Dealing with the loss of a loved one is by no means easy. But when the death is caused by the negligent, intentional, or malicious actions of another person or entity, the pain, anger, regret, and sadness can become unbearable. Under Georgia law, you could be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation for the death in question. While no amount of money can restore your deceased loved one’s life, financial compensation can help ease the burdens placed on the surviving family.
However, dealing with a Georgia wrongful death claim can be an uphill task. There are many unique procedural and legal complexities involved in these types of cases as they are different from other cases involving personal injury. You need the expert help of a skilled College Park wrongful death lawyer.
At Humphrey & Ballard Law, we have a special focus on personal injury and wrongful death litigation. Our College Park wrongful death attorneys have years of experience and are committed to ensuring that you and your family get the justice and financial compensation that you deserve. Call us today at 404-341-0499 to schedule your free consultation.
How Is Wrongful Death Defined in the State of Georgia?
According to Title 51 Chapter 4 of the Official Code of Georgia (O.C.G.A.), wrongful death arises when the death of a human is caused by negligence, criminal acts, or a product that has been defectively manufactured, regardless of whether or not there was negligence.
Georgia’s Wrongful Death Act was first passed more than a century ago during the Civil War and it has undergone numerous amendments ever since. It has five code sections that lay out the various legal grounds for which a wrongful death claim can be raised:
- Intentional acts such as crime
- Negligence or careless conduct
- Unsafe medical devices or drugs
- Contaminated food or other cleanliness issues in commercial establishments
- Faulty construction
- Nursing home abuse/neglect
- Engineering malpractice
- Medical malpractice, for example, misdiagnosis, surgical errors, medication errors, etc.
- Unlawful alcohol service, for instance, when a bartender continues to serve alcoholic drinks to a patron who is clearly intoxicated.
- Pedestrian accidents
Who Is Qualified to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
The state of Georgia is very clear on who can file a wrongful death claim in the unexpected death of a loved one. Just because someone was close or related to the decedent, it doesn’t automatically make them eligible to pursue a wrongful death claim. The Georgia Wrongful Death Act gives the right to start a wrongful death lawsuit to certain family members:
- The spouse reserves the primary right to file a wrongful death claim.
- If there is no living spouse, the right is passed on to the children of the decedent.
- If there is no living spouse or children, then the right is passed on to the living parent(s).
- If the decedent doesn’t have a spouse, children, or living parents, then the administrator of the estate has the right to file the wrongful death claim.
It is important to note that other relatives including siblings, uncles, aunts, and grandparents aren’t eligible to litigate wrongful death claims. If the decedent doesn’t have a surviving spouse, child, or parent, the persona appointed as the executor of the estate will reserve the right to pursue a wrongful death claim.
What Types of Damages Are Recoverable?
Under the state law in Georgia, there are three categories of damages that may be available in a wrongful death claim.
Full Value of Life
The first category is designed to compensate the surviving family members for the “full value of the life of the decedent”.The claim for the “full value of the life of the decedent” can only be pursued by the family member who currently has the right to pursue this claim as per the Georgia Wrongful Death Act (spouse, children, or a living parent). This claim is meant to compensate the family for economic and non-economic damages suffered as a result of the death of the loved one.
Economic or tangible damages include lost benefits and services that the family would have enjoyed had the decedent lived on as well as the dollar amount the decedent would have reasonably earned had their lives not been cut short. Non-economic or non-tangible damages include lost companionship, care, security, guidance, etc.
The second category is designed to reimburse the estate of the deceased person for financial losses incurred as a result of the death of the decedent. This claim can only be brought by the appointed administrator of the estate. In this claim, the estate seeks to recover medical, funeral, and other expenses resulting from the death of the decedent.
There is a third type of claim referred to as “survival action” and it is only available if the decedent did not immediately die from their injuries. It is usually filed by the estate to seek damages for loss suffered by the deceased in the period between the injury event and his or her subsequent death. These damages can include pain and suffering, medical bills, and other financial losses.
Can the Surviving Family File for Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer for grossly negligent, intentional, or malicious actions that led to the death of the decedent. In the state of Georgia, a claim for punitive damages can only be brought by the administrator of the deceased’s estate.
How Is Negligence Proven in a Wrongful Death Case?
If your wrongful death claim is based on the negligence of the accused party, you will need to prove the presence of the following elements of negligence for them to be held liable:
- Duty of Care: First, you have to prove that the defendant had a legal obligation in that particular situation to act in a certain way to avoid causing foreseeable harm to others.
- Breach of Duty of Care: Secondly, you have to prove that the actions of the defendant fell below the standard of care that a reasonable person in that situation would have taken.
- Causation: Thirdly, you need to prove that the defendant’s breach of their duty of care is what caused the death involved and not some other factors.
- Damages: You need to prove actual damages, in this case, the death and resulting losses.
How Do You Start a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
First, it is important to note that as per Georgia’s statute of limitations, you have up to two years from the date of the death to file a wrongful death claim. However, this can be extended in cases where the death involved was a result of a crime or if the deceased person’s estate has not been probated.
Before any lawsuit is filed, an estate must be created on behalf of the decedent. Once this is done, an administrator of the estate is identified. However, the state of Georgia doesn’t require you to file a wrongful death claim through the administrator of the estate.
A College Park wrongful death lawyer will evaluate your case and determine whether there are sufficient legal grounds to pursue a lawsuit. If so, your attorney will get started building your case collecting sufficient and strong evidence to prove your claims. He will also help you file all the requisite paperwork.
In most cases, wrongful death claims end in a settlement agreement. An experienced attorney will negotiate aggressively for a satisfactory settlement amount.
If the negotiations fail, your attorney will prepare your case for trial and work hard to prove your case before a judge or jury.
What Is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and an Estate Claim?
There is a lot of confusion in regards to the types of claims associated with the untimely death of a person. A wrongful death claim is usually brought by the eligible surviving family members of the deceased and it is meant to recover damages for the full value of the decedent’s life.
On the other hand, an estate claim is brought by the administrator of the estate to recover financial losses arising from the death of the decedent. It can also seek to recover punitive damages and pain and suffering endured by the decedent in the period between the event causing the injury and the death.
Contact an Experienced College Park Wrongful Death Lawyer!
The sudden loss of a loved one can be incredibly devastating. Besides dealing with intense emotional turmoil and mental anguish, your financial future and that of your family can be left hanging in the balance. Under Georgia law, you can be entitled to a certain level of financial compensation if the death was caused by the actions of another party or entity.
However, litigating a Georgia wrongful death case is complex and presents a unique set of challenges that require the skills of an attorney who has considerable experience in this area of law. And this is what you get with our skilled College Park wrongful death attorneys at Humphrey & Ballard Law. We will offer you all the necessary legal assistance during this difficult time and ensure that your family is fully compensated for your unfortunate loss.
Call us today at 404-341-0499 to schedule your free consultation. Remember, we offer our services on a contingency basis! You owe us nothing if we don’t recover compensation for you.