Dealing with the loss of a loved one is a difficult and life-altering experience. The loss can be even more traumatic when the death of your beloved family member is due to the fault of another person or entity. Your family is left shouldering the financial and emotional burdens of the loss.
In the wake of the unexpected passing of a loved one, surviving family members may not know how to proceed. When a person or entity causes the death of another person, whether intentionally or by accident, the surviving family members of the deceased have recourse against the at-fault party through “wrongful death” and “survival” claims.
The Gainesville wrongful death lawyers at H. Groves Law provide comprehensive and compassionate counsel to families that have lost loved ones due to the negligence of others in Georgia. We understand how hard it is to lose a beloved family member.
We have the skills, resources, experience, and dedication to win complex wrongful death cases and secure the maximum available compensation for your family. Call our Gainesville personal injury lawyers now at (770) 329-1868 for a free and confidential consultation.
How Is Wrongful Death Defined in the State of Georgia?
Sadly, fatal accidents happen in great numbers every day. Sometimes, a poorly manufactured product or a bad decision can cost another person their life. According to the NHTSA, an estimated 42,915 people lost their lives in motor vehicle traffic accidents in 2021!
Georgia’s legal system has a law that has existed for more than a century – the “Wrongful Death Act” (O.C.G.A § 51-4-1 through § 51-4-6) – and is designed to help surviving family members who lose a loved one due to another party’s negligence.
Under O.C.G.A § 51-4-1, “wrongful death” is defined as a preventable death that was caused by someone else’s recklessness, negligence, or intentional misconduct or by a defective product. This can apply to a wide variety of situations, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Criminal actions
- Medical malpractice, such as misdiagnosis, surgical errors, medical injury, or medication errors
- Defective products such as drugs, vehicles, electronics, medical devices, and appliances
- Driving under the influence of illicit drugs or alcohol
- Car wrecks, truck accidents, and motorcycle crashes caused by negligence
- Contaminated food
- Nursing home abuse
- Pedestrian accident fatalities
- Hazards on property
- Faulty construction and engineering malpractice
- Improper or illegal alcohol service
Who Is Qualified to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
Georgia law gives specific loved ones the legal right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Only one wrongful death can be filed. The parties with legal standing to file a wrongful death suit in Georgia include:
- The spouse.
- Children (if the deceased did not have a spouse)
- Parents (if the deceased did not have a spouse or children)
- The estate personal representative or executor/administrator (on behalf of the next-of-kin)
The estate representative can only file a wrongful death lawsuit if the deceased did not leave behind a spouse, children, or parents who can bring the suit.
It’s crucial to review your case with an experienced Gainesville wrongful death attorney. They can help determine if you have legal standing to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.
What Types of Damages Are Recoverable?
When a loved one unexpectedly dies, it can strain the surviving family member’s finances. The primary purpose of a wrongful death claim in Georgia is to compensate surviving family for the deceased person’s “full value of life.”
In a wrongful death lawsuit, an experienced attorney could help you recover both economic and non-economic damages.
This can include different types of compensation for tangible or calculable damages, including the following:
- Loss of anticipated income
- Reasonable value of household contributions
- The lost prospect of inheritance
- Loss of benefits or gifts the heirs could have expected to receive from the deceased
This can include different types of compensation for damages that are intangible or have no dollar value. Non-economic damages provide compensation for the loss of:
- Training and guidance
- Moral support
- Sexual relations
Georgia does not place a cap, or limit, on how much compensation surviving family members can recover for either economic or non-economic damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. Economic damages for the decedent’s “full value of life” are based on the sum of calculable losses. A jury can award any amount for intangible losses based on the evidence and facts presented in the case.
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.
While we know no amount of money can make up for the devastating loss of a loved one, we hope our assistance can help take as much stress away from you during this difficult time. Let us advocate on your behalf so you can mourn in peace and recover the compensation you need to provide your family with a future of better financial stability.
Can Surviving Family Members File for Punitive Damages?
Exemplary or punitive damages are intended to punish the at-fault party for their egregious conduct. Surviving family members cannot file for punitive damages in a wrongful death claim. However, punitive damages the deceased would have recovered had they survived can be recovered through a survival action.
A survival action, also known as an estate claim, can be filed if the deceased did not die immediately, even if he/she only survived a few seconds.
At H. Groves Law, we are passionate about helping Georgia families who have experienced the untimely loss of a loved one. We can evaluate your case, and if you qualify, pursue a survival action alongside your wrongful death lawsuit to recover the full compensation your family deserves.
How Is Negligence Proved in a Wrongful Death Case?
Unless your loved one died because of someone’s intentional criminal actions, liability in a wrongful death case is usually based on the legal concept of negligence.
Before you can recover the compensation your family is owed, your attorney must prove that another party was negligent and that negligence caused your loved one’s death. This requires four elements.
Your Gainesville wrongful death lawyer must prove to the court that the defendant owed the deceased a duty to exercise reasonable care in the given situation. For example, all drivers have a responsibility to follow traffic laws.
Next, your attorney must provide proof demonstrating how the defendant violated or breached their duty of care. The breach could be an action (like drunk driving) or an omission (like a business not putting up a warning sign about a slip and fall hazard).
If a reasonable person in the same situation would have acted differently, the defendant may be guilty of a breach of duty.
Your family will need proof that your loved one’s fatal injury resulted from the defendant’s actions, not some other cause. In other words, you must prove that the death would not have occurred had the defendant obeyed their duty of care.
The plaintiff 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.
Working with a Gainesville wrongful death lawyer from H. Groves Law can make it easier for your family to prove the elements of negligence. We collaborate with top-rated experts in various fields, including forensics, who can assist in fulfilling the burden of proof in Georgia.
How Do You Start a Wrongful Death Claim in Gainesville, GA?
Before starting a wrongful death claim, you must find out if you have a case. You may be able to pursue financial compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit if:
- The death was caused by another party’s negligent, careless, or intentional criminal acts or by a defective product.
- The death occurred or the cause of the death was discovered within the past two years in Georgia.
Several factors may determine if you have a wrongful death case, so it would be best to consult a Gainesville wrongful death lawyer at H. Groves Law to understand your situation better and get honest advice.
Suppose your lawyer determines you have a case. In that case, you can expect to take the following general steps when filing a wrongful death claim.
- Obtaining a death certificate
- Determining eligibility to file
- Appointing an estate administrator or personal representative
- Identifying the cause of action for the claim
- Determining damages
- Proving intent or negligence
- Filing the necessary documents
- Settlement negotiation
- Going to court if settlement negotiations aren’t successful
At H. Groves Law, we have the experience, skills, knowledge, and resources to get you through this complex process in the easiest possible way. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.
How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Personal estate representatives and family members must understand that strict time limits apply (statute of limitations) for filing a wrongful death claim in a Georgia civil court. The Georgia wrongful death deadline is two years from the death date.
However, there are exceptions, including:
- Minors have a two-year window from the day they turn 18 to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of a deceased parent.
- In medical malpractice cases, the time limit for filing a lawsuit is two years if the death occurred after the deceased’s fifth birthday.
- For cases involving government negligence, the time limit is shorter. You may have six months or one year, depending on whether the city, county, state, or federal government is at fault.
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.
What Is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and a Survival Action?
In Georgia, one can bring two distinct types of claims when negligence leads to wrongful death. They are wrongful death claims and survival actions.
In a wrongful death claim, surviving family members of the deceased can recover compensation for the decedent’s “full value of life.” The claim does not provide compensation for losses suffered by the deceased. Compensation recovered through a wrongful death claim is not subject to liens for medical bills, taxes, or other debts.
A survival action is brought by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate on behalf of the decedent’s heirs. In other words, it is a claim that allows plaintiffs to recover the damages that the decedent would have been entitled to if they had survived the fatal injury.
Such damages may include things like:
- Pain and suffering prior to death
- Medical expenses incurred before death
- Lost wages
- Punitive damages
- Mental anguish (if the deceased had time to understand they were about to die from the unexpected trauma)
Favorable settlements or verdicts in a survival action may be subject to debts, medical liens, and taxes.
Seek Help From a Trusted Gainesville Wrongful Death Lawyer!
At H. Groves Law, we believe your family deserves answers, justice, closure, and compensation if another person’s negligence caused a loved one’s death. We understand how hard it is to lose a beloved family member. On top of financial stresses, your family will be faced with the emotional challenge of grieving along with the anger of knowing another party was responsible for the death of your loved one.
We have the dedication, knowledge, and experience needed to bring successful wrongful death claims and survival actions. We work on a contingency fee basis, meaning there are no upfront costs and you pay nothing unless we win your case.
Call our Gainesville law firm at (770) 329-1868 today or fill out our online form for a free consultation.