If you’ve lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligent actions or inactions, there could be grounds to take legal action. A DeKalb County wrongful death lawyer from Bey & Associates can help you determine eligibility and guide you through the process.
We understand how emotionally devastating the loss of a loved one can be. When you depended on that individual financially, the loss can seep into every aspect of your life. Filing a claim can secure your family’s future and give you the space to grieve properly.
It’s normal to feel confused about whether filing a wrongful death claim is right. If your family relied on your loved one in financial or emotional ways, you deserve compensation for your loss. It’s also important to remember that if your loved one had survived the accident, they would have had the legal right to file a personal injury claim for their losses.
If you’re considering taking action, you’ll benefit from having an understanding of how the process works. Let’s start by taking a look at what classifies as death as “wrongful.”
How Wrongful Deaths Happen
In DeKalb County and throughout Georgia, wrongful death is defined as the death of a person as a result of the negligent, reckless, intentional, or criminal acts of another person or entity. The concept of negligence refers to the failure to use reasonable care when there is a duty to do so. That has to be proven in order for compensation to be awarded.
There are a number of situations that have the potential to result in a wrongful death. The most common cases we see include:
- Car Crashes. Traffic accidents are not uncommon in DeKalb County. According to county data from Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, there were nearly 42,000 crashes in 2017. As a result, 16,121 people were injured and 95 lost their lives. Some of the most common causes of car accidents include speeding, texting or talking the phone, fatigue, and drunk driving.
- Truck Accidents. Tractor-trailers are significantly larger than the average passenger car. Because of that, there’s an increased risk of fatal injuries when the two types of vehicles collide. Truck accident cases are complex because there are a number of parties that could be liable, including the trucker, trucking company, and truck manufacturer.
- Medical Malpractice. Patients are supposed to be able to trust that their doctors will provide them with the care they need to leave the hospital healthier than when they arrived. Unfortunately, negligent doctors and other medical staff have the potential to cause fatal injuries when they make mistakes. Mistakes during surgery, misdiagnosis, and medication errors are among the leading causes of medical malpractice-related deaths.
- Nursing Home Abuse. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are supposed to provide residents with the support they need to live comfortably. When facilities are negligent, residents are at risk of sustaining several different types of abuse.
While the situations above are some of the most common that end in wrongful death, the list is not comprehensive. If you lost a loved one in a different situation, our attorneys can evaluate the situation and determine if your eligible to file a claim.
Wrongful Deaths Laws in DeKalb County
With any area of personal injury law, there are rules and regulations in place that determine the claims process. The laws regarding wrongful death will impact how and when you file a claim on behalf of your deceased loved one.
When it comes to determining who is eligible to file a wrongful death claim, Georgia law specifies who has the right to do so. It starts with the deceased person’s spouse and moves to their children. If there is no spouse or child, claims can either be brought by surviving parents or a personal representative of the estate. Your lawyer will help you determine who can file the claim and how that could affect the potential recovery.
While your wrongful death attorney will do everything they can to reach a settlement, there’s a chance your claim could go to court as a lawsuit. If that happens, filing it will be subject to the state’s statute of limitations. In most cases, this means the lawsuit must be filed within two years of the death date. If it’s not, the right to compensation is almost always forfeited.
It’s important to note that the two-year clock doesn’t always start on the day a person dies. If, for example, a criminal case is filed alongside the civil case, the time limit on the civil case could be suspended until the completion of the criminal case. There’s also the possibility of additional time depending on the circumstances of the death. Your attorney will understand how the laws apply to your claim, so you don’t run out of time to seek recovery.
Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim
As discussed above, wrongful death claims are based on the legal concept of negligence. In order to prove negligence, your DeKalb County wrongful death lawyer will need to establish four key elements, including a duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages.
Duty of care refers to the obligation of one person to another to act in a reasonable and safe manner. For example, drivers are supposed to abide by the rules of the road and operate their vehicles in a safe manner. Establishing that the opposing party owed your loved one a duty of care is the first element when it comes to proving a claim.
Once you’ve proven a duty of care was owed, you’ll need to establish how that duty was breached. Continuing with the car accident example, if a driver disregards a stop sign and causes a fatal accident at an intersection, their action of driving through the traffic sign signifies their breach of duty. In order to establish that breach, your lawyer will use evidence from the police report, state laws, and any information from the accident reconstructionist and medical expert.
After proving the breach, your family’s attorney will focus on how that breach resulted in the accident and the untimely death of your loved one. Causation requires strong, significant evidence, which is why it’s crucial to have a legal representative by your side who has experience with wrongful death claims.
Finally, it’s time to explain the damages your loved one and family have suffered because of what happened. Damages, which we’ll talk about in more detail and in terms of recovery below, include economic and noneconomic losses sustained by your loved one and family as a direct result of the fatal incident. The DeKalb lawyers you work with will be able to take future losses into consideration, as well.
Types of Recovery for Wrongful Death in Georgia
In Georgia, there are technically two types of claims that can be filed after the wrongful passing of a loved one. Once filed, the wrongful death claim seeks recovery for the family. The other claim is an estate claim. Your situation will determine how you file. In some situations, both claims can be filed simultaneously.
Recovery for Family Members
Wrongful death claims are used to determine the full value of the life of the deceased. Surviving family members bring this claim forward to seek monetary damages for the loss of their loved one. The damages are related to calculable, financial losses or intangible values. Economic damages include lost wages and benefits, which includes what the person would have reasonably earned if they had lived. Noneconomic damages are for factors like loss of care or companionship, or loss of consortium.
Recovery for the Estate
Estate claims are meant to cover the financial losses directly related to the loss of life. Brought by or on behalf of the estate by a personal representative, this type of claim seeks to recover losses like medical expenses related to the decedent’s last illness or injury, funeral and burial expenses, and any conscious pain and suffering they endured prior to death.
To ensure recovery, your attorney will carefully evaluate your family’s situation and the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s passing. In the event you are unable to reach and full and fair settlement through negotiations with the opposing party or their insurance company, we won’t hesitate to help you take your case to court as a lawsuit. While doing so does extend the timeline of your claim, it may be the only way to ensure a complete monetary award is received.
Secure Your Family’s Future With Bey & Associates
Our DeKalb County wrongful death lawyers understand how sensitive these claims are. That’s why we handle them with the utmost respect. If you’re hesitant about filing a claim or have questions about your legal rights and options, schedule a case evaluation with one of our lawyers. They’ll take a look at what has happened and determine the best option for you and your family. We’ll work to ensure you have the means you need to maintain the quality of life you experienced prior to your loved one’s passing and filing a claim will send a message to the at-fault party, letting them know the immense impact their actions have had. Contact us today to learn more.