Aggressive Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorneys Ready To Fight For Your Rights
Just about any time someone is killed through the wrongful act (or failure to act) of another, a wrongful death case arises. A wrongful death claim seeks money damages from the wrongdoer. If your claim makes it to court, it will be heard by the State Court of Fulton County or the Superior Court of Fulton County. Most wrongful death claims, however, are settled out of court.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
When someone is injured in an accident through the negligence or other culpable conduct of another person, they can file a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation for their losses. If the victim dies; however, Georgia’s wrongful death statute allows the victim’s family to seek financial compensation for the losses that arose from the victim’s death.
How Does a Wrongful Death Claim Work?
An Atlanta, Georgia wrongful death lawsuit must be filed by the appropriate party. A wrongful death claim can be filed only by specific individuals in the following order of priority:
- Surviving spouse,
- Surviving children,
- The victim’s parents, or
- The personal representative of the victim’s estate.
Proving a wrongful death claim works similarly to proving a personal injury claim—you must prove that the defendant was at fault, you must prove that the defendant’s fault is what actually caused the death, and you must prove the amount of damages.
A wrongful death claim seeks compensation for the losses caused by the death of the victim on whose behalf the claim was filed. Like a personal injury claim, it is based on wrongful behavior by the defendant toward the victim. Georgia allows for two separate types of claims following death.
A wrongful death claim provides compensation for losses the victim’s surviving family has suffered. Eligible relatives (priority order listed above) may seek compensation for loss of the value of the victim’s life. This typically includes the victim’s lost earning capacity as well as the family’s own grief and suffering occasioned by the victim’s death. Wrongful death compensation goes directly to eligible family members.
The victim’s personal representative can seek compensation for losses suffered by the victim before their death. This may include funeral and burial expenses, medical expenses paid by the estate, and the victim’s own pain and suffering prior to death. Any compensation recovered in a survival action goes to the victim’s estate, to be distributed among estate creditors and beneficiaries.
Talk to an Atlanta wrongful death attorney to know more.
Two Kinds Of Wrongful Death Claims That Can Be Filed In Georgia
Georgia recognizes two separate types of wrongful death claims:
- A compensation claim for losses suffered by surviving loved ones. These damages include loss of the victim’s future earning capacity as well as emotional losses such as loss of companionship.
- A claim brought by the personal representative (executor) of the victim’s probate estate for medical expenses and the pain and suffering endured by the victim before he died, as well as funeral and burial costs.
A Wrongful Death Lawsuit is Different from a Criminal Prosecution
A wrongful death lawsuit and a criminal prosecution are two separate proceedings, and they can both be going on at the same time. Even if the defendant is acquitted in a homicide trial, that doesn’t mean you can’t win a civil lawsuit, because the burden of proof in a civil case is much lower than it is in a criminal case. A famous example of this principle in action occurred in the 1990s when O.J. Simpson was acquitted on murder charges but later lost a wrongful death lawsuit (in California, not Georgia).
We’re on Your Side
After all these years, it still fills us with compassion and anger when we hear the stories our clients tell us about how their loved ones died from car accidents, defective prescription drugs, nursing home abuse, and a myriad of other causes – all due to the wrongful behavior of someone else. But these two emotions can be empowering, and they provide us with the energy we need to fight back on your behalf until you receive the compensation you deserve. Let our compassionate Atlanta wrongful death lawyer fight with you.
I was represented by T. Madden and Nicholas Schnyder in my car accident case. They and their staff were very professional, willing to answer any and all of my concerns. If they were not available, I would receive a call back in a timely manner. I am very satisfied with how my case came out and I would highly recommend their services.
— Sawida Gladney, February 5, 2016
Other Kinds of Cases We Handle
- Medical Negligence and Malpractice: Even the American Medical Association admits that medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States. We know how to win medical malpractice claims, and we will not hesitate to assert them on behalf of our clients.
- Slip and Fall Accidents: An owner or occupier who invites guests to his premises (usually a commercial establishment) is responsible for either repairing or warning of dangerous conditions. When he doesn’t and someone is injured in a slip and fall accident as a result, a slip and fall claim arises.
- Negligent Security: A negligent security claim arises when an establishment fails to provide protection to its guests against foreseeable security risks. The duty to provide security may include the duty to hire security guards, for example, or to install a CCTV network.
- Auto Vehicle Accidents: Auto accidents are one of the most common causes of emergency room visits in the US. Normally, an injury accident is somebody’s fault, and it is not always the fault of the person who was injured. It is even possible to win compensation if the accident was partly your fault.
- Semi-Trucking Accidents: Commercial trucks are massive vehicles, and their momentum often causes catastrophic injury and death when an accident occurs. In many cases, the accident can be traced to the violation of a trucking regulation by the truck driver or the shipping company.
- DUI Accidents: DUI accidents cause nearly 10,000 deaths every year in the US, and multiple times that many injuries. When something like this happens, you can file a personal injury claim against the intoxicated driver without worrying too much about what happens (or does not happen) in criminal court.
- Dog Attacks: Dogs cannot be held responsible for their own behavior, but their owners can be. In Georgia, a dog owner can be held liable for a dog bite if he had reason to know of the dog’s aggressive tendencies before the attack occurred.
- Motor Vehicle Accidents: Motorcycle accidents usually involve serious injuries, especially if the rider was not wearing a helmet. Although Georgia law requires motorcyclists and passengers to wear helmets, it is possible to recover damages, even if the victim was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.
- Nursing Home Negligence and Abuse: Employees of nursing homes who abuse residents, either by their deliberate actions or by their passive neglect, can be held liable for compensation – as can the nursing home itself. An investigation may be required, however, to confirm liability.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who can file a wrongful death claim?
Normally, the surviving spouse files the claim if the victim is survived by a spouse. If there are any minor children, the spouse represents the children as well. Under certain circumstances, the children or the parents may bring the claim. The personal representative of the victim’s probate estate may file a claim for damages to the estate (see above).
What is the legal deadline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit?
Generally, you have two years after the date of the victim’s death to file a lawsuit. You don’t have to win the case during that time, only file the lawsuit with a formal complaint and have it accepted by the court clerk (it can be rejected if the format of the filing is improper or if it is filed with the wrong court). Since limited exceptions to this deadline do exist, consult with your trusted Atlanta wrongful death lawyer on this matter.
Of course, the ideal result would be to reach a generous private settlement long before the statute of limitations deadline expires.
Are punitive damages available in wrongful death lawsuits?
Punitive damages (additional damages awarded to punish a defendant for outrageous behavior) are allowed in Georgia under certain circumstances. Most wrongful death cases do not involve an award of punitive damages, even if the claimant wins the case. Punitive damages are awarded, if at all, in addition to the normal compensatory damages that are awarded to victorious claimants.
Normally, punitive damages are awarded only as a consequence of willful, reckless, or wanton conduct by the defendant, and the standard of proof is higher than it is for ordinary compensatory damages. A strong case for claiming punitive damages would be a DUI accident. Even then, however, punitive damages are not guaranteed.
Can I file a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer of a dangerous product that caused my loved one’s death?
Yes, you can, if you are qualified to file the lawsuit and if the product contained a design or manufacturing defect, or inadequate product warnings, that substantially contributed to your loved one’s death. You don’t even have to prove that the defendant was at fault, only that the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous. Certain defenses, such as misuse of the product, may be available to the defendant.
Can I file a claim against a nightclub that served alcohol to the driver who killed my loved one?
Yes you can, under Georgia’s dram shop law, as long as:
- The driver was already visibly intoxicated at the time he was served or was a minor (under 21) whom the establishment negligently served; and
- The driver’s intoxication caused the accident that killed your loved one.
Social hosts can also be held liable for serving alcohol to guests, even if it was free of charge if the person served was a minor or if he/she intended to drive home while still intoxicated.
You can sue a nightclub or a social host as a second defendant, while still maintaining your lawsuit against the driver, giving you two possible sources of compensation.
Does comparative negligence apply to wrongful death claims?
Comparative negligence is a comparison of two or more parties’ relative fault, expressed as a percentage. Comparative negligence definitely does apply to wrongful death claims.
If the deceased was 50 percent or more at fault for the accident, no wrongful death damages will be awarded. If the deceased was less than 50 percent at fault, wrongful death damages will be reduced by the deceased’s percentage of fault – 30 percent, for example, leaving 70 percent to be awarded to survivors.
Make It Happen, Starting Today, Call Our Attorneys
Terance Madden, the founder of T. Madden & Associates, P.C., enjoys over 20 years of experience as an attorney, including service with some of the most prestigious law firms in Atlanta and the D.C. area before he founded his own firm. Together, the lawyers at our firm have won tens of millions of dollars for our clients.
Telephone us, email us at email@example.com, or fill out our online contact page for a free, confidential case consultation so that we can listen to your story and evaluate your claim. We serve personal injury clients in Reynoldstown, Scottdale, South River Gardens, and elsewhere in Atlanta, GA. We also take cases from other areas of Georgia and the US. And remember: If we don’t win, you don’t pay.