Under Georgia state law, family members can claim damages from a liable party in the event that they caused the death of a loved one. This is called a wrongful death claim and is designed to compensate the family or dependents of the deceased for losses they incurred.
While you don’t have to hire a Marietta wrongful death lawyer to file a claim, there are distinct benefits of having a lawyer provide expert legal representation:
- A lawyer has in-depth knowledge of personal injury law, the process, and how to file wrongful death claims.
- Lawyers will investigate your case to determine liability.
- Your lawyer will negotiate the best settlement privately or with an insurance company.
- A lawyer will represent your case in a court of law.
- You have a greater chance of receiving a maximum settlement or amount awarded in court.
In most cases, settling a wrongful death claim out of court is preferable. Court trials can be long, drawn-out, and costly affairs. Plus, there simply is no certainty about the outcome. Contact the personal injury attorneys at Bethune Law Firm to start the process of filing a wrongful death claim and negotiating a settlement.
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How Is Wrongful Death Defined In The State Of Georgia?
The state of Georgia legally defines wrongful death as the death of a person as a direct or indirect result of the actions of another party. A party can either be an individual person or an entity such as a business, organization, agency, company, etc.
The actions of the party may have been negligent, reckless, intentional, or criminal. Negligence is defined as failing to practice reasonable care when one has the duty to do so resulting in harm to another person. Reckless actions are where a person was aware that their behavior could cause harm to another. Intentional actions are where a person desires a harmful outcome. Criminal actions are any acts that cause harm to another while in the act of performing a crime.
Who Is Qualified To File A Wrongful Death Claim In Georgia?
The following persons may file a wrongful death claim in court:
- A surviving spouse
- A representative of the estate
- Surviving minor children of the deceased through a surviving spouse or representative of the estate
- Surviving parent/s of the deceased
Creditors cannot bring a wrongful death claim and cannot benefit from the proceeds of the claim.
What Types Of Damages Can Be Recovered Through A Wrongful Death Claim?
Damages refer to the losses that were incurred due to the negligent, reckless, intentional or criminal acts of another person. These losses can be financial or non-economical and include:
- Medical bills for the deceased.
- Funeral expenses.
- Proposed loss of income due to the death of the deceased.
- Loss of inheritance.
- Loss of consortium.
- Loss of services or benefits that were provided by the deceased.
- Pain and suffering that the deceased suffered consciously before death.
Loss of consortium includes the loss of companionship, nurturing, mentorship or other benefits to which no monetary amount can be attributed. Wrongful death claims fall under personal injury law. So any losses that the deceased party would have suffered if they had lived can form part of the claim. Compensation for losses suffered by family or dependents can also be claimed.
Can The Surviving Family File For Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are normally awarded by the court in the event that the liable party was found to be willful or reckless in causing an injury or death. These damages are aimed at punishing the liable party but also compensate for the injured party. The damages can also be awarded in the event of intentional or criminal acts resulting in the death of another. Punitive damages can be included in a wrongful death claim.
How Do You Prove Negligence In A Wrongful Death Case?
Proving negligence is a critical part of personal injury law and therefore wrongful death claims. In most cases, injury or death results from an accident, and negligence must be proven in order for liability to be established. Negligence is proven using the following 4 pillars in the state of Georgia:
- Duty Of Care is where the liable party was responsible to provide a standard of safety and care to prevent harm to others.
- Breach Of Duty Of Care is where the liable party can be shown to not have practiced their duty to prevent harm to others.
- Causation where the breach of duty of care resulted in an injury (or death in the case of a wrongful death claim). The death cannot be as a result of any other cause other than the breach of duty of the liable party.
- Damage where the injury (or death) was the direct result of financial or non-economic losses on the part of the injured party (or their family).
How Do You Start A Wrongful Death Claim In Georgia?
The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is two years. This means that claims must be filed within 24 months of the date of the event that caused the death.
The surviving spouse, surviving parents, or representative of the estate of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim. The claim must be filed in a civil court. Civil courts deal with civil matters that involve financial compensation as opposed to criminal courts which deal with crimes.
If the surviving spouse or parents have decided to claim for the wrongful death of a loved one, it is recommended that they approach a lawyer to file the claim on their behalf. A lawyer has the experience and the expertise to ensure that the filing process is followed correctly.
A personal injury lawyer will also assist in presenting the case to the court or negotiating a settlement with the liable party, their lawyers or insurance representative. They will also assist in deciding which damages should form part of your lawsuit to ensure maximum compensation for all the losses that were incurred.
Schedule a Free Consultation With a Marietta Wrongful Death Lawyer
Contact Bethune Law Firm in Marietta, Georgia for a free consultation to evaluate your case for a wrongful death claim and begin the process of filing the claim.