Losing a loved one is an unimaginable tragedy, especially when it occurs due to the negligence of another person. In the midst of grief, unanswered questions, and financial burdens, pursuing justice may seem like an overwhelming task. If you’re considering legal action against the at-fault party, you should consult with an Atlanta wrongful death attorney. An experienced lawyer can let you know whether you have the legal standing to file a claim, help you understand your rights, and assist you throughout the legal process to obtain the justice and compensation you deserve for your irreparable loss.
What is Considered Wrongful Death in Georgia?
Wrongful death in Atlanta refers to a situation where a person’s death is caused by the gross negligence, recklessness, intentional misconduct, or wrongful actions of another party. Essentially, it’s a legal claim that seeks to hold the at fault party accountable for the death of an individual due to their wrongful behavior. To establish a wrongful death claim, certain elements need to be present:
- Duty of Care: The responsible party owed a duty of care to the deceased person. This duty of care varies depending on the context, such as the duty of a driver to obey traffic laws or the duty of a healthcare professional to provide adequate medical care.
- Breach of Duty: The responsible party breached their duty of care through negligence, recklessness, intentional misconduct, or another wrongful action.
- Causation: The breach of duty by the at-fault party directly caused or substantially contributed to the death of the individual.
- Damages: As a result of the death, surviving family members or the estate of the deceased have suffered measurable damages, such as financial losses, emotional distress, or loss of companionship.
Wrongful death claims can arise from a variety of circumstances, including:
- Car accidents or truck accidents caused by a negligent driver
- Motorcycle accidents resulting in the biker’s death
- Medical malpractice resulting in a patient’s death
- Defective products that lead to fatal accidents
- Accidents on someone else’s property due to negligence
- Workplace accidents caused by unsafe conditions
- Intentional acts of violence resulting in death
It’s important to consult with seasoned Atlanta wrongful death attorneys if you believe your loved one’s death was the result of someone else’s negligent, careless, or reckless actions.
Potential Defendants for Wrongful Death in Atlanta
The specific individuals or entities that can be sued through a wrongful death action can vary depending on the circumstances of the incident. Here are some potential parties that can be sued for wrongful death in Georgia:
- Individuals: This could include drivers, property owners, employers, medical professionals, or anyone whose conduct caused the fatal accident.
- Medical Professionals and Hospitals: If medical malpractice or negligence by healthcare providers led to the death, the responsible medical professionals, as well as the medical facility, can be sued.
- Government Entities: Government agencies can be sued in cases where their negligence or actions led to a wrongful death. However, government entities often have certain immunities and limitations on liability.
- Property Owners: If a property owner’s negligence resulted in a fatal accident, such as inadequate security leading to a crime-related death, the property owner could be held accountable.
- Manufacturers and Distributors: In cases involving defective products, the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer of the product could be liable for a wrongful death if the defect caused the fatality.
- Social Hosts: In cases of accidents involving alcohol, if a social host knowingly provides alcohol to a minor or visibly intoxicated person who later causes a fatal accident, the host might be held liable.
- Nursing Homes and Care Facilities: If neglect, abuse, or inadequate care in a nursing home or care facility results in a resident’s death, the facility can be held accountable.
Wrongful death cases involve complicated legal and emotional considerations. A client-focused Atlanta wrongful death lawyer can guide you through the process of seeking justice and financial compensation for the loss of your loved one.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Georgia?
In Georgia, the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit is granted to specific individuals in a particular order of priority. O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2 pertains to “Death by Negligence; Suits for Wrongful Death.” This statute outlines who is eligible to bring a wrongful death lawsuit and receive compensation.
- Spouse: The surviving spouse of the deceased has the primary right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Children: If there is no surviving spouse, the deceased person’s children have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Parents: If there is no surviving spouse or children, the deceased person’s parents can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Estate Representative: If there are no surviving spouse, children, or parents, the estate representative (usually appointed in the deceased person’s will or through the probate process) can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the estate.
It’s important to note that Georgia law doesn’t allow multiple parties from different priority groups to file separate lawsuits. For example, if there is a surviving spouse, they have the exclusive right to bring the lawsuit. If there is no spouse but there are surviving children, the children have the right to file the lawsuit. You should speak with a resourceful personal injury lawyer in Atlanta to know more about your claim.
How Long Do You Have to Sue for Wrongful Death in Georgia?
In Georgia, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is generally two years from the date of the individual’s death. This means that you have two years from the date of your loved one’s death to initiate a wrongful death claim against the responsible party. Failing to file a lawsuit within this time frame can result in the loss of your right to seek wrongful death compensation.
It’s important to note that the statute of limitations is a strict deadline, but there are few exceptions that could potentially extend or toll this time period. For instance, if the responsible party is a government entity, there might be specific notice requirements and deadlines that differ from the standard statute of limitations. By consulting with competent Atlanta wrongful death lawyers, you can better understand the specific deadlines that apply to your case.
Type of Compensation Awarded in a Wrongful Death Claim
Surviving family members can pursue various types of wrongful death damages:
- Funeral Expenses: The cost of funeral arrangements, burial plots, cremation, and related expenses can be included in the compensation sought.
- Medical Expenses: If the deceased received medical treatment before passing away, the medical bills incurred as a result of the accident or incident that caused their death can be sought.
- Lost Income and Financial Support: Surviving family members with the help of their attorney can seek compensation for the financial support they would have received from the deceased if they were still alive. This includes lost wages, benefits, and the deceased’s potential future earnings.
- Loss of Consortium: Compensation for the loss of companionship, guidance, and emotional support that the deceased provided to their spouse and children.
- Pain and Suffering: While the deceased person’s pain and suffering cannot be directly compensated, surviving family members can seek compensation for their own emotional distress, mental anguish, and grief resulting from the loss.
- Loss of Services and Care: If the deceased provided household services or care (such as childcare, home maintenance, or caregiving), surviving family members can seek compensation for the value of those lost services.
- Loss of Inheritance: If the deceased would have left an inheritance had they lived, you can seek death benefits for the loss of that inheritance.
- Punitive Damages: In cases of extreme negligence, intentional harm, criminal acts, or gross misconduct, your attorney may seek punitive damages to punish the responsible party and deter similar behavior in the future.
A knowledgeable Atlanta wrongful death lawyer can make sure that all avenues of obtaining compensation are explored to maximize the settlement amount.
Distribution of Wrongful Death Settlement Among the Surviving Family Members
The distribution of a wrongful death settlement among surviving family members is typically determined based on principles of equity and fairness. While there isn’t a specific formula or guideline outlined in Georgia statutes for how a settlement should be divided, the court and parties involved often consider several factors when determining how to distribute the compensation.
- Relationship to the Deceased: Spouses, children, parents, and other eligible family members may have varying degrees of emotional and financial dependency on the deceased. Generally, a spouse is provided a third of the settlement share.
- Financial Dependency: Family members who were financially dependent on the deceased might receive a larger share to compensate for their loss of support.
- Emotional Loss and Relationship: Those who had a closer relationship with the deceased may receive a larger share from the wrongful death settlement.
- Age and Needs of Family Members: Younger children and individuals with special needs may receive a larger share to ensure their future well-being.
- Estate and Debts: The existence of the victim’s estate and any outstanding debts or liabilities may impact the distribution of the settlement.
It’s important to note that each wrongful death suit is unique, and the distribution of a settlement can vary based on the specific circumstances of the case and the preferences of the parties involved. To ensure that the settlement is shared appropriately among surviving family members, it’s advisable to work with a dedicated and experienced wrongful death attorney.
Typical Challenges in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Atlanta
Wrongful death lawsuits can be complex and emotionally challenging due to the nature of the claim. Here are some common challenges that can arise in a wrongful death action in Atlanta, GA:
- Emotional Strain: Dealing with the loss of a loved one while also pursuing a legal claim can be emotionally overwhelming for surviving family members. This is why you should consider retaining the services of a reliable attorney early on.
- Proving Negligence: Establishing that the defendant’s negligence or intentional actions directly caused the death can require thorough investigation of the accident scene, evidence collection, and expert testimony.
- Causation and Damages: Connecting the defendant’s actions to the death and quantifying the financial and emotional impact on surviving family members can be challenging.
- Determining Liability: Identifying the responsible party or parties, especially in cases involving multiple potential defendants, can be complicated.
- Government Immunity: If the defendant is a government entity, certain immunities and restrictions may apply, making it harder to pursue a claim.
- Complex Legal Procedures: Dealing with legal procedures, paperwork, and court filings can be overwhelming, especially for those unfamiliar with the legal process.
- Determining Compensation: Calculating fair compensation for both economic and non-economic damages requires careful consideration and legal knowledge.
The burden of proving negligence or intentional harm rests on the plaintiff, making it essential to build a strong claim. Your attorney can take care of the legal process, ensure your interests are protected, and work to acquire fair compensation for your loss.
Our Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorneys Will Fight to Maximize Your Compensation and Help You Achieve Closure
The experienced and compassionate wrongful death attorneys at T. Madden & Associates P. C. understand the legal and emotional challenges associated with pursuing a wrongful death case in Atlanta. Our attorneys are committed to fighting for the rights of surviving family members. We will leave no stone unturned to get you justice for the loss of your loved one and financial compensation to help you move on in life. Schedule your free and confidential consultation with us today. Call 770-756-9311 or write to us online.