The untimely loss of a loved one is devastating, but it is more painful when you know that death was brought on by someone else’s thoughtless behavior and might have been avoided. A wrongful death claim allows you to hold the negligent party accountable and lessens the loss’s financial impact, even though nothing can bring your loved one back.
The Herro Law Firm has a team of highly knowledgeable Duluth wrongful death lawyers who can assist you with the legal process and make sure you start on the right path straight away. We are reliable, proven, and always set high standards.
Call us at (404) 433-6876 as soon as possible to arrange a free consultation with one of our personal injury attorneys in Duluth and learn more about what we can do for you. You pay nothing unless we win your case!
How Is Wrongful Death Defined in Georgia?
“Wrongful death” is a legal term used to refer to an untimely death brought on by another party’s careless, criminal, or reckless behavior or by a defective product (regardless of negligence). A civil claim for monetary damages is made in a “wrongful death” case against the person, company, or governmental body responsible for the death.
Any of the following factors may give rise to wrongful death claims in Georgia:
- Car accidents caused by negligence
- Drunk driving
- Pedestrian accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Engineering malpractice
- Nursing home neglect or abuse
- Defective products
- Unsafe prescription drugs
- Dangerous medical devices
- Contaminated food
- Illegal sale or improper service of alcohol
- Faulty construction
- Criminal acts such as intentional homicide
Who Is Eligible to Bring a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
Georgia has relatively strict laws regarding who can bring a wrongful death claim. Following a tragic accident, the following persons have the right to take action, in priority order:
The deceased’s spouse may file a wrongful death claim first, per Georgia law. The spouse shall be entitled to no less than a third of the total damages, equally divided between the spouse and all surviving children.
Children of the Deceased
The children can bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of their deceased parent when there is no surviving spouse.
The deceased’s parents have the right to bring a wrongful death claim without a living spouse or children.
A Personal Representative of the Estate
Only when none of the other parties are available can the representative of the decedent’s estate initiate a wrongful death case. The estate distributes all the damages to the heirs of the deceased.
What Types of Damages Are Recoverable?
Recoverable damages in a wrongful death lawsuit differ from those obtained in a typical personal injury claim. You have access to two main categories of damages in Georgia.
Full Value of Life
The first category of damages covers “the full value of the life” of your loved one. While it is impossible to put a specific monetary value on the life of a loved one, the law does permit you to seek compensation for both economic and noneconomic losses, including:
- Lost future wages the loved one would have contributed to the family
- Lost future benefits
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of care
An estate claim filed in connection with a wrongful death case allows you to recover compensation for funeral and burial expenses and for losses the deceased suffered before their death. Estate claim damages can include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical expenses leading up to the death
- Pain and suffering leading up to the death
- Any other expenses that arise from the fatal accident itself
Can the Surviving Family File for Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages may not be awarded in Georgia wrongful death cases to surviving family members. However, punitive damages have been granted in estate claims brought by an estate administrator in connection with the victim’s pain and suffering due to the accident.
Our Duluth wrongful death lawyers at The Herro Law Firm can evaluate your case and determine if you can seek punitive damages in an estate claim.
How Is Negligence Proved in Wrongful Death Cases?
Anyone who files a wrongful death case must prove that the defendant is responsible for the death. To achieve this, the following four elements of negligence must be proven:
Duty of Care
The plaintiffs must provide evidence to prove that the defendant owed the deceased a duty of care. For example, all drivers have a duty to follow traffic laws to ensure the safety of others on the road. Doctors have a duty of care toward patients.
Breach of Duty of Care
The plaintiff must prove that the defendant violated the duty owed to the deceased. This can be proven by demonstrating how the defendant behaved carelessly before the accident.
The plaintiff will have to prove that the defendant’s negligence directly caused the death. In the case of a fatal car accident, this would mean proving the defendant’s actions caused the accident and that the accident was the cause of death.
The plaintiff must also prove a “legally” recognized harm, that’s shown through economic and non-economic damages. This can include medical bills, funeral expenses, and the loss of the companionship of your loved one.
What Evidence Is Used to Win a Wrongful Death Case?
The following are some examples of evidence frequently used in wrongful death lawsuits:
Many wrongful death claims are filed after deadly accidents. After such incidents, the police are frequently contacted, and their reports can be crucial in proving that a death was not an accident-related death. In such reports, the cops on the scene will document any evidence they encounter, and these reports are highly credible in court.
Medical records can be used as evidence in a wrongful death lawsuit to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the deceased person’s death. For instance, mistakes or inconsistencies in the patient’s medical records can support the argument that the death resulted from medical negligence.
Witness testimonies may be used to demonstrate the defendant’s negligence. For instance, a witness who saw the defendant texting while driving before an accident could testify in court to prove that the deceased’s responsibility to drive safely had been violated.
The amount of money the deceased contributed to the household may play a role in determining how much money the surviving family members would receive in a wrongful death settlement. Proof of this can be shown through tax returns, pay stubs, and other records.
How Do You Start a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
The first step in a wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia is to determine whether you have a valid claim. Our team at The Herro Law Firm can review your case for free.
If we determine that you have a case worth pursuing, we will investigate your case and gather evidence. We will make sure that your case is filed with Georgia’s two-year statute of limitations.
We will negotiate with the at-fault party’s insurance company for a favorable settlement. If negotiations are unsuccessful, we are ready to represent you in court and present a compelling case before the judge and jury. Call (404) 433-6876 right away to get started. We are a skilled law firm that can assist you at every stage.
What Is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and an Estate Claim?
A wrongful death claim is filed by the surviving family members of the deceased to seek compensation for the full value of their loved one’s life. This includes the loss of income since the deceased can no longer support the family financially, lost companionship, etc.
Estate claims are also known as survival actions. An estate claim is filed by the estate of the deceased to recover expenses such as burial and funeral costs as well as medical expenses related to the event that led to the decedent’s death. The estate may also seek damages for pain and suffering experienced by the deceased prior to death.
In some cases, courts may award punitive damages in an estate claim connected with the victim’s pain and suffering prior to death. To recover punitive damages through an estate claim, it is important to prove that the person who died survived the accident even if only for a short time.
Contact Our Experienced Duluth Wrongful Death Lawyers!
The untimely loss of a loved one is devastating, but it is more painful when you know that death was brought on by someone else’s thoughtless behavior and might have been avoided. A wrongful death claim enables you to hold the negligent party accountable and lessens the loss’s financial impact, even though nothing can bring your loved one back.
The Herro Law Firm can assist you with this process and lead you in the right direction. We have served numerous clients in Duluth, and throughout Georgia. We can help your family get the compensation you deserve. Give us a call at (404) 433-6876 to set up a free consultation. We’re eager to assist you.