Georgia Wrongful Death Lawyer

Woman Touching a HeadstoneLosing a loved one due to someone’s actions or negligence is one of the most difficult experiences you may endure in your lifetime. While nothing can bring your loved one back, Georgia law allows close relatives of the deceased person to pursue legal action against the party who caused the fatal injuries. 

The wrongful death lawyers at Scholle Law can help you navigate the complex issues that surround this type of legal action. Fair compensation can provide some peace of mind for you and your family during this difficult time.

The compassionate attorneys at Scholle Law understand how difficult this time of your life is. We will do all we can to take the burden of recovering compensation off your shoulders so you and your family can focus on healing.

Call us today at (866) 592-1296 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation with a Georgia wrongful death attorney. 

 

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death is any death caused by reckless, negligent, or intentional actions of another person. There are many different causes of wrongful death claims. The most common include:

 

Car accidents

Car accidents are among the most common causes of wrongful death. Traffic deaths can result from negligence. In some cases, a city or county can be liable because of dangerous road conditions. Vehicle manufacturers may also be liable for accident-causing defects.

Medical malpractice

Healthcare professionals are human. They make mistakes and sometimes claim lives as a consequence. Our firm may be able to prove that a medical error caused your loved one’s passing. 

Workplace accidents

Many careers are hazards to employees’ health. Your attorney may be able to show that an employer contributed to your loved one’s death. A third party may also be liable for a workplace accident. 

Defective products

Manufacturers spend much time testing their products for safety. You may be able to hold the manufacturer liable for a defective product if the use of that product results in a loved one’s death. 

Semi truck accidents

Large trucks are some of the most dangerous vehicles on the road. Drivers of semi-trucks have a great duty of care. Your Georgia wrongful death lawyer may obtain compensation for this type of accident. Driver error, defective equipment, and employer negligence are potential triggers of liability. 

Aviation accidents

Airplane and helicopter accidents are not common. When they do occur, the risk of fatal injury is great. The cause of an accident could be pilot error or mechanical failure. In these cases, liable parties may pay for the loss of your loved one.

 

Family giving their last goodbyes at the cemeteryGrieving family members may be uncertain about filing a lawsuit during this stressful time. A Georgia wrongful death attorney can address your concerns.

We will handle your case from start to finish so you can focus on what is most important. 

Your case may be high stakes. If the deceased was the primary earner of your household, your family will need financial assistance.

The deceased’s injuries may have caused significant expenses like medical bills and funeral costs. Obtaining compensation through a wrongful death claim may ease your burden. 

 

Who Has the Right to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Psychologist Comforting Senior ManO.C.G.A § 51-4-2 details which family members can file a wrongful death claim and the priority that each party has in that claim. The order of priority in a wrongful death claim is as follows: 

  • Husband or wife (spouse)
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Any other heir or next of kin (designated by estate-planning documents or by Georgia probate law)

If there is no person entitled to bring the lawsuit, then the administrator or the executor of the decedent’s will may bring a wrongful death suit (O.C.G.A. § 51-4-5). 

 

What Damages May Be Claimed in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Georgia’s state laws discuss the types of damages that you can receive after a wrongful death.

Specifically, O.C.G.A § 51-4-1 permits three categories of compensatory damages for surviving loved ones: 

  • The full value of the deceased’s life (monetary and intangible losses)
  • Funeral and estate-related expenses
  • Medical expenses plus pain and suffering directly related to the fatal injury

Woman hugging her crying girlfriend, supporting her after receiving bad newsYour attorney will argue for interest payments if appropriate. This would increase the amount of compensation to which you are entitled.

Punitive damages are not explicitly outlined in Georgia’s wrongful death laws. As such, courts will award them only under exceptional circumstances in which the court wishes to “penalize, punish, or deter a defendant.” 

These circumstances are broadly categorized as showing “willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.” (O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1) Because punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and not compensate the victim’s family, the majority of these damages are paid to the Office of the State Treasurer and not the plaintiff.

How are wrongful death damages distributed?

Wrongful death beneficiaries generally include the immediate family of the deceased. If no immediate family members are alive, the damages will go to the representative of the estate. Damages will be distributed evenly among all beneficiaries. There is one exception to this rule.

Per O.C.G.A § 51-4-2, a victim’s spouse will never receive less than one-third of the damages awarded. If a beneficiary is a minor, any amount that is less than $15,000 will be held by the child’s natural guardian for the child’s benefit. If the child receives more than $15,000, it must be in the protection of a guardian of the child’s property.

 

Speak to a Georgia Wrongful Death Attorney Today

annette malena, charles scholle, todd shugart group photo

From left: Attorneys Annette Malena, Charles Scholle,
and Todd I. Shugart

As experienced wrongful death attorneys, Scholle Law’s team has the skill, experience, and compassion to handle all aspects of your case.

With our depth of experience in both wrongful death and probate law, we will work closely with executors or personal representatives to take care of details that can make your case a success.

As in all areas of our practice, we treat families who have lost a loved one with the respect and compassion they deserve.

Our goal is to take the burden of a lawsuit off your shoulders so you and your family can focus on more important things. 

Call us today at (866) 592-1296 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation with a Georgia wrongful death lawyer. 

 

You must provide four key elements to prove a wrongful death. These elements include: 

  1. Duty of Care. According to Georgia law, a wrongful death must result from the recklessness or negligence of another party. The duty of care is the standard for reasonable actions. A lawyer from Scholle Law will cite the doctrine establishing the defendant's duty of care.
  2. Breach of Duty. Your lawyer will argue that the defendant breached their duty through negligent actions. These actions will depend on the details of your case. 
  3. Causation. Your lawyer will need to demonstrate that the other party's negligence caused your loved one's death. This is distinct from a breach of duty of care. Causation forms an additional link between the defendant and the results of the tragic incident. 
  4. Damages. Your lawyer will need to show that the victim's death has resulted in demonstrated damages to your family. Your lawyer will provide any documentation that proves your damages. This can strengthen your case.

Our legal team will need to demonstrate each of these elements as persuasively as possible. A skilled Georgia wrongful death lawyer can use witness testimony and evidence as appropriate. The end goal of these steps is obtaining compensation for you.

 

Finding a law firm you are comfortable with is one of the most important aspects of pursuing a wrongful death claim. In order to find the right lawyer for you, be sure to ask the following questions:

  • How much experience do you have with wrongful death cases?
  • Will you handle my case directly if I hire your firm?
  • Do you believe that I have a strong basis for a wrongful death claim?
  • How much compensation am I entitled to?
  • What will you do to win my case?
  • What will you charge for handling my case?
  • What resources will your firm provide for my case?
  • What level of involvement can I expect to have in my case?
  • What are your firm's results in cases like mine?

Do not hesitate to ask any other questions that arise. Hiring a lawyer is a major decision; you want to get it right. The team at Scholle Law will answer all the questions you have.

The statute of limitations, or time limit, for filing a wrongful death claim in Georgia is two years. The clock starts on the date that the victim passes away, as noted by Georgia law (O.C.G.A § 9-3-33).

There are unique circumstances in which this time limit could change. Regardless, it is in your best interest to initiate your wrongful death claim as soon as possible. Your Duluth wrongful death lawyer will help you stay ahead of the deadline. Doing so is essential to winning your case.

You may seek quick compensation after your loved one's passing. You may have no other recourse to make ends meet. However, speed can be an unrealistic expectation for a wrongful death case. 

A wrongful death suit settles quickly may result in insufficient compensation. An insurance company may offer a fast settlement. This offer may be tempting. This is a strategy that insurance companies can use to pay lower-than-necessary settlements. 

We will take the necessary time to pursue the compensation you deserve. Working with a Duluth wrongful death lawyer from our team will provide great insight. We will explain how much compensation your claim is worth. We will help you avoid the regret that comes from accepting a quick, insufficient settlement. 

A wrongful death claim that includes maximum compensation can take time to settle. This is because: 

  • We need time to gather as much relevant information as possible
  • The insurance company may initially refuse to pay the full amount that you deserve
  • The insurance company may require drawn-out negotiations before agreeing to settle
  • Your case may need to go to trial (if settlement negotiations are not successful)
  • Trial may be a lengthy process, especially if the defendant does not accept liability for the death of your loved one

Your case may take months or longer. In some cases, filing the lawsuit and working through the legal system can take years. We can explain these possibilities. We will also explain how your family can remain financially afloat during this period.  

It's essential that you find a Duluth wrongful death lawyer who will work hard for you. Your case is too important to do otherwise.

These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they have distinctly different legal definitions:

  • Wrongful death cases refer to civil claims that one person brings against another party on behalf of a person who has died. In a wrongful death case, the defendant could be a person, a business entity, or a government entity.
  • Homicide is defined as the unlawful killing of a human being by another. This is a criminal act.

Criminal death is governed by a state's criminal code.

Criminal deaths and homicides are managed under a state's criminal code. Title 16 of the O.C.G.A. contains Georgia's criminal code, which encompasses cases such as murder and manslaughter. The state prosecutes homicide cases, while personal injury attorneys like Charles Scholle litigate wrongful death cases.

Criminal homicide cases and civil wrongful death cases generally have different aims. In a criminal death case, the court aims to punish the wrongdoer for their actions. In a wrongful death case, the aim is to compensate the victim's family for their loss. 

There are several other important differences between criminal death and wrongful death in the state of Georgia:

  • A district attorney's office will not pursue a wrongful death claim (it is not under their legal purview).
  • You can pursue a wrongful death case even if the district attorney's office pursues a criminal action for homicide. You can file a civil case whether or not the defendant is found guilty of criminal charges. A famous example of this is the OJ Simpson trial, in which Simpson was found not guilty of murder but was found liable for wrongful death in civil court.
  • The criminal code of Georgia does not apply to a wrongful death action. Instead, Chapter 4 of Title 51 (Torts) of O.C.G.A. applies.
  • There will be no "guilty" or "not guilty" verdict in a wrongful death suit. Instead, it will determine that the defendant is "liable" or "not liable."
  • Wrongful death cases cannot result in jail time or imprisonment for a defendant. Rather, monetary damages may be awarded if the responsible party is found liable.

These distinctions are important. They may be difficult for you to grasp or navigate as you seek compensation, however. Your emotional anguish may make legal terms and principles even more difficult to understand. You do not need to grapple with these issues alone. Your Duluth wrongful death lawyer will guide you through the legal process. They'll fight for the positive outcome that you deserve.

While medical malpractice can relate to wrongful death, the two terms are distinct.

    • Malpractice refers to a type of medical negligence

 

    • Wrongful death is a type of claim that parties settle in civil court 

 

Medical malpractice refers to a negligent act that results in injury to a healthcare provider's patient. This can include a failure to act.  Not all wrongful death cases involve medical malpractice. Some malpractice claims result in wrongful death lawsuits, but not always. Some cases of medical malpractice are fatal. In these cases, the victim's loved ones can initiate a wrongful death claim to recover damages.

Medical malpractice can include several different types of action, including:

    • Misdiagnosis

 

    • Failure to diagnose

 

    • Misinterpreting lab results

 

    • Poor follow-up

 

    • Surgical mistakes

 

    • Failure to monitor during surgery

 

    • Premature discharge

 

    • Medication errors

 

    • Use of unsafe equipment

 

Rehashing an instance of medical malpractice can be traumatic for you. You do not have to relive a loved one's wrongful death. By hiring Duluth wrongful death lawyer from Scholle Law, you avoid re-experiencing a traumatic event. We will deal with your case in its entirety.

Workers' compensation could be one option for pursuing damages after a workplace incident. Demonstrating the liability of the company can be difficult, however. This is especially true if the worker did not die while physically on or in company property. Your workers' compensation lawyer can perform an independent investigation to provide cause, but this can take time.

Understanding workers' compensation benefits takes time, effort, and legal knowledge. The compensation that results from a workers' compensation claim can also differ from the awards granted in a wrongful death claim. Our firm understands the differences between workers' compensation and other legal actions. We can help you determine the best legal path forward.