Nothing is as devastating and traumatizing as losing a loved one unexpectedly. One minute you were enjoying life together, and before you know it, they are gone. This is especially difficult if the negligent actions of another party caused it. If you have lost a loved one due to another person’s or entity’s negligence contact the Atlanta wrongful death lawyer Reginald Greene. He will work tirelessly to ensure that the parties responsible are held accountable.
We understand that no amount of money can replace your loved one, but we will ensure that we fight for justice for your family. We have experience of over 20 years in the legal field; hence you need not worry as you are in the right hands. We have recovered millions of dollars in settlements for our clients; hence you should not hesitate to call our Atlanta personal injury lawyers at 866-4-LAW-411.
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How Is Wrongful Death Defined In The State Of Georgia?
Every state has its laws and definitions concerning wrongful death, and Georgia is no different. The Georgia wrongful death act has been there for over 100 years, and several addendums have been made since then. It defines wrongful death as the death of a person caused by a criminal, reckless, or negligent act of another entity, such as a person or a business. Negligence means that they did not use reasonable care while they had a responsibility to do so, leading to the harm of another party.
Wrongful death cases are usually similar to personal injury claims in some ways. For example, in both cases, negligence must be proven; otherwise, there will be no case. The two cases are also based on the same types of events, such as car accidents. However, the big difference is that in a wrongful death case, the person injured is not alive to bring their case to court. It will have to be done by the family left behind and suffering as a result. It can also be brought on by a person representing the estate of the deceased if there are no living family members present.
Under the five code sections of the Wrongful Death Act, we have:
- Nursing home abuse or neglect, putting the residents at risk.
- Criminal actions, such as intentional homicide.
- Contaminated food in commercial establishments.
- Faulty construction and engineering practice.,
- Medical malpractice such as misdiagnosis, medical errors, and surgical errors.
- Driving under the influence of drugs.
- Improper alcohol service, for example, a bartender selling alcohol to an already intoxicated person.
- Pedestrian accident fatalities.
Who Is Qualified To File A Wrongful Death Claim In Georgia?
The state of Georgia is particular on who is allowed to bring forth a wrongful death claim. It starts with the spouse of the deceased person. If the dead person and spouse had minor children, then the spouse is required to represent the needs and interests of the surviving children in court. Regardless of how many children they had, the spouse is entitled to receive at least a third of the settlement money.
If there were no surviving children or spouse, then the claim can be brought to court by the surviving parents of the deceased or a representative from the deceased’s estate.
Sadly, if you are not any of the above parties, you will not be allowed to file a wrongful death claim. Whether you were their best friend, cousin, or classmate, you will have no right whatsoever to file a claim in Georgia.
In the case of a representative filing a claim, they should ensure that they transfer any damages that have been recovered to the deceased person’s next of kin. If the deceased had already named beneficiaries to the estate, then it is the representative’s job to ensure that they follow all the instructions and disburse everything as it should be.
What Types Of Damages Are Recoverable?
When it comes to wrongful death claims in Georgia, there are two distinct types of cases. The first one is a claim to establish the full value of the life of the deceased. This claim is usually brought by the surviving family members of the deceased. It includes monetary damages related to the tangible and intangible value of the person who has passed on. They include:
Loss of companionship and other intangible benefits that the deceased person would have provided for their family if they were still alive. The intangible component consists of the things in life that people value most such as time with loved ones, playing sports, having quality time with the children, having fun, and going through milestones such as attending the graduation of the children and birthdays. It is hard to replace someone’s value, but the court tries as much as it can to ensure that the surviving family gets justice.
Lost wages and benefits. This is the tangible value of a person’s life. An example of this is the amount that a person would have earned throughout their life if they would have lived. Since they are no longer alive and working, the family will be compensated.
The second type of claim is meant to take care of the financial losses that the surviving family has suffered due to the person’s death. It is usually also brought forth by the family or the representative of the estate.
Damages that are recovered in this claim typically include:
- Burial and funeral expenses.
- Medical expenses that are related to illness or injury of the deceased.
- Pain and suffering endured by the deceased before their death.
If a spouse files a wrongful death claim for the deceased who did not have a will or beneficiaries to their estate, then Georgia law will require the spouse to share the award with the children left behind. The surviving spouse will get a third of the proceeds, and the children will have the remainder divided among them. However, if the children are under 18 years of age, then the guardian will have custody of the minor’s portions until they are of legal age.
Can The Surviving Family File For Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are usually meant to punish the wrongdoer for their actions. They are more severe than the typical compensation for a victim. This happens especially in instances where the jury feels that the defendant was grossly negligent to others’ welfare, and they want to punish him or her to ensure that they do not repeat the mistake.
However, according to Georgia’s Wrongful death act, punitive damages are not mentioned. Therefore, appellate judges in Georgia strictly interpret the law, and since plaintiffs cannot pursue these punitive damages, they can do so if it is connected with survival actions.
A survival action is a personal injury claim that represents the decedent’s estate. However, punitive damages will only apply if the defendant acted with intention and was reckless when it came to others’ safety.
Cases, where punitive damages are meant to be awarded to the wrongdoer, are usually tough to prove, and you will need an excellent lawyer to help you. Here is where Reginald Greene comes in.
How Is Negligence Proved In A Wrongful Death Case In Georgia?
Negligence is the failure to exercise the care towards others in a way a reasonable person would. In wrongful death cases, it is crucial to show that the defendant acted negligently to ensure that your claim is valid. Otherwise, you will have no case. Four main elements are required to prove negligence. They include:
Duty Of Care
Here, the claimant needs to show the court that the defendant owed the decedent a duty of care in the situation that led to death. A duty of care is a legal term that means that the defendant had the responsibility to act responsibly and reasonably. For example, drivers should not drive while intoxicated or speeding, and they should obey the traffic laws. Another example is that the nursing homes should not abuse their patients, but instead treat them well and ensure that their needs are met.
In the situation where the deceased died due to overspeeding, the claimant could argue that the defendant was acting negligently and that they owed a duty of care to the decedent to operate the automobile efficiently.
In a wrongful death case, the judge, and not the jury, is responsible for deciding whether the defendant owed a duty of care. They will consider the various factors presented, such as how predictable the harm was, how closely connected the defendant’s action and the harm was, and if they are to be blamed for it.
Breach Of Duty
This refers to the failure to meet the legal and moral obligations owed to another person, as their right. According to the Georgia laws, the defendant must meet some standards and not violate their legal duty. Here, the plaintiff needs to prove that the defendant breached or violated the duty of care. This can be done through actions or inactions that they did, which a reasonable person would have avoided. For example, in an accident, the claimant may present evidence that the plaintiff was not paying attention to the road, as it would not be something that a reasonable person would do.
Here, the plaintiff will have to prove that the plaintiff’s breach of duty led to the person’s death in question. The plaintiff must have suffered some real damages due to the negligence of the defendant. Examples of these damages include medical bills, lost wages, property damage costs, and even death.
The plaintiff must prove that the deceased suffered some damages before their death. If you do not have substantial evidence to back your claim, you may not have a strong case. This is because you will not have witness statements, videos, and pictures as evidence of what had happened. Therefore, it may make things difficult for you. You will also need an experienced wrongful death attorney to be able to argue these facts in court, and
Here, the defendant must prove that there is a direct connection between the defendant’s negligence and the accident. The acts of negligence should be proximate or be the actual cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. This means that the accident could not have happened, had it not been due to the defendant’s negligent actions. Here is where you will need to preserve all the evidence gathered at the accident scene, as the facts will come in handy.
For example, in a car accident, the claimant will have to prove that the defendant’s vehicle caused the accident and harmed the decedent and not any other vehicle. This is because, if that were not the case, the jury would not find the defendant in breach of duty or that their actions contributed any harm to the deceased.
Proving negligence in wrongful death claims is no mean feat, and here is why you need a good lawyer. These cases are complex and require someone who is well conversant with all the laws of Atlanta, Georgia, and knows all that is needed.
How Do You Start A Wrongful Death Claim In Georgia?
To file a wrongful death claim, you first need to be within the statute of limitations. In Georgia, you are given two years after the death of your loved one to file a claim, otherwise, if you miss the deadline, then the court will dismiss the case, without even reviewing it.
However, there are situations where this period will be extended. An example of this is whereby there may be a criminal case ongoing in court that deals with the same events as the wrongful death case. Therefore, the time limit will be suspended until the criminal case is completed, and the two-year period will run from when the case is completed.
Also, in instances where the deceased person’s estate is not probated, then the statute of limitations may be increased by five years, to make it seven years, within which you need to file a case in court.
You will need to hire an attorney to help you with your case. They will advise you and tell you if your wrongful death claim will hold up in court or not. They will then investigate your loved one’s death to establish what happened. This will help them prove the negligence of the defendant in court.
Remember that if you are not allowed to file a wrongful claim in Georgia, then your case will not be heard by the court. Therefore, ensure that you adhere to these laws to ensure that the due process is followed.
What Is The Difference Between A Wrongful Death Claim And An Estate Claim?
In a wrongful death claim, the surviving family members step into the decedent’s shoes and demand recovery for the full value of his or her life. This means that in Atlanta, the jury will be tasked with figuring out what the person’s life meant from the perspective of the one who has passed on. The people with a right to file will begin from the spouse, the decedent’s parents, if the spouse is also not alive and the personal representative, if both parties are also dead. Here, monetary damages such as lost wages, loss of consortium, and work-related benefits are compensated. Moreover, intangible benefits such as love, care, and companionship will be paid.
In an estate claim, the decedent’s family is allowed to seek compensation for the pain and suffering of the deceased, any medical bills that were there before their death, funeral expense, and any other bills. Also, if there are any punitive damages, then the estate will bring it forth to court. If the decedent had a will before passing, the administrator named in the will must bring the estate claim to court. In cases where they did not have a will, then the Georgia laws of intestacy will apply, and determine who should bring the claim.
Schedule a Free Consultation With an Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyer
After the traumatic death of a loved one, it is natural to be in a state of shock and confused about what to do next. You will need time to accept what has happened, and since you will not be in the right state of mind, it is crucial to hire a reputable attorney to represent you. This is because they are well skilled in these types of cases, and will take the burden off you, for you to focus on grieving your loved one. This is where the team at Greene Legal Group comes in.
With our expertise in protecting the rights of injury victims and their families, you will be in the right hands. We will fight for your case, as we understand the pain you are going through, and ensure that you get the justice that your family deserves. If your loved one has recently passed on as a result of another person’s negligence, do not hesitate to call us. Contact our Atlanta personal injury firm today on 866-4-LAW-411. So, what else are you waiting for?