintentional and preventable loss of their loved one.
A criminal case where someone has lost their life is different. The state or federal government brings it forward. They don’t necessarily need to involve a death that was unintentional. The intent that led to the death is a factor in determining the severity of a sentence.
Both legal actions also have different standards when it comes to the burden of proof. In a civil suit, the plaintiff needs to show that it’s more probable than not that the defendant’s actions caused the death. To do this, your Atlanta wrongful death lawyer will carefully present the evidence to prove this to the judge or jury.
This isn’t the same for a criminal case. If the jury has a reasonable doubt that the defendant didn’t do what they were accused of, then they could exonerate the defendant. If there isn’t any reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime, then the jury can convict.
The outcomes of these cases differ as well. In a civil court, proceedings typically conclude with the family getting compensation for their loved one. In a criminal court, the defendant may need to pay fines or possibly serve a prison sentence.
You can meet with a wrongful death attorney to talk about the ways you can proceed. We will be able to go over the options you have and what to expect. We understand how difficult this time can be and how confusing a legal matter can seem. Bey & Associates is here to help you and your family understand the process and how it can help.
How the Wrongful Death Claim Process Works
Georgia law dictates who can bring a wrongful death action to court. Your attorney can help you determine who is legally allowed to file. Generally, it begins with the spouse of the deceased person. If the two had children who were still minors, the surviving spouse is required to represent the interests of the children in court, as well. No matter how many children there are, the spouse cannot receive less than one-third of the total recovery. If there is no spouse, the adult children are allowed to move forward with the legal process.
As your Atlanta lawyer will tell you, if no surviving spouse or children are available, the claim can be brought forward by the surviving parent or parents of the deceased, or a personal representative of the estate. If the one bringing it forward is a personal representative, any damages will go to the decedent’s next of kin.
To file a successful suit, it’s imperative to be within the statute of limitations—which limits the time survivors or the personal representative have to go to court. Typically, the claim must be filed within two years of the death date. If this deadline is missed, the court will likely dismiss the legal action without review. If you’re seeking compensation, meet with a lawyer as soon as possible so you don’t risk filing outside of the statute of limitations.
Depending on the circumstances of your loved one’s passing, the two-year limit could stop running. This is especially true in the event there is a criminal case occurring at the same time as the wrongful death claim. In some cases, a family may have upwards of seven years to settle the legal matters associated with the death of their loved one. Your lawyer will be able to determine how much time you have, so you don’t miss your opportunity for much-needed compensation.
In addition to understanding who can file and how long you have to do so, it’s crucial to understand the difference between wrongful death and estate claims. Let’s take a look at the differences between the two.
What Is an Estate Claim?
A wrongful death claim is a way that you can recover damages for your deceased loved and all they suffered from prior to their untimely death. This is brought forward on behalf of your loved one, whereas an estate claim is on your own behalf. You can file an estate claim to recover damages that your family has suffered as a result of your loved one’s death.
When your loved one dies unexpectedly and from someone else’s negligence, they might have incurred costs leading up to and as a result of their passing, but sometimes you can incur costs as well that were a direct result of your loved one’s death. Some of the costs that you can file an estate claim to recover are burial costs, medical bills, and pain and suffering. This way, you can get compensation for what you’ve had to pay for as a result of their death as well as the costs that piled up for them as well.
Estate claims are also known as survival action because they are brought on by the surviving members of the deceased’s family and take action against the party responsible for their loved one’s death. While you might feel uneasy about taking legal action while still grieving the loss of your family member, it’s important that the negligent party is held responsible for their actions. You shouldn’t have to suffer financially because of an accident—getting legal help can be a step to healing from your loss and getting your life back to as normal as it can be.
Both a wrongful death claim and an estate claim cannot be filed at the same time in Georgia, so you’ll have to determine which would provide you with the best outcome depending on your situation. Having an experienced Atlanta wrongful death lawyer from our firm on your side will help you make the decision about which claim suits your situation better. That way, you get the compensation that you deserve for the suffering you, your family, and your deceased loved one endured.
How Your Lawyer Can Prove Liability for the Loss of Your Loved One
In order to present a successful case, your legal team will need to conduct a thorough investigation of your loved one’s death. This often starts with examining the scene of the accident and the police report, if one was made. This will give them an idea of how the incident happened, who was involved, and the circumstances surrounding the accident.
Next, it’s crucial to examine the medical records. A correlation can be drawn between how the accident happened, what injuries were sustained, and why the injuries were fatal. After the investigation is complete, we can start compiling the evidence to show your loved one’s death could have been prevented. There are often four elements that need to be present for success to be the end result:
- Duty. It needs to be proven that the negligent party owed the deceased a duty of care. For example, if a car accident in Atlanta was the incident that caused the death, the driver would have owed it to your loved one and all the other drivers on the road to drive in a responsible manner.
- Breach of duty. Second, it needs to be proven that the duty was breached. If the negligent party was driving while texting or speeding through a traffic light when they collided with the decedent, it can be proven that they breached their duty of care.
- Injuries. The third element involves proving the breach of duty caused the injuries. To show this, your attorney can consult your loved one’s medical records. These will detail the extent of your loved one’s injuries and show how the injuries affected them.
- Damages. Finally, it will need to be shown that the deceased suffered damages. When a case involves a death, damages are often presumed to exist.
Additional evidence that your lawyer can use is expert testimony. For example, if a doctor made a mistake that cost your loved one their life, an expert can testify that the doctor acted negligently. Together, these elements can often show how the accident caused the injuries that resulted in death. Your lawyer will fight for you and your family to recover full and fair compensation.
What Types of Damages Can You Recover?
When damages are being calculated to establish the full value of the victim’s life, there are a number of things that are taken into consideration, such as economic and noneconomic damages.
Economic damages can be calculated. These include lost wages and benefits, including what the person would have reasonably earned if they had lived a full life. This can provide financial relief to the surviving family members, especially if they were dependent on this income.
Intangible damages, or noneconomic damages, include loss of care, companionship, guidance, and other benefits the decedent will no longer provide to their loved ones. For those who ran a household, were raising a family, these damages can demonstrate the loss of the person in their lives. While there aren’t expenses or bills to refer to, these losses are still consequences of losing their loved one.
It can be difficult to receive full and fair compensation for noneconomic damages, as they cannot be directly computed. The compensation could be contested by the other side. You’ll need a strong legal team behind you in order to achieve justice for your loss.
In the event an estate claim is filed, the goal is to take care of the financial losses related to the person’s death. Damages that may be recovered include medical expenses related to the decedent’s accident injuries and treatment, funeral and burial expenses, and the pain and suffering they endured before the time of death.
In certain situations, you may also be able to file for punitive damages, which seek to punish the negligent party for their actions in an attempt to deter them from acting in a similar manner again and hurting someone else. These types of damages can be difficult to prove. In some situations, punitive damages are only awarded if gross negligence occurred. However, if your attorney believes gross negligence led to your loved one’s death, then we’ll take the steps to prove it.
We understand the hardship that can come from filing for wrongful death. While it may be painful to go over the events and details that caused you to lose your loved one, this is also a chance to make your loved one’s voice heard. You can hold the negligent party responsible for their actions and show them what their negligence did.
You and your family will also have the financial security to cover the costs of the accident and other expenses incurred. Being able to continue to pay bills, put food on the table, and cover everyday expenses may be able to provide the space you need to grieve in peace.
The Importance of Consulting an Experienced Attorney
At Bey & Associates, we understand how sensitive matters involving the loss of a loved one can be. As such, it’s common for families to want to handle the matter themselves instead of involving a lawyer. Because of the complicated nature of this type of litigation, however, we advise against this. We will work with you and your family to ensure everyone understands the process, but also allow time to grieve and be together.
It can be difficult to deal with insurance companies and businesses that are working hard to protect their bottom line. Often times, they see your loss as a merely a number. If they offer you a settlement, you may want to accept it to end the matter, but it will likely not be the compensation you truly deserve. An unfavorable settlement could lead to financial issues later on if you’re not able to cover costs. These issues are hard enough on their own, but can be even more overwhelming when you’re going through the grieving process.
Our attorneys can handle communication with insurance companies while you go through this process. We have the experience needed to stand up to them and demand that you get the justice you deserve. We’ll interpret the laws that apply to your case and get your family the compensation you need to recover from the tragedy.
If you’re prepared to start your legal journey, we’re here to offer you a free initial consultation. Our Atlanta wrongful death attorneys will evaluate your claim and help you decide which steps to take next. To learn more about your legal rights and options, get in touch with our team today.