At Bethune Law Firm, we understand that losing a loved one due to the negligence or malicious acts of someone else can be very painful and emotionally devastating. The surviving family members can also be left dealing with great financial hardships that can impact their lives for a long time to come. After experiencing such a loss, it is only fair that the responsible party is brought to book and that you and your family are maximumly compensated.
This is why our Decatur wrongful death lawyers are committed to helping families of wrongful death victims ease their grief by getting them the justice that they deserve and the financial compensation that they need to cope with their new situation. We have a compassionate and experienced team of Decatur personal injury attorneys who are ready to fight aggressively for you and your family. Get in touch with us today at 1-800-INJURED for the best legal guidance and representation.
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How is Wrongful Death Defined in the State of Georgia?
Wrongful death is defined in Georgia Code Title 51, Chapter 4 as a death caused by the careless, reckless, negligent, or criminal acts of another individual or entity.
Georgia’s Wrongful Death Act
The Georgia Wrongful Death Act was passed over 100 years ago and it has undergone several amendments over the years. The Act establishes a cause of action for wrongful death. It has five code sections that outline potential causes that can create legal grounds for filing a wrongful death claim, and they include:
- Medical malpractice including misdiagnosis, surgical error, medication errors, or medical injury.
- Faulty construction
- Criminal or unlawful acts
- Dangerous or defective consumer products
- Contaminated food in commercial establishments
- Drunk driving accident
- Unlawful and/or improper service of alcohol, for example, a bartender continuing to serve alcohol to an already intoxicated customer
- Accidents involving pedestrians
- Nursing home abuse or neglect
Who is Qualified to File A Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
The law in Georgia is strict as to who can file a wrongful death claim. The spouse of the deceased has the primary right to file the claim for wrongful death. If there is no spouse, the children reserve the right to file the claim. In cases where there is no spouse or children, then the parents of the deceased have the right to recovery. If the three parties are not available, the personal representative of the estate is eligible to file a wrongful death claim.
If the decedent doesn’t have a will or estate plan with beneficiaries and the spouse files a claim for wrongful death, the spouse is required by law to share the proceeds from the claim with the children. However, it is important to note that under Georgia state law, the spouse is typically guaranteed a third of the proceeds while the children split the remainder.
What Types of Damages are Recoverable?
Georgia state law allows survivors of the decedent to recover damages representing the full value of the decedent’s life without deducting any necessary or personal expenses the decedent would have incurred if he/she would have lived.
Here, the full value of life refers to all tangible and intangible losses suffered by the decedent and the surviving family members and they include:
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering of the surviving family members
- Loss of love and protection
- The pain and suffering endured by the decedent by their untimely death
- The decedent’s future lost wages, which can include expected raises
- Loss of inheritance for children
- Emotional distress
- Burial/funeral costs
- Loss of benefits
Can Surviving Family Members File For Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are not always awardable in wrongful death claims, in fact, in Georgia, they are only considered where survival actions are involved and the defendant acted in a grossly negligent, reckless, or malicious manner. This means that in order for the surviving family members to file for punitive damages, some amount of time should have passed from when the decedent suffered harm to their eventual death, and it also has been proven that the defendant’s behavior was grossly negligent, intentional, or reckless. Proving this is often difficult.
This explains why being awarded punitive damages is uncommon.
How to Prove Negligence in a Wrongful Death Case in Georgia?
To prove negligence in a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff or their attorney is required to prove the following elements of negligence:
- Duty of care: First, the plaintiff should prove to the judge or jury that the defendant owed the decedent a duty of care in the particular situation.
- Breach of duty of care: Next, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the defendant breached or violated this duty of care. This means that the defendant acted or failed to act in a particular way while another reasonable person in the same situation would have acted appropriately.
- Causation: The plaintiff should also prove that the death of the decedent was a direct result of the actions of the defendant and not some other causes.
- Damages: Finally, the defendant has to prove that as a result of the death, the surviving family members suffered damages.
How Do You Start a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
In the unfortunate event that you lose a loved one as a result of the negligent acts of another party, it is crucial that you get in touch with an experienced wrongful death attorney right away.
Typically, the first step when initiating a wrongful death claim is to create an estate on behalf of the deceased.
The next step is to identify the personal representative of the estate. However, in Decatur, Georgia, you don’t necessarily need a representative to file the claim.
Once the defendants in your case have been identified and the proper evidence has been gathered, your attorney will help you file the necessary paperwork to initiate the legal process.
This claim should be filed within two years from the date of death to avoid losing the right to pursue compensation.
What is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and an Estate Claim?
A wrongful death claim is a claim filed by the family members of the deceased to pursue compensation for the full value of the life of their deceased loved one which includes tangible and intangible losses as well as punitive damages.
An estate claim is a claim brought by the estate of the deceased to recover financial losses associated with the death
of the deceased.
Contact an Experienced Decatur Wrongful Death Lawyer Today For Help
Have you lost a loved one as a result of the actions of someone else? You need all the legal help you can get. Dealing with the immense grief caused is hard enough, the last thing you need is to add on the stress of handling the complexities of wrongful death law. However, still getting the financial compensation owed to you is crucial to your wellbeing and that of your family going forward.
We can help ease the burden during these trying times and ensure that your financial future is secured. Let our skilled Decatur, GA, wrongful death lawyer work for you. We can fight aggressively for you and we will ensure that you are fully compensated for your losses.