The sudden loss of a loved one is never easy. However, when the death is a result of the negligent or wrongful acts of someone else, the pain and grief caused can be overwhelming. The thought that your loved one’s demise could have been avoided can haunt you for a long time. The sudden loss can also leave the surviving family members suffering financially, especially if the deceased was a breadwinner.
Under Georgia’s Wrongful Death Act, when one party’s actions lead to the death of someone, the surviving family members can file a claim to recover compensation. Even though no amount of money will ever bring back your loved one, adequate financial compensation can help ease your grief and long-term financial burden.
If you have recently lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s negligence, first of all, our thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family during this difficult time. Secondly, you are entitled to seek justice and the maximum amount of compensation owed to you and your family.
Our team of dedicated Brookhaven wrongful death lawyers at The Hurt Boss is prepared to offer you the legal help you need to protect your family’s financial future and wellbeing. Call us today at 678-806-7715 to schedule your free consultation with our personal injury lawyers in Brookhaven.
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How Is Wrongful Death Defined in the State of Georgia?
Before filing a wrongful death claim, it is important to first understand what constitutes wrongful death. The definition of wrongful death in Georgia is contained in Title 51 Chapter 4 of the Official Code of Georgia.
Basically, wrongful death is the death of an individual caused by the negligent, criminal, or intentional actions of another party. Death caused by a defectively manufactured product also falls under wrongful death, whether or not there was negligence.
With that being said, here are some of the common scenarios in which a wrongful death claim can arise:
- Intentional homicide
- Slip and falls
- Car, motorcycle, truck, and bus accidents
- Nursing home abuse and neglect
- Defective or dangerous products like drugs and medical devices
- Bicycle and pedestrian accidents
- Hospital injuries
- Medical malpractice including anesthesia errors
- Train crashes
- Construction accidents
Who Is Qualified to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
Georgia State Law is strict on who is allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Just because you knew or were close to the deceased, it doesn’t automatically mean that you are entitled to bring a claim. Here are the specific parties that can file a wrongful death claim in Georgia:
- The spouse always has the primary right to bring a wrongful death claim. The spouse is also entitled to at least one-third of the proceeds from the claim. Also, the spouse is allowed to bring a claim on behalf of any of the deceased’s children who are below 18 years old.
- The children of the deceased are next in line if the spouse isn’t available.
- If the spouse or children aren’t available, then the parents of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim.
- In some unique circumstances, the designated representative of the estate can file the wrongful death act with the proceeds being distributed among the next-of-kin.
What Types of Damages Are Recoverable?
As per Georgia’s Wrongful Death Act, the surviving family members of the deceased can file a claim for the “full value of the life of the decedent.” What is important to note is that the “full value of the life of the decedent” refers to the economic and non-economic contributions the deceased made and would have continued making to the family if they hadn’t met their untimely death.
These types of damages can only be recovered by the designated family members.
In terms of economic contributions, the surviving family members can seek to recover damages for the lost projected income the deceased would have earned throughout their lives as well as services such as fixing the house, driving the kids to school, maintaining the lawn, and other services that offered economic value to the family or that can be assigned a dollar amount.
The estate of the deceased can also seek damages for financial losses suffered by the estate following the death of the deceased individual including medical and funeral expenses. This type of claim can only be brought by the administrator of the estate.
Non-economic damages cover the contributions that the deceased made that can’t be assigned a dollar amount. Here, the surviving family members can seek to recover damages for lost care and support, protection, guidance and advice, companionship, and so on.
There is also another type of claim that can be raised in the event of the death of a loved one known as a survival action. This type of claim is also filed by the estate of the deceased on behalf of the deceased for losses suffered by the deceased between the injury event and death.
Essentially, the estate seeks compensation for damages that the decedent would have sought to recover had they survived. These include pain and suffering as well medical bills relating to their treatment.
Can Surviving Family Members File for Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages aren’t mentioned in Georgia’s Wrongful Death Act. As such, judges strictly interpret the law and don’t permit the award of punitive damages in wrongful death claims.
However, punitive damages are possible in an estate claim. In this type of claim, the estate seeks to recover expenses like funeral costs and the deceased’s medical bills. The estate can also pursue damages for pain and suffering by the deceased if he/she didn’t die immediately.
Even if the deceased only survived for a few seconds, it’s possible to seek punitive damages. Similar to personal injury cases, punitive damages in estate claims are awarded where the court decides the party at fault intended to harm the deceased or when they showed extreme disregard for others’ wellbeing.
How Is Negligence Proven in a Wrongful Death Case?
In Georgia’s personal injury and wrongful death cases, the plaintiff bears the burden of proof. This means that you or your attorney need t prove every element of your case and show that the facts of your case are “more likely than not” true.
To be successful in your claim, you need to prove the presence of the following elements of negligence:
- Duty of care: First, you need to prove that the defendant owed your deceased loved one a duty of care in that particular situation.
- Breach of duty of care: Next, you need to show that the defendant violated this duty of care. This can be by doing or failing to do something that another reasonable person would or would not have done in that particular situation.
- Causation: You also need to show that the decedent’s injury and subsequent death was a direct result of the actions of the decedent and not something else.
- Damages: Lastly, you need to prove that you and your family suffered actual and compensable damages as a result of the death of your loved one.
How Do You Start a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
Here is a brief look at a how wrongful death claim works in the state of Georgia:
The first step to starting a wrongful death claim is to determine whether you have a valid case. Your attorney will assess the facts of your case and tell you whether it is worth filing a wrongful death claim.
Building Your Case
The next step will be to gather sufficient evidence to prove the other party’s fault and support your claims. An experienced Brookhaven wrongful death attorney will conduct a thorough investigation into your case and make sure to uncover all the details of your case. They will also help you to file all the necessary paperwork. This should be done within two years from the date of death.
Most wrongful death claims end in settlement. Your attorney knows how much exactly your case is worth as well as the tactics used by insurance companies to avoid paying the full amount. Your attorney will fight hard to ensure that you get a fair settlement offer.
Trial Preparation and Representation
In the event that the negotiations don’t yield the expected results, your attorney will prepare your case for trial. They will review the evidence and ensure that you are all set for the tough battle ahead in court. Our attorneys have extensive trial experience and know-how to present arguments to the judge and jury in the most convincing and effective manner.
What Is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and an Estate Claim?
Both wrongful death and estate claims are usually brought following the wrongful death of a person. However, there is a significant difference between the two. A wrongful death claim is usually filed by the surviving members of the decedent and is meant to recover compensation for the full value of the decedent’s life.
On the other hand, an estate claim is usually brought by the representative of the estate to recover compensation for financial losses suffered by the estate as a result of the decedent’s death.
Contact an Experienced Brookhaven Wrongful Death Lawyer!
Nothing can possibly prepare one for the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one. It is arguably one of the worst and most devastating life experiences. Besides the emotional pain, you also have to worry about the potential impact their departure will have on your life and your family.
Getting maximum financial compensation for your loss is perhaps the best option to ease the blow. And this is where a Brookhaven wrongful death attorney comes in.
At The Hurt Boss, we understand what you and your family are going through this time. This is why we are prepared to help make things much easier for you and help you secure your family’s wellbeing and financial future. We will help you navigate the complex legal system and ensure the best outcome. Call our offices today at 678-806-7715 to schedule a free appointment!