The loss of a loved one is always a challenging feat to manage. In addition to the emotional grief, it’s likely you’ll be faced with unexpected expenses, planning the funeral, and managing the estate. When a loved one’s death could have been prevented, the attached emotions may be even harder to cope with. If your family has unexpectedly lost a loved one as a result of another party’s actions, our Atlanta wrongful death lawyers can help you determine if you have the grounds to file a claim.
At its core, a wrongful death is a death that should not have taken place. After an event like this, Georgia residents can file what is known as a wrongful death claim against the individual, institution, or party that caused the events that led to a loved one’s passing. We know that a lawsuit will not bring back your loved one, but it may give you peace of mind and give you the chance to seek justice for the wrongs that were committed.
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit is incredibly complex. Depending on the nature of the case and who the claim is against, you may have difficulty achieving the results you desire and deserve without one of our lawyers by your side. At Bey & Associates, we have experienced attorneys in all areas of personal injury, including wrongful death law. We can provide the expertise your case requires. Our firm has decades of experience advocating on behalf of families across the entire state of Georgia.
What Is Georgia’s Wrongful Death Act?
Georgia has established a number of code sections under Title 51 that explain the rights and legal procedures surrounding wrongful death. According to the code, a claim can be brought against any entity whose carelessness resulted in the death of another. The following causes can create legal grounds for a lawsuit in and around Atlanta as well as throughout the state of Georgia:
- Faulty construction
- Medical malpractice
- Drunk driving
- Contaminated food
- Careless or negligent conduct
- Dangerous or defective products
- Improper or illegal service of alcohol
- Nursing home abuse or neglect
- Unlawful acts
- Unsafe prescriptions drugs or medical equipment
In order to file a wrongful death lawsuit, your lawyer will be able to help you determine who in your family is legally eligible to file the claim. Every claim is different and dependent upon the family’s circumstances.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
In addition to highlighting the types of death that can be deemed wrongful, Title 51 also outlines who is able to file a wrongful death claim. The guidelines are strict, complex, and can be confusing to understand without the guidance of a lawyer. Let’s go over the basics.
Under Georgia law, the spouse of the deceased is allowed to file the claim. In the event there isn’t a spouse, the decedent’s children have the right to recovery. If there are no spouses or children, the living parents have the right. If there are no living parents, the administrator of the estate can pursue the claim. A lawyer can determine who the administrator is.
If the victim’s spouse pursues the claim and there is no will, they are legally obligated to share a portion of the compensation from any lawsuit regarding the wrongful death with the victim’s children. In general, however, the spouse is entitled to one-third of any recovered damages. If there is a minor child involved, the right to recovery is the responsibility of the surviving parent or legal guardian until the minor is legally recognized as an adult.
To file the claim, an attorney can help you determine which type is appropriate for your case. After that, you and your lawyer will want to make sure you build the strongest case possible, so your family gets the compensation they need to recover financially from the loss. It’s important to file the claim in the right place and to ensure it is compliant with the court’s rules. This will ensure your claim is reviewed.
In the event the wrongful death was intentionally caused, a wrongful death claim and criminal case can be held; however, they are two separate cases. While the first only has the potential to result in financial compensation, the latter could potentially be taken to the state or federal government.
What Is the Difference Between Wrongful Death Claims and Estate Claims?
There are two types of wrongful death claims in Georgia. The value of the claim separates the two types, which are wrongful death and estate. Let’s take a look at the two separately.
Wrongful Death Claims
This is the standard wrongful death claim, which is for the value of the life of the deceased. This is typically determined when taking into consideration how the deceased would have lived out the rest of their life, i.e. having a spouse, raising children, potential income and benefits, and other activities or enjoyments of daily life. Savings account earnings may also be taken into consideration.
The second type of claim, the estate claim, can only be filed by the surviving administrator of an estate. Any compensation can only go towards the expenses the estate incurred after the death of the loved one or leading up to the death of the loved one. Pain and suffering costs and loss of companionship costs are considered part of an estate claim, as well as funeral expenses and final medical bills.
The state of Georgia separates these two types of claims to best provide for families who have suffered after a loved one’s death. Very few states attempt to provide wrongful death damages that take an entire surviving family’s needs into consideration. Georgia, however, is one of the states that fortunately does look at both the economic and noneconomic factors.
How Is Negligence Proven in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
When a client comes to Bey & Associates after losing a loved one, we must first determine whether there is a viable claim. To do so, it must be proven that another entity was negligent or intentional in causing the death. It also has to be shown that had that entity acted appropriately, the death would have been avoided altogether. This is referred to as the duty of care.
Through a thorough investigation, our lawyers will be able to determine how the entity breached their duty and directly contributed to the accident that caused the death. In some cases, we may hire a medical expert, especially if a doctor is thought to be the negligent party.
After showing a duty of care was owed, the duty was breached, and that breach led to the victim’s passing, we’ll need to show that the family has suffered damages, economic and noneconomic, as a result of the death. We can work with economic experts to determine what the appropriate amount of compensation is for you and your loved ones.
Wrongful death lawsuits can be harder to prove than an injury case because the deceased cannot make statements or submit to a physician’s examination. Our law firm, however, has a deep understanding of how these cases work and in most cases can obtain significantly detailed testimony from witnesses and experts that will prove the death was in fact wrongful.
What Damages Can Be Collected for a Wrongful Death?
As discussed above, family members who are entitled to recover wrongful death damages may be eligible for both economic and noneconomic sums. The following categories may be broken down when calculating the value of life:
- Pain and suffering of the survivors
- Loss of future wages, including predicted raises
- Funeral expenses
- Compensation for pain and suffering experienced by the decedent prior to passing away
- Loss of love and protection of a spouse, parent, or child
- Loss of job benefits, including retirement
- Emotional distress
- Punitive damages sought to punish the negligent party, if available and appropriate
Georgia’s Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations is the given period of time during which legal action can be taken. Surviving family members in and around Atlanta as well as throughout Georgia have a period of two years from the official date of death of the deceased individual to file a wrongful death claim of either type. If the statute of limitations passes before a claim is filed, the claim becomes ineligible and the court will likely throw it out without review.
It’s also important to note that some courts will toll, or extend, a statute if a criminal case is also under investigation and requires extra time. Since wrongful death claims are civil matters and entirely separate from criminal matters, both types of cases can be open at the same time. Claims may also have extra time in the event the cause of death was not discovered right away.
The right wrongful death lawyer will be able to help you determine how long you actually have to file your claim, so you don’t miss out on compensation that could aid with piling expenses.
How Can a Wrongful Death Lawyer From Atlanta Help?
A successful wrongful death claim can not only give your family financial breathing room and make it easier to pay for your loved one’s funeral costs and final expenses, but it additionally sends a message the guilty party can’t ignore. No matter how the accident occurred, the negligent party needs to understand the impact they’ve had – in hopes they will never take similar actions.
If you’ve lost a loved one and feel as though filing a wrongful death lawsuit may be in your family’s best interest, don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our Atlanta wrongful death lawyers at your earliest convenience. We can review your claim and help you understand your legal rights and options, so you can take the actions that are right for you. Contact us today for more information.