Losing a loved one due to the careless, negligent, malicious, or criminal act of another person or entity is something that no family ever wants to experience. The sad truth is that wrongful deaths do occur daily in the state of Georgia. These tragedies paralyze the family and forever change the lives of the loved ones who are left behind. When the deceased was the breadwinner of the family, this can have devasting impact on the family’s financial security.
If one of your loved ones has died because of the reckless or intentional actions of another, our wrongful death attorney in Atlanta can help you get justice. Our personal injury lawyers can help you file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of your deceased loved one so you can recover damages and secure compensation for your family.
How is Wrongful Death Defined in the State of Georgia?
Georgia’s Wrongful Death Act states that if someone is killed by the act of an individual or company, then the family survivors of the deceased have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The family of the decedent can claim the “full value” of the deceased’s life.
The Wrongful Death Act has existed for over a century, and it has been amended over the years. It has five sections of codes that describe the different situations under which a wrongful death claim in Georgia can be filed. Here are some examples:
- Intentional harm and other criminal acts committed against the individual that resulted in death, like homicide. If the death resulted from a lack or failure of security on the premises during an act of crime, such as the store security’s failure to keep shoppers safe during a robbery, and a shopper died from the incident, a wrongful death claim could potentially be brought against the business as well.
- Medical malpractice situations include errors during surgical procedures, wrong diagnoses, errors in prescribing medications, and other injuries caused by medical personnel. This can also include unlicensed healthcare practitioners administering healthcare in unconventional and unproven methods.
- Defective products. Consumer products that have defects that rendered them dangerous like malfunctioning household appliances, medical devices, electronics, and automobiles. The defects can result in product liability claims with a wrongful death claim.
- Malpractice in construction and engineering created a danger for the victim that resulted in death. An example of premises liability can be a balcony that had poor structural support and collapsed.
- Abuse or neglect at a nursing home led to the patient’s death.
- Driving when intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.
- Driving while distracted, such as texting while driving led to a car accident that resulted in the death of the other driver or a pedestrian.
- Death of pedestrians caused by a non-vehicle like a bicycle, scooter, or other elements on the road.
- Food that was contaminated at the commercial level resulted in consumer deaths. Unsanitary conditions in the food preparation area can lead to a claim against the eating establishment.
- Irresponsible or illegal service of alcohol, such as an establishment serving alcohol to minors or a bartender continuing to serve a customer who was clearly intoxicated.
If the death of your loved one resulted from any of the above reasons, or from another type of reason not described above, you should contact Attorney Gil to discuss the filing of a wrongful death claim. In order to successfully help you win your case, we must establish all elements of liability to solidify the claim.
Who is Qualified to File A Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia
In Georgia, the person filing a wrongful death claim files it on behalf of the deceased who is no longer able to file his own claim. Georgia law dictates very strict rules as to who is eligible to file a claim. Here is the order of precedence:
- The surviving spouse of the decedent is the first to be eligible to file the claim.
- The surviving child(ren) of the decedent can file if there is no surviving spouse.
- The parent(s) of the decedent can file if there is no surviving spouse or children.
- The executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate if there are no surviving spouses, children, and parents.
Siblings or grandparents of the decedent are not eligible to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the decedent. The exception is if a surviving sibling was the executor of the decedent’s estate, and the deceased did not have any spouse, children, or parents who survived him. If the sibling is the executor, he would oversee the wrongful death lawsuit and fulfill his fiduciary duties for the estate. Any damages recovered will be held by the estate for the decedent’s next of kin.
What Types of Damages are Recoverable?
The damages that are recoverable from a wrongful death claim represent the “full value” of the life of the deceased. This is divided into “tangible” and “intangible” values.
This is the economic value of the deceased’s life. This includes the money that the deceased would have earned in his lifetime. It also includes the economic value of any services that the deceased would have provided like caring for children or elderly family members, companionship, driving family around, household chores, providing advice, and so forth.
There are the non-monetary aspects of life that the deceased would have cherished and valued. This includes time spent with family and friends, recreation, love, exercising, enjoying activities, experiencing milestones like graduating from college or becoming a parent, and more.
There is another type of damage that be recovered, which is through the “estate claim.” This covers the financial losses of the deceased’s estate associated with the death. This includes medical bills incurred from the injury that led to death, funeral and burial costs, and other expenses related to the injury and subsequent death.
Can Surviving Family File For Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are awarded to punish the wrongdoer who caused the death. According to Georgia law, punitive damages are not awarded to surviving members of the family in wrongful death claims. However, punitive damages can be awarded as part of the estate claim filed by the administrator of the victim’s estate. The administrator is often a member of the family.
The specific legal rules separating the two types can be confusing. This is why it is imperative that you consult with Attorney Gil who can explore the claim for damages from all angles to get you the maximum award.
How is Negligence Proved in a Wrongful Death Case?
Four elements must be established in a wrongful death case:
You must show that the defendant has a duty of care to the deceased in that situation.
Breach of Duty
You have to prove that the defendant failed to keep the victim safe and was negligent. This can be something that the defendant did or failed to do, which another person could have reasonably done.
You must prove that because duty was breached, it directly resulted in the harm and death of the deceased and that the death was not caused by anything else.
You must prove that the deceased suffered damages. This is where evidence can be presented to show the value of the deceased’s life including what he would have earned in income over his lifetime, and what services and support, monetary or non-monetary, he would have provided to his family and to others. Any unpaid medical bills and funeral or burial costs that are now the burden of the estate can be presented as well.
How Do You Start a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
Georgia allows you, as the plaintiff, two years from the date of your loved one’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This is called the statute of limitations. This is why, first and foremost, you need to have the best wrongful death attorney on your side. Start with a consultation with Attorney Gil who can help you navigate through the legal maze of rules and procedures.
We will gather evidence against the party at fault in order to support your claim. This can include interviewing witnesses, reviewing police reports, examining the scene of the accident, and more to help you build your case.
We will represent you in all aspects of the negotiations and will always place your best interest at the forefront. There will often be a lot of back-and-forth with the attorneys of the defendant. You can rest assured that we know the best strategy to use during these negotiations and will make every effort in getting a fair settlement for you.
In the event that negotiations fail to bring a settlement that is fair to you, we will prepare your case and bring it in front of a court of law. We will present all necessary evidence, obtain depositions from witnesses, and argue your case before a judge or jury. We will be with you every step of the way until we can get a fair settlement for you.
What is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and an Estate Claim?
Besides the wrongful death claim, there is another type of claim that can be filed as a result of the death, which is the estate claim. Here is the main difference between a wrongful death claim and an estate claim:
- A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit filed by the surviving members of the victim’s family. The claim is for the “full value” of the deceased’s life from the perspective of the deceased. In other words, it is what your loved one’s life meant from your loved one’s perspective. The intent is to get compensation for the value of the victim’s life.
- An estate claim is filed by the deceased’s estate to recover expenses relating to the event that caused the death. These include medical expenses and the pain and suffering that the victim experienced before death. It also covers costs for the funeral and burial after death. Georgia’s rules on inheritance determine which individuals are eligible to file an estate claim. If there is a will, the administrator (often a family member) named in the will can file the claim. If there is no will, the claimant will be determined by Georgia’s laws around inheritance.
In essence, the surviving members of the decedent’s family, like the spouse, children, and parents, are usually the ones filing the wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased, while the administrator of the estate files the estate claim on behalf of the estate.
The two types of claims are separate. Each must be filed according to Georgia’s laws. Attorney Gil can help you pursue both types of claims to help you get maximum compensation from the responsible party.
Let Our Wrongful Death Attorney In Atlanta Help You Seek Justice
It is not possible to place a monetary value on human life, especially when the life belongs to someone you love. However, tragedies can happen due to the negligent or intentional acts of others. In addition to an emotional burden, this loss can result in a financial burden for the family left behind. Attorney Gil will work tirelessly on behalf of you and your deceased loved one to hold the person or business accountable for causing the death. He will make sure that the compensation is fair so the financial burden caused by the loss can be removed from your family.
Call the Law Offices of Gilbert Sperling, III, today at 404-418-7816 for a free consultation and let the best wrongful death attorney take charge of your case. There is no greater satisfaction for the legal team than to uphold the rights of the victims and to see that justice is served. Money will not bring back your loved one, but it can ease the financial burden so you and your family will have the support you need during this time of grief. Put your case in the care of Attorney Gil so you and your family can move forward in your healing. Contact us today!