The sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one is a devastating tragedy that no one should have to bear but it happens. No words can describe the feelings of losing someone you love due to the negligence of others. If you have lost a loved one, you may not know what to do next or where to go.
A consultation with an expert Belvedere Park wrongful death lawyer at SHElaw firm® may help you in the long run. While no amount of money can ease the pain of losing a loved one but speaking with an expert attorney will help you make informed decisions regarding your future and the future of your family.
How Is Wrongful Death Defined in Georgia?
Simply put, wrongful death happens when negligent, reckless or intentional actions or inactions of another person or entity lead to someone’s death.
The Georgia Wrongful Death Act clearly defines various legal grounds when it comes to filing a wrongful death claim in Georgia. There are many ways a wrongful death can occur such as:
- Pedestrian accidents
- Serving contaminated food
- Motor vehicle collision
- Construction accidents
- Unsafe working environment
- Medical malpractice
- Equipment malfunction
- Dangerous pharmaceuticals
- Crimes such as assault and battery
- Defective products
- Improper alcohol service
Who Is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
The acquaintances of a deceased may experience emotional pain due to the untimely death, but Georgia’s wrongful death law does not allow anyone to file a wrongful death claim. Only the following are eligible:
- Surviving spouse of the deceased
- Surviving child/children of the decedent in case there is no surviving spouse
- Parents of the deceased if there are no surviving children
- Executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate in case none of the above parties exist
- Georgia does not allow siblings of the deceased to file a wrongful death claim.
In Georgia, the compensation is typically divided equally among the surviving spouse and the surviving children. However, the spouse is always entitled to at least one-third of the total amount.
What Type of Damages Are Recoverable?
The law states that the claimant may recover damages equivalent to the amount of the full value of the life of the decedent without reducing any personal or necessary expenses of the deceased person in case they had lived.
The damages may be broadly categorized into economic and non-economic damages.
The tangible part covers the full value of the life of the deceased. In addition to this claim, the estate may also file a claim to recover the losses suffered due to the death. These may include:
- Medical expenses related to the injury or illness of the deceased person
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Other expenses related to the fatal accident
The law does not state how the full value of life may be calculated but over the years, certain precedents have been set by the Georgia appellate courts to determine this value.
The economic component typically includes the present value of the future earnings of the deceased along with the value of other services over their normal life expectancy.
The noneconomic damages can’t be calculated objectively and are usually determined by a jury. These typically focus on loss of care, loss of companionship, and similar intangibles. These damages may also include pain and suffering by the deceased before death.
Punitive damages are not awarded to families in a wrongful death case. However, punitive damages may be included in an estate claim filed by the estate administrator. You should schedule a consultation with an experienced wrongful death attorney at SHElaw firm® to know more.
Can Surviving Family File for Punitive Damages?
The surviving family members may not file for punitive damages in Georgia.
However, the administrator of the deceased’s estate may file for punitive damages. There have been cases where punitive damages have been awarded by the jury related to the pain and suffering experienced by the victim due to the accident.
Punitive damages only apply in case the defendant acted with malice or intentionally without any regard for the safety of others.
How Is Negligence Proven in a Wrongful Death Case?
In Georgia, it needs to be proven that the wrongful acts of others caused the death. Four basic elements need to be proven by the lawyer.
Duty of Care
It needs to be proven that the defendant owed a duty to the deceased. In the example of a car accident, all drivers have a duty to follow traffic laws and exercise reasonable caution.
Breach of Duty of Care
After proving that the defendant owed a duty to the deceased, it needs to be proven that the defendant breached that duty.
Your lawyer may present evidence that a driver was speeding, driving drunk, or driving recklessly. Also, in a civil case, recklessness needs to be proven beyond 50% instead of beyond reasonable doubt.
Causation means it needs to be proven that the breach of duty by the defendant led to the injury and death. Continuing with the example of an automobile accident, the lawyer must prove that the defendant’s careless or reckless actions caused the accident and that the accident was the cause of death.
Once the above has been established, the lawyer needs to provide proof of damages. It could be in the form of unpaid medical bills, unexpected financial losses, the cost of a funeral as well as loss of wages.
It must be clear by now that winning a wrongful death lawsuit is complicated. All the details of the case need to be gathered and presented in the right manner. This is why you should begin working with an experienced wrongful death lawyer in Belvedere Park, GA as early as possible.
How Do You Start a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
The first thing you need to understand is that the statute of limitations gives you two years from the date of your loved one’s passing to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This is why you should immediately get in touch with an experienced wrongful death attorney at SHElaw firm® to know more about your legal options.
Here is a general outline of how wrongful death claims generally work in Georgia:
Once it is determined that filing a lawsuit is the best way to move forward, the lawyer will start gathering the evidence to support the claim. Engaging the services of an experienced lawyer generally leads to a satisfactory settlement offer by the defendant.
If the settlement offer isn’t fair or a settlement isn’t offered immediately, the lawyer will start negotiating with the other side and make every attempt to get a satisfactory offer. In a majority of cases, a fair settlement is reached without a trial.
If the negotiations failed to secure a fair settlement offer, the attorney will start preparing to take the case to trial. This is where a complaint is prepared by the attorney to be served to the defendant.
All the reports such as insurance papers, accident reports, medical records, and any other such reports are reviewed by both parties. At this stage, the judge often meets both sides to determine the possibility of settlement without going to trial.
If no settlement is reached, the case will go to trial where all the evidence will be presented in front of a judge or jury who will make the final decision after arguments are put forward by both sides.
What Is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and an Estate Claim?
A wrongful death claim is brought by the surviving family members of the deceased to seek compensation for the full value of their loved one’s life. This includes the value of income and household cores as well as loss of companionship, time spent with family, and other such parts of life.
The estate claim is filed by the estate of the deceased to recover expenses such as burial and funeral costs as well as medical expenses related to the event that led to the decedent’s death. If the deceased lived for even a few seconds after the accident, the estate may also seek damages for pain and suffering.
If the deceased left a will, the administrator or executor brings the estate claim. If the decedent did not leave a will, Georgia’s laws of inheritance will come into play to determine the eligible party for bringing the lawsuit.
Call a Belvedere Park Wrongful Death Lawyer Today!
If you have suffered the tragedy of losing a loved one due to the reckless or negligent actions of others, an experienced Belvedere Park wrongful death lawyer from SHElaw firm® can help you file a claim and recover the compensation you deserve. While no amount of money for the wrongful death is sufficient, it does help with the sudden financial burden surviving family members are now forced to endure.
You don’t need to worry about the costs of bringing a wrongful death claim. Here at SHElaw firm®, we work on a contingency fee arrangement which means you do not need to pay anything out of your own pocket. We will recover our costs from the compensation we win for you.
Give us a call at 470-378-1162 to schedule a free consultation.