If you are reading this page because you lost a loved one in an accident, our hearts go out to you. We hope that you find the information you’ve included on this page helpful as you explore what you can do to get justice and compensation from the negligent party.
Of course, no one likes to think about monetary value being placed on the life of someone you love. However, following a tragedy, making sure that justice is served, and compensation is paid to the surviving family members could remove the burden of financial concerns that arise from the loss of income of the deceased and provide the family with money to cover the costs of the final expenses.
At Humphrey & Ballard Law, our East Point wrongful death lawyers have extensive experience and perhaps more importantly, we genuinely care about each of our clients and their personal losses. We know it may feel wrong to use terms like “compensation” like money can restore what was taken from you. However, your loved one is more than figures on a page to us, and we’ll do our best to honor them as we move forward with your case.
How Is Wrongful Death Defined in the State of Georgia?
Wrongful death occurs when someone loses their life due to the negligent actions or inactions of another person. When a person or an entity recklessly, intentionally, or negligently causes death, the surviving family members can file a lawsuit to seek justice. These lawsuits can be for the death of a spouse, parent, or child.
The Georgia Wrongful Death Act outlines how wrongful death is handled in Georgia, and it has existed for over 100 years, with a number of addendums added throughout the years. It outlines the following as the possible legal grounds for a wrongful death claim in Georgia, which include:
- Criminal actions, including intentional homicide
- Medical malpractice, including things like misdiagnosis, surgical and medication errors, or any form of medical injury
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs
- Defective products
- Nursing home abuse or neglect.
- Defective construction and engineering malpractice
- Pedestrian accident fatalities
- Contaminated food and any other form of sanitary issues in commercial establishments
- Improper or illegal service of alcohol, such as a bartender continuing to serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated patron
In other words, when intentional or reckless behavior leads to death, the law allows for the family to file a lawsuit on the behalf of the deceased. Additionally, in case there is any pre-death pain and suffering that happened, damages for the same can be recovered too.
Who Is Qualified to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
The main purpose of wrongful death lawsuits is to let the family member file a case on behalf of the deceased victim. Georgia laws only allow certain people to represent the deceased in a wrongful death case. These include:
This is the first person allowed to bring a wrongful death lawsuit, specifically if they were married. The spouse is also allowed to file the suit on behalf of any children that the deceased had who are under 18 years. Either way, the spouse will be entitled to at least a third of the full financial recovery from the wrongful death claim.
Children of the Deceased
If the deceased has no surviving spouse, the deceased’s child or children can bring a wrongful death claim.
Parents of the Deceased
In case the deceased was not married or didn’t have a surviving spouse and didn’t have any children above the age of 18, then the surviving parent can file the claim.
Representative of the Estate
A wrongful death claim can also be brought by a designated representative of the deceased estate. Any damages won will go to the estate of the deceased and be distributed among the surviving next of kin.
What Types of Damages Are Recoverable?
According to Georgia law (O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2(a) the measure of a wrongful death compensation is the full value of the life of the decedent. Life is invaluable and no amount of money can represent the worth of human life. However, the Georgia court system defines full value in two ways: economic loss and non-economic loss.
Economic losses are the income that the deceased would have earned over the course of their lifetime had their life not been cut short. Economic losses also include the value of the services that the deceased would have availed of for their family such as home maintenance, payment of school fees, etc. if they continued to live a normal life.
Non-economic losses in wrongful death cases are much harder to calculate. There are no formulas for calculating non-economic damages, and the judges are under instruction to measure them from the point of view of what the victim lost by not living a full life. These losses typically include loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, pain and suffering before death, and loss of companionship.
The loss of life’s pleasures is not easy to value, but our experienced wrongful death lawyers will try their best to get your loved one a fair settlement. We will assemble the evidence to bring the victim back to life in the minds of the judge and the jurors to make them understand what the victim lost. This should help ensure the surviving family members get favorable compensation.
Can the Surviving Family File for Punitive Damages?
Surviving members of the family of the deceased cannot sue for punitive damages in Georgia. Punitive damages are awarded over and above other compensation for economic or non-economic losses in personal injury cases and are aimed at punishing the liable party for acting in a reckless manner that resulted in the fatality to prevent them from repeating the same behavior.
However, the representative of the estate can seek punitive damages in an estate claim if the deceased survived for some time, even a short period, before passing away.
How Is Negligence Proved in a Wrongful Death Case?
Wrongful death claims fall under the umbrella of personal injury law. As such, it is necessary to prove negligence in order to determine who is liable (responsible) for paying the damages that form part of the lawsuit. The following 4 elements must be present in order for the plaintiff to prove that the defendant was negligent:
Duty of Care
You need to first demonstrate to the court that the accused party owed the deceased a duty of care under the circumstances that led to the accident.
Breach of Duty of Care
You must then demonstrate how the defendant was in breach of their duty of care in the accident. This could be through a given action or inaction in a situation where another reasonable person in the same situation would have acted appropriately.
You should prove that the wrongful death was a direct result of the defendant’s breach of their duty of care, and not from any other cause.
You need to show that the deceased and/or the surviving family members suffered damages. This is probably the easiest to prove in wrongful death cases.
How Do You Start a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
Wrongful death lawsuits in Georgia are governed by strict rules and statutes, though there are some best practices that will ensure you maximize your odds of success. Before attempting any of the steps to seek justice, it’s wise to consult with and even hire an attorney for assistance.
Hire a Lawyer
Hiring an East Point wrongful death lawyer should be among your first steps in filing your claim, as it will improve your odds of securing a fair settlement. Your lawyer will hear you out and assess the circumstances surrounding the case to establish if you have a case.
Build a Case
Once it’s established you have a sufficient cause for a lawsuit, an experienced lawyer will conduct independent investigations as well as collect and evaluate the available evidence to build a strong case.
A key role of your lawyer is making sure that you get fair compensation. This will entail taking on negotiations with the defendant until they reach a satisfactory offer. The majority of cases end at this stage, but if the negotiations are unyielding, the case goes to trial.
A trial typically involves presenting the case in front of a judge or jury, who will decide the outcome of your claim after listening to what both sides have to say.
What Is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and an Estate Claim?
A wrongful death claim is simply a civil claim filed by the surviving family members to seek compensation for the value of their loved one’s life. On the other hand, estate claims are when the victim’s estate attempts to recover compensation for the financial damages associated with the death of the victim.
Talk to an East Point Wrongful Death Lawyer
If you have experienced the tragedy of losing a loved one, you can reach out to us any time to discuss the potential wrongful death case. We know that it can be quite overwhelming to lose a loved one through the negligent actions of another person. And while compensation will not ease your grief, we hope it will help to ease the financial burden the loss might have brought to you and your family.
Our East Point wrongful death lawyers at Humphrey & Ballard Law will treat you with the compassion and respect you deserve. Reach out to us at 404-341-0499 or submit the form below to schedule your free consultation.