The loss of someone you love is immeasurable. The loss is more heartbreaking when it is caused by the needless recklessness or negligence of another person or entity. Not only can such a tragic occurrence have an immense emotional impact on surviving families, but the financial burdens that follow can set the family back for years to come.
When the death of your loved one is caused by criminal, intentional, reckless, or negligent actions of another person or entity, you have a right to lodge a claim for wrongful death. An experienced Scottdale wrongful death lawyer can help guide your family through a wrongful death claim and provide stability and peace of mind after death.
At SHElaw firm, we have a tremendous track record in wrongful death claims and can pursue the financial resources you deserve. We know that grief can be a devastating process. Let us handle the complexities of your wrongful death claim in Scottdale, GA.
How Is Wrongful Death Defined in the State of Georgia?
Every death is tragic, but not all deaths are legally considered wrongful. Georgia law defines wrongful death as the death of a person caused by negligence, criminal activity, defective products, or faulty construction.
The Georgia Wrongful Death Act (O.C.G.A. § 51-4-1) outlines the possible legal grounds for any death to qualify as wrongful in Georgia. These include:
- Criminal acts, including intentional homicide.
- Defective products such as medical devices, vehicles, or drugs
- Inappropriate or illegal alcohol service. For example, if a bartender continues to serve alcohol to a patron who is visibly intoxicated.
- Nursing home neglect and/or abuse
- Medical malpractice such as misdiagnosis, surgical errors, medical injury, or medication errors
- Faulty construction
- Pedestrian accident fatalities
- Contaminated drinks or food, or other sanitation issues on commercial premises
- Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Who Is Qualified to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
Typically, only the decedent’s surviving family members can file a wrongful death claim, but some exceptions exist.
The Official Code of Georgia § 51-4-2 lays out the different groups of individuals who qualify to file a wrongful death claim after someone’s death in Georgia. These groups are listed in order of preference. In simple terms, if an individual from the first group exists and has the capacity to file the claim, they must do so.
Suppose no one from the first group is available, or they lack the capacity to file a claim. In that case, someone from the second category can file. Likewise, a person from the third group can only file a wrongful death claim if nobody from the first two categories is able to do so.
The groups of people who are qualified to file a wrongful death claim in Georgia are:
- The decedent’s surviving spouse
- Child or children of the decedent
- The decedent’s parents
- The decedent’s estate executor or a court-appointed estate administrator
What Types of Damages Are Recoverable?
After the unexpected passing of a loved one, the emotional and financial fallout is often enormous. In addition to the immediate expenses such as medical costs, funeral and burial costs, families also lose access to their loved one’s income and future financial support, e.g., college funds.
Of course, money is little consolation when grieving the untimely loss of a loved one. However, monetary compensation can help during this stressful and emotional time.
Georgia law dictates the damages that can be recovered from a wrongful death claim. These damages can be categorized into two groups:
These damages have a measurable dollar amount. They include:
- Medical bills and treatment costs that the family covered
- Loss of expected income and benefits
These damages cannot be quantified and don’t have a measurable dollar value. They include:
- Mental anguish
- Loss of guidance, care, or protection
- Loss of companionship, affection, comfort, and support
- Loss of consortium
We at the SHElaw firm understand that your loved one’s passing is difficult. Our Scottdale wrongful death lawyers want to help your family receive the compensation you deserve. We’re ready to hold accountable those responsible for your loved one’s passing and ensure your needs and concerns are met.
Can the Deceased’s Surviving Family File for Punitive Damages?
While uncommon, punitive or exemplary damages are awarded in cases where the decedent’s death was caused by malice or gross negligence. These financial rewards granted to the plaintiff are intended to punish the defendant and deter them and other public members from committing such acts.
So, can your family file for punitive damages in your wrongful death claim? Unfortunately, punitive damages are not available through a wrongful death claim. After all, Georgia law views a wrongful death claim as somewhat punitive. However, punitive damages may be awarded in a survival claim brought by an estate administrator.
How Is Negligence Proved in a Wrongful Death Case in Georgia?
Just because the loss of your loved one was unexpected does not automatically mean you can recover compensation in a wrongful death claim. As the plaintiff in a wrongful death claim in Georgia, you must trace and prove the connection between your loved one’s death and the negligent, malicious, or criminal acts of another party.
For surviving family to have a legitimate wrongful death claim and for the best chances of recovering the compensation you deserve, you need to talk to an experienced wrongful death lawyer near you.
The Scottdale wrongful death lawyers at SHElaw firm are ready to help your family prove negligence in your wrongful death case. To do so, we will demonstrate the following elements of negligence to be true:
- Duty of Care: We will show that the defendant owed the deceased a duty of care in the given situation.
- Breach of Duty of Care: Next, we will demonstrate how the defendant acted in a way that breached or violated that duty of care.
- Causation: Next, we will prove that the defendant’s actions or inaction actually caused your loved one’s death.
- Damage: Finally, we will show that the defendant’s behavior resulted in losses/damages. These can include lost income, medical bills, and funeral expenses the family incurred.
How Do You Start a Wrongful Death Claim in Scottdale, GA?
A wrongful death claim is subject to strict time limits and must be brought within two years from the date of death.
Start your wrongful death claim by retaining legal representation from experienced wrongful death lawyers in Scottdale as soon as you can following the death of a loved one. At SHElaw firm, we make it our mission to help families recover the compensation they deserve.
What Is the Difference Between a Survival Claim/Action and a Wrongful Death Claim?
An essential distinction in Georgia law is the difference between a wrongful death claim and a survival claim or action.
Who Can Bring the Claim
The first difference between a survival action or claim and a wrongful death claim is who can bring the claim. A wrongful death suit is brought on behalf of the decedent’s surviving family, i.e., spouse, children, or parents. On the other hand, a survival action in Georgia is brought on behalf of the decedent by the personal representative/estate administrator of the decedent’s estate.
The second difference between a wrongful death lawsuit and a survival action is the type of recoverable damages. In wrongful death claims, damages are focused on the losses the decedent’s family suffered. These include loss of support, loss of future income and benefits, loss of consortium, and medical and funeral costs.
In contrast, damages awarded in a survival action are focused on the decedent’s losses before death (as though they survived the accident). These include pain and suffering, disfigurement, property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, and punitive damages.
How Damages Are Distributed
The third difference is in how recovered damages are distributed.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, recovered damages are distributed through Georgia’s intestacy laws and are not subject to claims against the estate or estate taxes. On the other hand, damages recovered in a survival claim are distributed under the terms of the decedent’s will and are subject to claims against the estate and estate taxes.
Important: Note that a survival action in Georgia may only be brought if your loved one did not die immediately after their injuries. In simple terms, they were hurt and later died of their injuries.
Wrongful deaths and survival actions often overlap, making these cases complex. Talk to a trusted Scottdale wrongful death attorney to help with your wrongful death claim and survival action.
Contact a Scottdale Wrongful Death Lawyer, Trust Us With Your Case!
At SHElaw firm, we understand that the loss of a loved one is a difficult time, and monetary compensation cannot fill the void left by a lost loved one, let alone fully compensate your family for the loss of your loved one.
However, we can hold those responsible for the needless death of your loved one accountable. Our skilled wrongful death lawyers in Scottdale can evaluate your case and help you understand your legal options and the best course of action for your situation.
Contact us today at 470-378-1162 to schedule a free consultation.