Nothing can prepare you for the sudden loss of a loved one. It is a traumatic experience, but what makes the pain even worse is when you learn that your loved one lost their life due to the negligent or intentional acts of an entity or a person. Georgia law allows families to sue the responsible party for compensation.
While no amount of money can take away your grief, compensation can ease some of your financial hardships and provide some level of closure. Wrongful death law is complicated, so it’s critical to have an experienced Buford wrongful death lawyer by your side to help you navigate the legal process.
Call H. Groves Law today at (770) 329-1868 for a free consultation with a Buford personal injury lawyer.
How Is Wrongful Death Defined in Georgia?
Under Georgia law, any death that results from negligence or a criminal act or from defectively manufactured property is defined as wrongful death. In simple words, wrongful death happens when a person loses their life due to the legal breach of duty of an entity or an individual.
There are many possible grounds for a wrongful death case in Georgia, including:
- Fatal car accidents due to negligent or drunk drivers
- Medical malpractice
- Defective products
- Criminal acts
- Illegal alcohol service
- Pedestrian accidents
- Hazards on property
- Neglect or abuse at a nursing home
- Faulty construction
Who Is Qualified to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
The state of Georgia does not allow anyone to file a wrongful death claim. Only the immediate family members have the legal right.
If the deceased person has a surviving spouse, they have the legal right to file a wrongful death claim on the behalf of the deceased person. If the deceased does not have a surviving spouse, their child/children are next in line. If the deceased left no spouse or children, the parent(s) may file a claim.
In case the deceased does not have any surviving parents, children, or spouse, the administrator of their estate may bring a claim on their behalf. The siblings and grandparents are not eligible to file a wrongful death claim unless they are acting as the estate administrator.
If the claim is filed by the administrator of the deceased person’s estate, the benefits are held by the estate to be passed on to the next of kin. In any case, if the deceased person has a surviving spouse, they are eligible to get at least a third of the recovered financial compensation.
What Types of Damages Are Recoverable?
There are two types of lawsuits that can be filed after a wrongful death in Georgia. The compensation recovered in each is different.
Wrongful Death Damages
The wrongful death claim is filed by the surviving family members to seek financial compensation equivalent for the full value of the life of the decedent. The full value of the life of the decedent may include economic as well as noneconomic elements.
The economic factors typically include all the tangible elements such as loss of wages, loss of benefits as well as the value of household services provided by the deceased. The non-economic factors typically include loss of companionship, loss of care, loss of advice, loss of counsel, and other such elements.
Estate Claim Damages
The second category of losses is sought by the administrator of the deceased person’s estate. They may seek compensation for financial losses suffered by the estate related to the death.
When it comes to the compensation claim by the deceased’s estate, these damages typically include all the medical expenses related to the accident that led to the death. It also includes any funeral or burial expenses.
The estate may also seek damages for the pain and suffering suffered by the decedent before their death. This compensation may be obtained if the death was not immediate and the deceased was alive for even a few seconds after the accident.
Can Surviving Family Members File for Punitive Damages?
Surviving family members cannot file for punitive damages in a wrongful death claim.
Punitive damages can sometimes be recovered through an estate claim if the deceased did not die right away, even if he/she only survived a few seconds. The estate claim is filed by the estate administrator and the compensation goes to the surviving family members.
If all this sounds confusing, our Buford wrongful death lawyers at H. Groves Law are here to help you. We can evaluate your case, and if you qualify, pursue an estate claim alongside your wrongful death lawsuit. Give us a call at (770) 329-1868 to schedule a free consultation and to discuss the details of your case.
Is There a Time Limit?
You do not have unlimited time to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia. It has a set time limit which is known as the statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations states that family members have up to 2 years to file a wrongful death claim. The court may not allow you to file a lawsuit if more than 2 years have passed.
There are exceptions to this rule. The time limit may be lower in case a government entity is involved. In wrongful death claims involving a criminal case, the time begins from the date the criminal case is resolved.
Don’t leave room for the defendant to use your missed deadline as a defense against their liability for the wrongful death of your loved one. Take prompt legal action, speak with a Gainesville wrongful death attorney immediately, and avoid missing a deadline.
How Is Negligence Proven in a Wrongful Death Case?
It is not easy to prove negligence in a wrongful death claim. Since it is a civil case, the burden is not as high as a criminal case. In criminal cases, it needs to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt but the bar is set a bit lower in civil cases.
Your attorney must prove 4 elements in a wrongful death claim.
Duty of Care
It needs to be proven that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased. In simple terms, the duty of care can be understood as the actions a reasonable person would have taken in that particular situation.
Consider the case of an auto accident. The driver of the automobile owes a duty of care to all the others on the road. They should follow all the required rules and drive safely.
Once it has been proven that the defendant owed a duty to the deceased, the next step is to prove that there was a breach of that duty. Continuing with the auto accident example, your attorney could show the driver was speeding.
It needs to be shown that the actions of the defendant led to the injuries that caused the death. In other words, the death would not have occurred without the defendant’s negligence.
Your attorney must provide proof showing that the defendant’s negligence resulted in compensable damages. In this case, damages include the death in question and the financial losses and suffering.
How Do You Start a Wrongful Death Case in Buford, Georgia?
Pursuing a wrongful death claim is never easy, especially when dealing with grief and adjusting to life without a loved one. Because of the emotional strain and complexity of a wrongful death case, it’s crucial that surviving family members discuss their case with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
Our Buford wrongful death lawyers will help you by:
- Investigating the case and gathering evidence
- Negotiating with the insurance company for a settlement
- Filing a lawsuit and representing you in court if negotiations aren’t successful
What Is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and an Estate Claim?
The wrongful death claim is brought by specific close family members of the deceased or by the estate administrator if there are no eligible family members to file the claim. An estate claim is brought by the executor or administrator of the person’s estate.
The estate may seek financial compensation for pain and suffering of the decedent, medical expenses before the death, funeral expenses as well as some other expenses. They may also make a claim for punitive damages if the deceased did not die right away, even if they only survived a few seconds.
The wrongful death claim is designed to seek compensation for the full value of the life of the deceased. It includes both economic damages like loss of inheritance and noneconomic damages like loss of companionship, guidance, etc.
Contact Our Buford Wrongful Death Lawyers Today!
The laws related to wrongful death claims in Georgia are complicated. A lot of evidence needs to be collected and presented in the right manner and within the statute of limitations to seek compensation for the wrongful death of a loved one.
Having an experienced Buford wrongful death attorney by your side will go a long way in helping you navigate the legal process. The other party will do everything in their power to pay as little as possible or not pay anything at all.
The wrongful death attorneys at H Groves Law have plenty of experience helping families get justice. It is our mission to help people get the compensation they deserve for the loss of their loved ones.
Give our law firm near Buford a call at (770) 329-1868 to schedule a private and completely free consultation.