Losing a loved one is devastating, especially if the death was the result of another party’s negligence, recklessness, carelessness, or intentional act. Wrongful deaths typically involve unexpected losses that result in tremendous emotional and financial devastation.
Under Georgia law, family members or the estate of the wrongful death victim are allowed to seek compensation for the various damages associated with the death of a loved one. If you have lost a loved one due to another party’s negligence, you should retain a wrongful death attorney in Douglasville.
The lawyer you hire should have the legal knowledge and experience needed to fight for the full compensation you deserve. Fortunately, that’s exactly what Attorney Gil and the legal team at the Law Offices of Gilbert Sperling, III, P.C. offers.
We understand how difficult losing a loved one can be. We will offer the support, experience, and resources needed to understand and protect your legal rights, and hold the person responsible for your loved one’s death accountable and help you recover the compensation you deserve.
How Is Wrongful Death Defined in Georgia?
Georgia law defines wrongful death in the Wrongful Death Act (Code 51-4), which has existed for over 100 years, as the death of a human being due to a crime, negligence, or a defective product. The Act has had several addendums added over the years.
The possible legal grounds for a wrongful death claim include:
- Car, truck, and motorcycle accidents
- Medical malpractice, like medication errors, surgical errors, or medical injury
- Criminal actions, including intentional homicide, assault and battery, etc
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Nursing home abuse or neglect
- Pedestrian accident fatalities
- Construction and engineering defects
- Premises liability, including slip-and-falls
- Dangerous or defective products such as drugs, appliances, electronics, medical devices, or vehicles
- Improper or illegal alcohol service, such as a bartender serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated patron
- Contaminated food or other sanitation issues in commercial establishments
The above list isn’t exhaustive of all the possible grounds for a wrongful death claim.
Your wrongful death claim in Douglasville, GA can only be successful if your lawyer is able to demonstrate to the judge or jury that another party’s actions were directly responsible for your loved one’s death.
To present your best case, it is important for you to hire an experienced wrongful death lawyer, such as Attorney Gil of the Law Offices of Gilbert Sperling, III, P.C. Call us today at 404-418-7816 to schedule your free, initial consultation.
Who Is Qualified to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
Not every person who knows and cares about the deceased is qualified to file a wrongful death claim in Georgia. The right to pursue a wrongful death claim is restricted by law to certain family members.
A wrongful death claim in Georgia can only be filed by the following people.
Victim’s Surviving Spouse
The surviving spouse can file a claim representing their interests, along with the interests of any minor children the couple may have. Furthermore, the spouse is entitled to at least one-third of the compensation award or settlement, regardless of the number of children.
Victim’s Surviving Children
If there’s no surviving spouse, the victim’s surviving children can file a claim and split any settlement or compensation award among themselves.
Victim’s Surviving Parent(s)
If the victim is not survived either by a spouse or children, then a surviving parent or parents can file a wrongful death lawsuit for their benefit. The compensation from a settlement or court case will go to the heirs of the estate.
Personal Representative for the Victim’s Estate
If the victim is not survived by a spouse, children, or parents, a personal representative of the victim’s estate can bring a wrongful death lawsuit.
What Types of Damages Are Recoverable?
Wrongful death claimants in Georgia may be eligible for two main types of compensation. The administrator or executive of the victim’s estate can file a separate estate claim to recover other damages.
Economic damages refer to the tangible or calculable value of the victim’s life. Simply put, they are aimed at compensating the victim’s family for financial losses due to the death. This includes lost wages the victim would have reasonably earned over their lifetime, benefits, and the value of household chores.
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, refer to the intangible value of the victim’s life. They are aimed at compensating the victim’s family for emotional losses, such as the loss of companionship, care, love, support, guidance, and other intangible benefits they would have received.
Estate Claim Damages
The deceased’s estate administrator can file a separate claim to recover compensation for financial losses by the estate. The damages recovered in this estate claim may include compensation for medical bills and funeral and burial expenses.
Can the Surviving Family File for Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are not awarded to surviving family members in Georgia wrongful death cases. However, they can be awarded in an estate claim brought by an administrator of the victim’s estate in relation to the victim’s accident-related pain and suffering.
Punitive damages, however, can only be pursued in cases where the defendant acted maliciously or extremely recklessly. Your attorney must prove you are entitled to punitive damages by providing convincing evidence.
Our wrongful death attorney in Douglasville can evaluate your case and help you understand if you can pursue punitive damage.
How Is Negligence Proved in a Wrongful Death Case?
In the majority of wrongful death claims in Georgia, liability is based on negligence. This means that another entity or party’s recklessness or carelessness led to the death of a loved one.
A plaintiff in a Georgia wrongful death claim is required to prove the following 4 elements of negligence to be eligible for compensation.
Duty of Care
First, your attorney needs to prove that the defendant owed your deceased loved one a duty of care. Duty of care refers to the responsibility to act prudently or avoid taking action likely to jeopardize another person’s well-being.
For example, all drivers have a responsibility to obey traffic laws.
Breach of Duty of Care
Your lawyer is required to prove that the negligent party breached their duty of care. In other words, the defendant didn’t act as a reasonable person should in similar circumstances and thus put others at risk.
A breach of duty of care is proven by the details of the incident surrounding the wrongful death, such as a hotel neglecting security or a driver being distracted on the road.
The plaintiff is also required to link the breach of duty of care to the wrongful death once there’s sufficient evidence of a breach. Here, your attorney needs to prove that the death resulted from the actions of the defendant and not some other cause.
Your attorney must prove that your family has suffered economic and intangible losses. Your lawyer will provide evidence of the cost of the funeral and burial of your loved one, the unpaid medical expenses, the loss of companionship, and much more.
A dedicated wrongful death attorney in Douglasville can help establish liability, prove negligence, and pursue your case for maximum compensation under the law. Call us today at 404-418-7816 to schedule your free consultation.
How Do You Start a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
To start a wrongful death claim in Georgia, you should first contact an experienced lawyer such as Attorney Gil who will take you through the legal process and tell you how to proceed. Your lawyer can help you determine that a negligent act caused the death and if you’re legally allowed to file.
A law called the statute of limitations limits the time survivors or the personal representative of the decedent’s estate have to go to court. Typically, you are required to file a claim within 2 years of the date of death.
If you fail to file your claim before the deadline passes, the court will likely dismiss the case. If you are seeking compensation, ensure that you meet with a lawyer without delay to avoid risking filing outside of the statute of limitations.
The two-year limit could stop running, depending on the circumstances of the passing of your loved one. If the death of your loved one happened due to a crime, the clock will be paused until the criminal case is completed or up to 6 years, whichever is shorter.
Our lawyer can determine how much time you have left so you don’t miss your opportunity to recover compensation.
What Is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and an Estate Claim?
If a person passes away due to the careless, reckless, or intentional act of another party or entity, there are 2 types of lawsuits that can be filed in Georgia. The first is a wrongful death claim filed by surviving family members and the other is an estate claim filed by the representative of the decedent’s estate.
Wrongful Death Claim
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the surviving family members seek compensation for the full value of the deceased’s life. The damages sought in a wrongful death claim may be tangible such as current and future income lost due to their loved one’s death or intangible such as grief, loss of companionship, etc.
The representative (executor or administrator) of the deceased’s estate can file a wrongful death claim if the deceased left no surviving spouse, children, or parents.
Estate claims, which are also referred to as survival actions, center around the deceased’s losses and suffering as opposed to the grief and financial losses suffered by the family. The compensation that’s awarded goes to the decedent’s estate rather than being distributed directly to surviving family members.
In an estate claim, the estate could recover damages relating to the victim’s pain and suffering and the deceased’s medical bills and lost earnings – similar to what the person would have recovered in a personal injury lawsuit had he/she survived.
In some cases, punitive damages associated with wrongful death are awarded under the estate claim. To recover punitive damages, it’s critical to prove that the deceased survived the accident, even for a short time before they passed away.
If all of this is complicated and confusing, do not worry. An experienced Douglasville wrongful death lawyer from Gilbert Sperling, III, P.C. will evaluate what type of damages you can recover, help you navigate the legal process, and fight for the compensation that you are rightfully entitled to.
Call an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney in Douglasville!
Losing a loved one is an unbelievable tragedy, particularly if it could have been prevented. Georgia laws state that certain members of the family can recover damages for the death of a loved one caused by another party or entity’s wrongful act.
If you have lost a loved one due to the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions of someone else, contact the Law Offices of Gilbert Sperling, II, P.C. today to speak with our experienced wrongful death lawyer.
We offer compassionate legal guidance for clients facing tragic loss. We are focused on protecting the legal rights of your family and loved ones and recovering the compensation you need and deserve. Call our office near Douglasville, GA today at 404-418-7816 for your free consultation.