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. The Atlanta wrongful death lawyers are 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 claim 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 wrongful death 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 cases, 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, wrongful death claims essentially take the place of a personal injury claim. If the person had survived the accident, they would have been able to file a claim against the negligent party and they would have been able to seek compensation to cover their related expenses. A wrongful death claim 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 a 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 claims a life. But no matter what type of accident resulted in your family member’s passing, we have the experience needed to move forward with legal action.
How the Wrongful Death Claim Process Works
Georgia law dictates who can bring a wrongful death claim 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 claim.
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 a personal representative is making the claim, any damages will go to the decedent’s next of kin.
To file a successful case, it’s imperative to be within the statute of limitations—which limits the time survivors or the personal representative have to go to court. In most cases, the claim must be filed within two years of the death date. If this deadline is missed, the court will likely dismiss the case without review.
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 a claim and how long you have to file one, it’s crucial to understand the difference between wrongful death claims 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 claims. Your Atlanta wrongful death lawyers 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. 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, the case can be built. 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. Medical records and expert testimony 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. In a wrongful death case, damages are often presumed to exist because the victim passed away.
What Types of Damages Are Recoverable for a Wrongful Death?
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. Damages that can be calculated include lost wages and benefits, including what the person would have reasonably earned if they had lived a full life. Intangible damages include loss of care, companionship, guidance, and other benefits the decedent will no longer provide to their loved ones.
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.
For either claim, it can be difficult to receive full and fair compensation for noneconomic damages, as they cannot be directly computed. You’ll need a strong legal team back you in order to achieve justice for your loss.
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 wrongful death 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. We have the experience needed to stand up to them, 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.