The unexpected death of a loved one is always hard. All too often, there are financial difficulties following close behind the emotional challenges you face. While money can never replace your dearly departed relative, you and your family have a right to seek justice and hold negligent parties accountable for your loss. The Joe Durham Law Firm stands ready to put all of our legal resources at your disposal during this challenging time in your life.If you need a wrongful death lawyer in Albany, GA, get started with a free, confidential case evaluation by calling the Joe Durham Law Firm at (229)-351-5320 today.
What Is A Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is an action brought in civil court by plaintiffs who want damage compensation for a fatality caused by the negligence, carelessness, or recklessness of a liable person, company, or organization. Here is a brief list of the sort of incidents that often lead to wrongful death claims in Albany:
- Motorcycle accidents
- Drunk driving accidents
- Accidents on construction sites
- Violent crimes including (but not limited to) homicide
- Mistreatment (neglect or abuse) of nursing-home residents
- Failure to diagnose serious medical conditions properly
- Road accidents involving tractor-trailers
- Car accidents
- Dangerous drugs
- Accidents caused by product defects
This list is far from comprehensive. Many other actions may enable you to claim under Georgia’s wrongful death laws. This is why it’s so important to seek expert legal advice after you have lost a loved one in circumstances where a third party might potentially be at fault.
Who Can File A Wrongful Death Claim In Georgia?
The general answer to this question is that a dead individual’s relatives have the right to bring a wrongful death claim. There is an order of precedence to who may bring an action under Georgia law, though. The first right to action lies with the surviving spouse of a decedent. If the individual died without a spouse, the decedent’s children can bring a claim. Say the individual had no spouse and no children, then his or her parents may initiate a claim. If a decedent has none of the surviving relatives described previously, then the right to bring a wrongful death claim goes to the administrator of his or her estate.
How Does A Surviving Family Member File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The first step in launching a wrongful death claim is to verify according to the rules listed above that you are the appropriate party – spouse, child, parent, or estate administrator – to make a claim. The subsequent steps in a wrongful death suit are handled by your attorney. Practically all lawyers who specialize in personal injury, including the Joe Durham Law Firm, are experienced with wrongful death suits. If you hire us for your case, we will initiate the claim and seek appropriate compensation on your behalf.
Is There A Limit On How Much You Can Sue For In A Georgia Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Georgia law gives you the right to try and recover the full value of the deceased’s life in a wrongful death suit. This includes easily-quantifiable damages like medical and funeral expenses, fair estimates of lost income and benefits denied to the deceased and his or her relatives, and less-tangible factors like the decedent’s pain and suffering and the surviving relatives’ loss of companionship.
Are There Time Limits For Filing A Wrongful Death Claim?
Your right to pursue legal action is limited to a certain period. The statute of limitations (O.C.G.A. §51-4-1), usually starts, in a wrongful death case, on the date of the death concerned. Once the statute of limitations deadline expires, it becomes much more difficult or even impossible to start a lawsuit. This makes it important to seek legal counsel as quickly as possible following your loved one’s death. Any experienced wrongful death lawyer in Albany, GA will be able to explain exactly how much time you have once he or she has examined the facts of your specific case. Factors that can alter the statute of limitations can be quite subtle, so this is another area where securing fast and trustworthy legal advice is an absolute necessity.
What Types Of Damages Are Sought In A Georgia Wrongful Death Case?
The applicable statute covering wrongful death in Georgia specifies that survivors can seek damages covering the full value of the decedent’s life, without making any exceptions or deductions for expenses that would have been incurred had he or she lived. Any of the following items can be incorporated into the damages in a wrongful death case:
- Loss of future income
- Funeral expenses
- Pain and suffering of the decedent
- Pain and suffering of surviving family members
- The Loss of love, protection, and companionship
- Loss of benefits
- Loss of inheritance
When appropriate, punitive damages may also be sought.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages, unlike other damages, are not intended to compensate the plaintiff in a wrongful death suit. Instead, they are imposed to punish wrongdoing on the part of the defendant. The court uses its discretion to award punitive damages when appropriate. Punitive damages are more likely when it is established that the defendant caused the death in question intentionally, or when the negligence or carelessness leading to the death was particularly extreme. Punitive damages are frequently seen, for instance, in DUI cases. Most wrongful death cases that become newsworthy because of extremely high awards include punitive damages.
How Is Negligence Proved In A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Speaking very generally, a wrongful death claim is very similar to a personal injury claim. It is simply pushed forward for the sake of someone who did not survive the injury or illness leading to the claim. Negligence is established in a wrongful death case by fulfilling the same four key factors used to establish negligence in a personal injury case. The plaintiff has to prove:
The plaintiff must show that a duty of care from the defendant to the decedent existed at the time of the accident, incident, or death.
The plaintiff must specify how the duty of care established in the previous step was breached. This could be either by taking action or failing to act. The defendant’s action or lack thereof is often compared to how a reasonable person would have behaved in the situation.
This step establishes a direct link between the defendant’s breach of duty and the decedent’s death.
Finally, the plaintiff must prove that there could not be another cause for the death in question other than the defendant’s actions.
Wrongful death lawsuits are some of the most complex in Georgia civil courts. The assistance of a highly-experienced personal injury firm is virtually a necessity, as most laymen lack the expertise to fulfill all the legal obligations of filing this type of claim. Surviving family members will find it far easier to launch and win a wrongful death claim with the help of a good personal injury lawyer. If you are recovering from the untimely death of a loved one, entrust your legal concerns to the Joe Durham Law Firm. Concentrate on the business of grieving and healing and let us protect your legal rights.
How Long Does It Take For A Wrongful Death Case To Settle?
Many wrongful death suits are settled before they reach trial, but this is far from universal. Every case is unique, and there is no universal schedule that fits all wrongful death cases.
Can You Sue A Medical Provider For Wrongful Death?
Yes. Whenever you lose a loved one and someone else is responsible, you have the right to make a wrongful death claim. In wrongful death cases with a medical aspect, it is common to sue a hospital, a doctor, a nurse, or some other healthcare provider.
Contact A Wrongful Death Lawyer In Albany, GA Today!
If you have lost a loved one and you believe their death was preventable, call (229) 351-5320 to reach the Joe Durham Law Firm. Our practice focuses on civil litigation, including trial practice, personal injury, professional negligence, and wrongful death cases. Your initial consultation is always free.