A wrongful death case is one where the victim dies as the result of another person’s actions. There are two main categories of wrongful death cases:
Most wrongful death cases involve negligent or reckless behavior, which require you and your Atlanta wrongful death attorney to prove the other party should be held responsible due to their failure to take reasonable care. Some examples of common wrongful death cases that arise due to negligence include:
Wrongful death cases that arise from intentional or criminal acts are more straightforward lawsuits in that you don’t have to prove negligence. The important thing to remember is that you can still pursue a wrongful death claim even though the responsible party is being criminally prosecuted. You will most likely not recover your losses from the prosecution. A wrongful death claim gives you the opportunity to pursue fair compensation, even if the other person is ultimately acquitted or the case is dropped.
It’s important to note that Georgia law expressly allows parents to pursue a wrongful death claim even if the child was born out of wedlock.
We Understand How Difficult It Is to Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim
After the loss of a loved one, it may seem impossible to know where to turn. There are many reasons to choose Gilormo Injury Law. We are a boutique firm, able to focus our attention on your case with uncommon attention to detail. We will treat you with kindness, compassion, and empathy, and will treat your claim with experience and efficiency. Maybe most importantly, unlike bigger firms, we will communicate with you in a timely fashion, and never ignore your phone calls or messages.
Our firm has spent more than a decade working tirelessly for the injured and has a long and successful track record representing clients throughout the state of Georgia. We offer a free consultation, during which we will evaluate your case and present you with your best options. We work on a contingency basis, which means there is no risk for you.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Georgia?
Unfortunately, wrongful death claims cannot be brought by just any friend or family member. Georgia limits who may pursue a wrongful death claim, determined by the relationship to the victim. You can file a lawsuit with an Atlanta wrongful death attorney in the following instances:
- If the victim was married, only the surviving spouse may pursue a wrongful death claim. The surviving spouse must also represent the interests of any surviving minor children.
- If the victim was not married at the time of death, only the surviving children can pursue a wrongful death claim.
- If the victim has no surviving spouse or children, then the right to pursue a wrongful death claim passes to the victim’s parents.
- If the victim has no surviving spouse, children, or parents, then the wrongful death claim can be pursued by the victim’s estate.
Of course, this becomes much more complicated if the victim has divorced and remarried and has a blended family. The situation becomes even more complex if there are surviving minor children involved, you may need to have a guardian appointed. An experienced Atlanta wrongful death attorney will know whether you can pursue a claim and how to go about it.
A Survival Action vs. Wrongful Death Claim, An Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorney Explains
Wrongful death and survival actions are both strictly governed by law. In other words, they exist because the state has passed laws that allow these types of claims. Prior to the enactment of these laws, when someone died, their personal injury claim died with them, and their estate had no chance of pursuing a personal injury claim after the death of the person who would have had the personal injury claim.
Wrongful death laws allow the estate to recover damages for the beneficiaries of the deceased, while survival laws allow the estate to recover damages that the deceased person could have recovered in a personal injury lawsuit if they had survived. A wrongful death claim is typically brought by the surviving family members directly, which includes a surviving spouse, children of the deceased, parents of the deceased, or any other person allowed under law that was financially dependent on the deceased.
Survival actions are typically brought by the executor of the deceased person’s estate. Survival actions provide compensation for various aspects related to injuries sustained by the deceased up until the time of their death. This compensation may include pre-death medical expenses, pain and suffering incurred by the victim before he or she passed, or lost wages for the period of time between sustaining his or her injuries and his or her’s death.
Generally, survival actions can provide substantial benefits if the time between the injuries and the death was fairly significant. For example, if a person dies immediately after sustaining an injury in a car accident, the survival action compensation may not be significant. However, if that person survives and is suffering from their injuries for months or even years before they pass away, a survival action will likely bring more compensation, along with any wrongful death compensation for the case.
Compensation Available in Wrongful Death Claims
Most people don’t realize the full value of their wrongful death claim. First, you are entitled to seek compensation for any losses that directly result from the death of your loved one. This includes medical expenses, as well as burial and funeral expenses. You are also entitled to seek compensation for any pain and suffering that the victim experienced prior to death.
Perhaps more importantly, Georgia law allows you to seek recovery of the “full value of the life of the decedent without deducting for any of the necessary or personal expenses of the decedent had he lived.” This means that your wrongful death claim can include the following:
- Their total expected income over your deceased loved one’s lifetime
- Retirement benefits and investment income
- The value of any care and companionship they provided to you and your family
Determining your deceased loved one’s future income, investment returns, and the value of their companionship is a difficult calculation to make. Some of these elements are subjective (such as the loss of companionship), while others require some economic analysis. However, an experienced Atlanta wrongful death attorney should be able to provide you with an estimate of what your claim may be worth. Factors include:
- Costs of medical expenses
- The person’s age and health at the time of passing
- The degree of fault the other party had in causing the death (such as the level of negligence, if a breach of contract occurred, etc.)
- More complicated calculations, such as emotional distress if a loved one witnessed or experienced the accident
Calculating the value of a wrongful death claim involving a child can be even more complicated. You may not be able to seek the value of their future employment or retirement and investment income, but the value of the loss of their companionship could be quite significant.
The Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Lawsuits
In Georgia, there is a two-year statute of limitations to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The deadline begins running from the date the victim died. If the victim died at the scene of the accident, the deadline will expire two years from the date of the accident. If the victim died several months after the accident, then the deadline will expire much later. This can be somewhat confusing if you’re already pursuing a personal injury claim because the statute of limitations runs from the date of the accident. In this scenario, your personal injury claim will overlap with a wrongful death claim.
There are exceptions, however. A criminal investigation or administration of the victim’s estate can “toll” the statute of limitations, meaning that it will be postponed to a later time. However, do not assume that this applies to your case – if you miscalculate or mistakenly believe that an exception applies to you, the consequences could be disastrous.
Two years may seem like a long time, but when you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, it can pass faster than you think. The longer you wait to pursue your claim, the more difficult it may be to obtain the evidence you need to pursue your case. If your loved one has been injured in an accident and death is a possibility, we strongly recommend that you consult with an Atlanta wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. They can tell you what you will need to make your claim and be prepared to move forward without delay if you decide it’s appropriate.
The Role of an Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorney
If you lost a loved one in a wrongful death accident, pursuing a wrongful death claim is your only option for getting the compensation you deserve. Unfortunately, they are extremely difficult for non-lawyers to pursue on their own. You need to understand the law and know how to navigate the process. The insurance company will try to settle your claim for far less than it is worth. Most non-lawyers wind up settling their wrongful death claims for a fraction of their value but continue to struggle both emotionally and financially long after the claim has been resolved. An Atlanta wrongful death attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve.
What You Need to Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim in Atlanta
Though your wrongful death lawyer will handle the legal aspects of your lawsuit, there are still steps you can to keep the process running smoothly:
- Obtain a death certificate for the deceased
- Provide your attorney with any evidence you may have to show what caused the accident or negligence that led to your loved one’s passing.
- Keep track of your receipts and other documents that show the costs you or loved one had to pay in connection with their injuries and related to their death. (i.e. funeral expenses, burial costs, etc.)