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 having some background knowledge on how litigation works. 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.
Automobile accidents are at the top of the list, especially in Atlanta. Irresponsible drivers may be disobeying traffic laws, driving under the influence of alcohol, distracted by their cell phones, or speeding. Vehicles and other consumer products can also result in fatal accidents when manufacturers develop defective products.
When a facility like a nursing home or hospital is negligent, residents and patients lives are put at risk. Nursing homes could employ abusive caretakers that harm the elderly, and a negligent physician could commit an act of medical malpractice that costs someone their life. But no matter what kind of accident resulted in your family member’s passing, we have the experience needed to move forward with legal action.
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. The first is for the value of the decedent’s life, while the latter can only be filed by the estate and is used to cover the expenses that incurred as a result of the injury and death. Pain and suffering can also be included. Different circumstances warrant different ways to proceed. Your Atlanta wrongful death lawyer can help you determine which is right for your family.
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.
The first element is 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.
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.
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.
Additional evidence that your lawyer can use it 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.
Finally, it will need to be shown that the deceased suffered damages. When a case involves a death, damages are often presumed to exist. 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 back 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.