Losing a loved one due to the actions of someone else is a tragic event. Surviving spouses can file a wrongful death action to seek justice for their deceased loved one. If successful, the surviving spouse can recover the full value of the decedent’s life.
If you have lost a loved one due to someone’s negligence or intentional actions, it is important to seek the assistance of experienced Perry wrongful death lawyers at Joe Durham Jr., P.C. Our lawyers can help you hold the responsible person accountable and obtain the compensation you deserve. Contact us today at 229-351-5320 for a free consultation with a personal injury attorney.
How Is Wrongful Death Defined In Georgia?
Wrongful death in Georgia is defined as a premature death resulting from the reckless, intentional, criminal, or negligent actions of another party or entity. Negligence refers to the failure to exercise reasonable care, which could lead to liability in cases like a nursing home resident’s death due to neglect.
A civil wrongful death claim can arise when the conduct of the defendant causes the victim’s unnatural death. In Georgia, legal grounds for wrongful death include medical malpractice, intentional homicide, contaminated food, and drunk driving.
If the defendant sells unsafe prescription drugs to the victim, and they die due to complications resulting from taking the drugs, the defendant may be liable for wrongful death.
If the defendant knew the risks involved in selling the unsafe drugs, then their actions could be deemed unlawful, and they could be held responsible for the victim’s death.
Who Is Qualified To File A Wrongful Death Claim?
Georgia law specifies who is eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The surviving spouse of the deceased is entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If the deceased had children with the surviving spouse, the lawsuit must include the children’s interests.
However, the spouse may only file a lawsuit for the children if they are under 18 years of age.
If the deceased person did not have a spouse or children, the parents of the deceased may file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf. In cases where there are no surviving parents, children, or spouse, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate may file the lawsuit.
If successful, any proceeds will be held by the estate and distributed to the surviving next of kin.
It is important to note that the surviving spouse must receive no less than one-third of the total recovery, and must share the compensation with any children. However, if the deceased had a will that specified that the children should receive nothing, then the spouse is entitled to the entire compensation.
What Types Of Damages Are Recoverable?
Georgia law states that damages in a wrongful death lawsuit should only be directly related to the injury that led to the death of the victim. The surviving family’s pain and suffering are not included in the compensable damages.
In Georgia, there are three main categories of damages that can be pursued in a wrongful death lawsuit. Firstly, the funeral expenses and all the medical costs that occurred as a result of the victim’s injury or death. Secondly, damages for the pain and suffering that the victim experienced before their death. Lastly, the surviving family can receive compensation equal to the full value of the life of the deceased.
In the past, determining the full value of the life of the deceased was challenging. However, Georgia appellate courts have determined that it can be calculated based on both economic and non-economic components.
The economic component is calculated by determining the present value of the deceased’s future earnings and services they would have provided if they had lived longer. The age of the deceased, their occupation, and income at the time of death are all factors that are considered.
On the other hand, the non-economic component of the full value of life includes intangible elements that are difficult to prove but can be determined by a jury. The value of these elements may be subjective, but a skilled wrongful death attorney can present evidence to show the true value of the damages.
Can The Surviving Family File For Punitive Damages?
The decision to award punitive damages lies solely with the jury, and they are designed to punish the defendant for their recklessness or negligence. Typically, punitive damages are not awarded in wrongful death cases in Georgia.
However, there are circumstances where they may be granted, such as when an estate administrator brings a wrongful death claim directly related to the victim’s pain and suffering during the incident.
If the defendant acted in a malicious manner or showed a complete disregard for the victim’s safety, the jury may consider punitive damages. In cases where the victim lived for a period before passing away due to injuries caused by the defendant’s negligence, a punitive claim may be possible.
If the victim died instantly, then a wrongful death claim is the only option, and there is no basis for punitive damages.
How Is Negligence Proved In A Wrongful Death Case?
We always insist that if you want your wrongful death case to be successful, your lawyer needs to prove that there was negligence on the part of the defendant. The lawyer must be able to convince the jury that the negligence of the defendant caused the death of the victim.
Also, you need to prove that the deceased took precautions by seeking care afterward, to mitigate the actions of the defendant.
When proving negligence, it is always good to have the evidence. If possible, the surviving family should try to obtain substantial evidence to show that there was negligence on the part of the defendant.
Some of this evidence include accident scene photos, medical photos, and any remnants of a defective product that the victim may have taken.
There are four key elements to building a winnable wrongful death case:
Duty of Care
To establish a wrongful death claim in Georgia, the plaintiff has to demonstrate to the court that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased at the time of their injury or death. For instance, medical professionals have a legal obligation to provide a reasonable standard of care to their patients.
Breach of Duty of Care
If the plaintiff can successfully demonstrate that the defendant had a responsibility to uphold a duty of care towards the deceased, but did not meet that obligation, then it becomes evident that the defendant acted negligently.
Additionally, the plaintiff needs to provide evidence of how the defendant neglected their duty of care. If you were present during the incident that resulted in the death of the deceased, you would be required to testify in court and describe what you observed, as well as whether the defendant fulfilled their responsibilities as required.
Proving the causal link between the defendant’s actions or inaction and the death of your loved one is crucial in establishing liability. Without demonstrating that the defendant’s negligence directly caused the death, it is challenging to convince the court to hold them responsible.
Therefore, it is essential to have an experienced wrongful death attorney who can gather and present evidence to establish a clear causal link between the defendant’s actions and the death of the deceased.
If you intend to file a wrongful death lawsuit, it is advisable to seek the help of a skilled and experienced wrongful death attorney who can guide you through the legal process.
A reputable lawyer who specializes in wrongful death can assist you in gathering all the relevant evidence and presenting a convincing argument to the court that the defendant is liable for the death of your loved one.
Your attorney will need to demonstrate to the court how the breach resulted in damages, and in this case, the damage is the death of your loved one.
How Do You Start A Wrongful Death Claim In Georgia?
It is crucial to hire a Perry wrongful death lawyer promptly if your loved one has died due to someone else’s negligence. Taking early action ensures that all the evidence is fresh and can help build a stronger case.
While Georgia’s statute of limitations limits the time for filing a wrongful death lawsuit to two years, it is advisable to initiate the legal process as soon as possible. Failure to file within the two-year limit forfeits your right to claim.
However, in some situations, such as when there is a criminal case with similar events, the statute of limitations may be suspended until after the criminal case is concluded. Additionally, if the deceased’s estate is not probated, the statute of limitations may be tolled for up to five years, extending the filing time to up to seven years.
What Is The Difference Between Wrongful Death Claims And Estate Claims?
In Georgia, an estate claim can be filed to recover expenses related to the decedent’s funeral and burial costs, as well as for the pain and suffering endured before the decedent’s death. Calculating pain and suffering damages can be difficult, so estate claims require special attention.
The estate can also file claims for punitive damages in Georgia, with the person named in the decedent’s will responsible for bringing the estate claim. If there is no will, the law determines who can file the claim.
On the other hand, wrongful death claims are filed by surviving family members seeking compensation for the full value of the decedent’s life. The surviving spouse has the first right to file a claim, followed by the decedent’s parents if there is no spouse or children. In this case, the estate cannot file a claim.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Perry Wrongful Death Lawyers
Losing a loved one unexpectedly can cause emotional and financial turmoil, particularly if the deceased was supporting many dependents. If your loved one died due to someone else’s negligence, Georgia law allows the surviving spouse to file a wrongful death claim. If there is no surviving spouse, the deceased’s children or parents may file the claim instead.
At Joe Durham Jr., P.C., we understand the devastating impact of losing a loved one, and we are here to help. Our experienced team will work tirelessly to represent your interests and ensure you receive compensation for all damages incurred. Don’t hesitate to contact us at 229-351-5320 if you need help with a wrongful death claim.