North Georgia Wrongful Death Lawyers
Understanding Wrongful Death Claims in Georgia
When an accident takes the life of an individual, surviving loved ones are left dealing with emotions of shock, grief, anger, and misunderstanding – How could this happen? – they may ask.
While nothing can undo the tragedy of losing a loved one, filing a wrongful death claim can, at the very least, offer some financial comfort to those left behind and support beneficiaries who have suffered both economically and non-economically as a result of the death.
If your loved one has been killed in an accident caused by another’s negligence in Georgia, our wrongful death lawyer wants to help.
What Is Considered Wrongful Death?
While all deaths caused by unexpected accidents can be shocking and tragic, not all accident-related deaths warrant a wrongful death claim.
In Georgia, a party has the right to file a civil action for wrongful death when their loss is caused by the negligent, reckless, intentional, or criminal acts of another party. Under the Georgia wrongful death statute, O.C.G.A. § 51-4-1, a wrongful death is one that is caused by crime or negligence (or the failure to use ordinary care).
Sometimes, people are charged with crimes and found liable for negligence, but other times, criminal consequences may not apply. For example, someone who rolls through a stop sign while drinking and driving may be charged with a crime (like homicide or manslaughter) and found liable if they hit and kill a pedestrian, but a sober driver who fails to look in their rearview mirror while backing up in a parking lot may only face civil liability for the pedestrian’s death.
Wrongful Death Claims are Civil Lawsuits
Wrongful death claims can also include losses caused by defective property or dangerous premises. Manufacturers and property owners may face civil liability in these types of lawsuits.
No matter what causes them, wrongful death claims are civil lawsuits, which means you file them in civil court for monetary compensation, called “damages.” The state can also choose to prosecute criminal acts, but criminal trials are separate from wrongful death claims.
Types of Wrongful Death Claims
Whenever someone’s death is the result of the negligent or wrongful act of another, a wrongful death action may be appropriate.
This means that a variety of different accident types may justify a wrongful death claim.
At Prichard Injury Law, our wrongful death practice areas include:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Truck and commercial vehicle accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Premises liability claims
- Medical malpractice cases
- Defective product accidents
These are only some of the wrongful death practice areas that our attorney at Pritchard Injury Firm can handle. If your loved one has been killed in an accident type that you don’t see listed above, please call our Georgia wrongful death lawyer directly to learn more about whether or not you have a case.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
In personal injury cases, the injured victim files the lawsuit. When that person dies, however, other people may need to file the claim on their behalf.
Only certain family members or the personal representative of the decedent’s estate may file a wrongful death claim in Georgia.
The surviving spouse of the deceased, for example, will have the first chance to file a wrongful death claim. If this person had minor children with the deceased, the surviving spouse must bring the claim on behalf of both themselves and their children. Regardless of children, the surviving spouse is entitled to at least one-third of the total recoverable amount.
If there is no surviving spouse, the right to bring a wrongful death claim goes to any surviving adult children. If there is no surviving spouse and no surviving adult children, the surviving parent(s) of the deceased may file. The personal representative of the decedent’s estate may also bring a claim if there are no surviving spouses or children.
How to Go About a Wrongful Death Claim
If you think that you have a wrongful death claim, there are a number of things that you need to do as early on in the process as possible.
Some steps to take when going about a wrongful death claim include:
- Get the decedent’s affairs and legal documents, such as their will, in order. The deceased person cannot bring a suit themselves, so the decedent’s personal representative (typically named in a will) will need to file the action. The personal representative will recover compensation on behalf of the deceased person’s estate and distribute it to their beneficiaries.
- Start putting together evidence for your wrongful death claim. Evidence could include medical reports, photos of the accident, eyewitnesses’ statements, and any other accident-related information you can gather. You should also document any monetary losses associated with the death, including premortem medical expenses, funeral and burial expenses, lost wages, etc. You may consider asking for an autopsy, as well, as it can help you prove your loved one’s cause of death and strengthen your claim.
- Hire a lawyer – your lawyer can provide more insight regarding the specifics of your case and what you need to do to improve your chances of a successful suit. You should hire an attorney as soon as possible.
These are just a few of the steps you should take when considering a wrongful death claim. As we mention above, your attorney can help you with the rest. For example, your attorney can help you prove your case…
What Do I Need to Prove?
You must prove four (4) elements of a wrongful death suit in order to be successful. These include:
- Duty of care: The first thing that you must prove is that the at-fault party (the defendant) owed your loved one a duty of care. In many cases, like car accidents, the duty of care is implied.
- Breach of duty of care: You must prove that the defendant breached the duty of care they owed your loved one via a negligent, reckless, intentional, or criminal act.
- Causation. Perhaps most importantly, you must prove that the death would not have occurred but for the negligence of the defendant.
- Damages: Finally, you must prove that the deceased person’s estate and beneficiaries suffered actual losses as a result of the death.
Our compassionate legal team can help you prove your claim and recover damages…
Call Our Georgia Wrongful Death Lawyers Today
To learn more about filing a wrongful death claim in Georgia, please contact our wrongful death attorney at Pritchard Injury Firm today.
We know how devastated you feel, and we want to help you recover the compensation you and your family deserve.
Pritchard Injury Firm also helps families of victims with wrongful death claims in Bartow County, Cobb County, Cherokee County, and throughout the great state of Georgia.
The state of Georgia recognizes two separate types of wrongful death claims: one to compensate surviving family members, and one to compensate the decedent’s estate. By filing both types of claims, you can recover for both economic and noneconomic losses.
In a claim brought by or on behalf of the deceased’s surviving family members, damages are a reflection of the “full value” of the deceased person’s life. Economic damages include losses like the wages that the deceased would have earned had they lived. Noneconomic damages for surviving family members account for the monetary value of the deceased’s care and companionship to surviving relatives.
A relative or representative of the deceased person’s estate can also bring a wrongful death claim on the estate’s behalf. Damages for such claims, known as “survival actions,” attempt to compensate the decedent’s estate for losses the decedent would have suffered had they survived.
For example, paying medical expenses associated with a wrongful death decreases the value of the decedent’s estate. This means that beneficiaries of the estate will receive less money or property. A representative or beneficiary can sue to recover this lost value. This type of claim also includes noneconomic damages for losses, like the pain and suffering the deceased had to endure before their death.
How a Georgia Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help
Losing a loved one is incredibly difficult. As you grieve and think about your future, working with a lawyer can take a load off of your plate.
When you hire an attorney, your legal team will be responsible for managing all of the elements of your wrongful death claim, including investigating your case, proving fault and causation, calculating damages, filing all wrongful death paperwork, negotiating your claim with an insurer, identifying beneficiaries and the representative of the estate, and filing a lawsuit in court if necessary.
Your attorney will also be available to answer any questions you have throughout the process and help you seek the best possible outcome in your case.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Claim?
Surviving family members and personal representatives of the deceased person’s estate must file wrongful death claims and survival actions within two (2) years of the date of death. Generally, under O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33, you only have 2 years to file without losing your right to legal action entirety.
In some situations, however, the clock for the 2-year time limit may pause, allowing a relative or representative to file a claim more than 2 years after the death occurs.
The clock that starts running on the date of death can pause for up to five (5) years while the administrators of the decedent’s estate value and distribute property and pay the decedent’s outstanding debts. This process is called probate, and if the decedent had high value assets, it can take a long time. Once the administrator has probated the estate, the 2-year timer for the wrongful death claim will start to run again.
If there is a criminal case in progress regarding the events of the accident that caused the wrongful death, the clock will also pause until the criminal case concludes. If you are thinking of filing a wrongful death claim, you should speak to a Georgia wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible to avoid missing the filing deadline.
Remember, the statute of limitations is the maximum amount of time a person has to file a lawsuit to protect their rights. In the context of wrongful death, the clock usually starts running on the day your loved one passes away. This might be later than the date of the accident or event that severely injured them, and the clock can be paused for any of the reasons listed above.
At Pritchard Injury Firm, we receive countless questions about the Georgia wrongful death statute of limitations. We are happy to answer these questions and help ensure that our clients do not let the clock run out on their right to sue.
You should never rely on exceptions when it comes to wrongful death lawsuits. Instead, you should talk to our wrongful death attorneys as soon as possible, find out how much time remains, and discuss the next steps. Don’t lose your chance to pursue justice – protect your rights and contact us today.