The unexpected death of a loved one is even more devastating if the death was caused by the reckless or negligent actions of another party. It can lead to emotional and financial disaster in the lives of the surviving family members of the decedent. Fortunately, the law in the state of Georgia allows one to seek financial compensation from the responsible party. While it is impossible to bring back the dead, the compensation softens the burden on the family.
However, the wrongful death claim process can be quite complex, which is why you need the help of skilled and experienced personal injury lawyers at Hartley Rowe & Fowler. With years of experience, our South Fulton wrongful death lawyers will guide you throughout the entire process making sure that you are fairly and fully compensated for your loss.
Please contact us today at 678-825-6004 for more about wrongful death claims.
Table of Contents
How Does the Law Define Wrongful Death in Georgia?
Wrongful death, in the state of Georgia, describes the unlawful and untimely death of a person due to the negligence, carelessness of a person or other entity. This could be due to the following reasons:
- Medical malpractice such as surgical errors, prescription errors, or misdiagnosis
- Defective products like vehicles or appliances
- Negligence by nursing homes
- Faulty engineering or construction malpractice
- Occupational hazards
- Sanitation issues at eateries
- Criminal actions
- Driving while intoxicated
For a wrongful death claim to be raised, the following conditions should be met:
- A person lost their life.
- The death was caused by the negligence of another person.
- The surviving family members are suffering damages as a direct result of the death.
- A representative of the decedent’s estate has already been appointed.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit in Georgia?
Under the Georgia wrongful death statute, the following people qualify to make a wrongful death claim on behalf of the decedent:
- The spouse of the decedent.
- Child or children, if there is no surviving spouse.
- Parent or parents of the decedent, if there is no surviving spouse or child.
If the mentioned individuals above are not available or not willing to file the wrongful death suit, the estate’s executor or administrator can file a claim on their behalf. The compensation recovered benefits the next of kin to the decedent.
No other person can file the suit, including siblings or grandparents of the decedent.
What Types of Damages Are Recoverable?
Two categories of losses can be recovered through a wrongful death suit in South Fulton, GA:
Value of the Deceased’s Life
This includes economic and non-economic losses such as;
- Lost wages, benefits as well as what the deceased might have earned had they survived
- Lost consortium, counsel and advice, loss of the deceased person’s love, comfort, care, and moral support.
It is important to note that intangible elements of life which cannot be proved are determined by an impartial jury.
Financial Costs of the Death
This category involves aims to compensate damages with regards to losses related to the demise. The claim is presented by the estate’s representative. It includes:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Other bills incurred from the person’s illness or injury
Can the Surviving Family Members File for Punitive Damages?
Yes and no. While punitive damages are recoverable in cases involving extreme or egregious behavior or willful negligence to punish the responsible party, these damages cannot be recovered through a typical wrongful death claim.
Punitive damages can only be recovered through an estate claim. An estate claim is filed by the decedent’s estate executor or administrator on behalf of the decedent’s next of kin.
Contact our South Fulton wrongful death attorneys to learn more about the difference between a wrongful death claim and an estate claim. Georgia’s wrongful death laws can be quite complex, and recovering maximum compensation requires a thorough understanding of the nuances of Georgia’s wrongful death laws.
How Is Negligence Proved in a Wrongful Death Case?
The state of Georgia, like most states, requires the plaintiff to show four elements to prove negligence, namely: duty of care, breach of duty of care, causation, and damages.
Duty of Care
In the first step, the plaintiff must prove clearly to the court that the defendant owed the deceased duty of care. For instance, in a medical malpractice case, the doctor owed the patient care during surgery because of their relationship.
Breach of Duty of Care
In the second step, the plaintiff must prove to the court how the defendant violated their duty of care toward the decedent. This could be by doing, for example, a surgical error, or by failing to do something, as they should, misdiagnosis.
The plaintiff must be able to prove in this step, that the death of the deceased was a direct result of the accused actions. For example, how the use of defective machinery manufactured by the accused caused the death of the decedent.
In this final step, the plaintiff should be able to prove the damages suffered by the surviving family members were a direct result of the decedent’s death.
Proving the above in court requires the presentation of convincing evidence to back the claim. Some evidence may require testimonies of expert witnesses. An experienced wrongful death attorney will help you gather the facts and evidence around the case.
How Do You Successfully File a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
In order to file a lawsuit, with the help of a South Fulton wrongful death lawyer, make sure you meet the following criteria:
- First, after the death of a person, make sure your situation qualifies as a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death occurrences require proof of intending to or negligence on the defendant’s part,
- Second, find out if you are fit to file a wrongful death suit. In Georgia, only the surviving spouse, child/children, parent/parents, or the estate’s executor can file the suit.
In the following steps, your lawyer will collect evidence and investigate the circumstances regarding the death of the deceased.
- The lawyer will obtain witness information and statements regarding the issue.
- Reserve all available proof supporting the claim; these could include photos or other items.
- Your lawyer will negotiate a settlement and proceed to trial, if necessary.
Note that according to the Georgia statute of limitations, the wrongful death claim can only be filed within two years of the decedent’s death. Otherwise, the surviving family members lose their right to pursue compensation.
What Is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and an Estate Claim?
Two claims can be filed resulting from the wrongful death of a decedent, they are; a wrongful death claim, and an estate claim.
The surviving family members or an estate’s representative can present a wrongful death lawsuit. This claim aims to recover monetary compensation for the loses or damages suffered by the family members from the death of the deceased. They include funeral and burial expenses, loss of consortium, loss of support, loss of companionship, and other bills incurred as a result of the deceased injuries or illness. However, damages from the wrongful death claim do not include punitive damages.
In contrast, an estate claim aims to recover damages or losses suffered by the decedent before their sudden death. These losses include medical expenses, loss of income, and punitive or exemplary damages the deceased would have been entitled to if they had lived, excluding any pain or suffering losses. This claim is presented by the representative of the estate.
Contact an Experienced South Fulton Wrongful Death Lawyer Today
If you have lost a loved one due to the wrongful acts of another person or their entity, the law in Georgia allows you to seek financial compensation through filing a wrongful death suit. It helps ease the burden experienced after their death. While no amount of money is enough to substitute for their loss, the suit offers a form of restitution.
Our experienced South Fulton wrongful death lawyers are here to provide needed legal assistance through the process. Contact Hartley, Rowe & Fowler, P.C. today by calling 678-825-6004 to discuss your options.