Losing a loved one as a result of someone else’s actions or negligence is not only an emotionally crushing blow to you and your family, it can also be financially devastating, especially if you have lost someone who contributed to your family’s income.
The aftermath of such an incident can leave you with no idea where to turn for the help you need. If this is the situation you find yourself in, reaching out for the professional legal counsel of an experienced Lawrenceville wrongful death lawyer is one of the most important first steps you can take.
What is a wrongful death claim?
Wrongful death claims are similar to personal injury claims in the sense that they are both based on negligence and recovering on the damages wrought by that negligence.
However, in a wrongful death claim, the injured party dies as a result of the sustained injuries. The surviving family members have the right to bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of their loved one in pursuit of compensation for the full value of the life of the decedent (the deceased) as shown by the evidence (O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2).
The law that governs wrongful death claims is distinct from personal injury claims, and there can be an additional complications involved.
How does a wrongful death claim work?
A wrongful death claim addresses your losses against the at-fault party, whether this is a person or an entity. Often, such claims are filed through the at-fault party’s insurance provider, such as the car insurance carrier of a negligent driver in a fatal car accident.
This wrongful death claim allows you to seek compensation for the covered legal damages (losses) suffered as a result of your loved one’s death.
If you are searching for information about filing a wrongful death claim, first off, I’d like to extend my deepest condolences for your loss. Losing a loved one in a tragic and preventable accident is one of the hardest things a family can go through. In addition to securing your financial future, if you choose to hire me, I personally vow to fight for justice on behalf of your deceased loved one. The person or company responsible for your loved one’s death must be held accountable for their actions. Let me fight for you.
Important Things to Know About Your Wrongful Death Case
Wrongful death claims are an important and complex area of the law. There are a variety of significant factors to keep in mind as you move forward with your wrongful death claim.
Statute of Limitations
You generally have only two years from the date of your loved one’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent party.
While two years may seem like plenty of time, it is important to keep in mind that the grief and stress associated with a loss of this magnitude can prove very time-consuming. Consulting with a dedicated Lawrenceville wrongful death lawyer sooner rather than later is always in your best interest.
Survivor’s Right to File
In Georgia, the decedent’s surviving spouse is the first in line to bring a wrongful death claim. If there is no surviving spouse, the decedent’s surviving children may bring the claim. If the decedent has neither a surviving spouse nor surviving children, his or her parents are authorized by law to file the claim.
If the decedent has no survivors in any of these categories, the administrator of the decedent’s estate may file on behalf of the estate.
The Full Value of the Decedent’s Life
The full value of the decedent’s life (which is the compensation addressed by the law) is based on the value from the decedent’s perspective. It is generally broken down into the following two parts:
- Intangibles: Intangibles refer to the decedent’s relationships, such as with friends, family, and loved ones, and the things that gave his or her life meaning.
- Tangibles: Tangibles, on the other hand, refer to things like the income that the decedent would have earned throughout their career and the value of their contributions to the household overall.
The family may also bring a claim on behalf of the decedent’s estate that addresses matters such as the medical bills and the pain and suffering they endured before succumbing to the fatal injuries.
If your injuries prevent you from visiting any of our office locations, then we can schedule a time for a legal representative to travel to your home or other location to meet with you or your family.
What qualifies for a wrongful death lawsuit?
In Georgia, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit if your spouse, parent, or child is killed as a result of the negligent, reckless, intentional, or criminal act of another person or entity (for example, a business or a company).
Negligence means that the person or entity failed to use the reasonable care necessary to fulfill the duty of care owed. If the at-fault party’s negligence reaches the level of criminal, they can also face criminal charges in addition to the civil wrongful death case.
How hard is it to prove wrongful death?
To prove that your loss qualifies as wrongful death, several elements must be present.
Duty of Care
The person or entity whom you file the wrongful death claim against must have owed your loved one a duty of care. A simple way to explain this is the duty of care we all owe everyone else on the road when we get behind the wheel of a car. This responsibility extends to following the rules of the road and to proceeding with the caution necessary to drive safely. When a motorist breaches this duty of care and drives drunk (for example), it can lead to a fatal accident.
Another common example of duty of care is the duty of care that commercial property owners or managers owe their guests, clients, customers, and other visitors. When property owners or managers fail to maintain the premises in the reasonably safe condition that is necessary to allow their guests’ safe passage, it amounts to a breach in the duty of care owed. The standard for duty of care in these cases is providing the same level of maintenance that other reasonable property owners and managers employ in similar situations.
Breach of Duty
A breach of duty means that the at-fault party failed to live up to the duty of care that they owed the decedent.
It is not enough that your loved one was owed a duty of care that was breached. This breach must be the direct cause of your loved one’s fatal accident for you to have a viable wrongful death claim.
For example, if that drunk driver blew through a red light and caused the fatal accident that left your loved one dead, the necessary element of causation is in place.
The damages component of your wrongful death claim refers to the fact that there are covered losses involved. In the State of Georgia, these can include:
- The lost income to your household, including your loved one’s earnings projected into the future
- Your loss of companionship
- The loss of care you experience
Additionally, there are the damages incurred by your loved one’s estate to consider, including:
- Funeral and burial costs
- The medical bills your loved one incurred due to their injuries before death
- The pain and suffering your loved one endured due to their injuries before death
Contact a Lawrenceville Wrongful Death Lawyer Today
Demonstrating that all of the elements of a wrongful death claim are present is challenging, and proving the value of your losses can be even more so. With an experienced wrongful death lawyer in your corner, you can move forward with the confidence that comes from knowing that they will skillfully build your strongest claim.
The compassionate Lawrenceville wrongful death lawyers at Scholle Law take great pride in their impressive track record of successfully defending the rights of clients like you. If you have suffered a tragic loss of a loved one through the negligence of another, we are committed to helping you regain your financial footing and move forward in the recovery process.
Your claim is important, and we are on your side. Please do not wait to contact us. You can contact us online or call us at 866-972-5287 for more information about what we can do to help you today.
Common Types of Wrongful Death Cases
While there are a wide range of accidents and incidents that can lead to wrongful death cases, some of the most common include:
- Traffic accidents of every kind, including car, truck, and motorcycle
- Medical malpractice that results in death
- Accidents on the job
- Accidents caused by the negligence of commercial property owners or managers (premises liability claims)
Economic damages refer to those losses with economic value. This includes your loved one’s lost earnings, work benefits, and the reasonable income and benefits that they would have continued to earn if their life had not been cut short.
Noneconomic damages refer to those losses that are not financially based but are nevertheless very real. Examples include:
- The loss of your loved one’s care
- The loss of your loved one’s advice
- The loss of your loved one’s companionship
- The loss of your loved one’s counsel
Punitive damages are intended to punish the party responsible for your loved one’s suffering and death. If the at-fault party’s negligence in the matter reaches the level of any one of the following, these damages may be sought:
- Willful misconduct
- Utter indifference to the consequences of his or her actions
Note that surviving family members of the deceased may not seek punitive damages in a Georgia wrongful death case. They may only be sought by the representative of the decedent’s estate in connection to the decedent’s pain and suffering and medical expenses that were incurred between the injurious incident and their death.
Punitive damages are not discussed at all in Georgia wrongful death laws. Instead, the courts and juries rely on several precedents when contemplating whether to award these damages. Because of the requirements to make a claim and the lack of clarity in Georgia’s laws, punitive damages are exceedingly rare in these types of cases.
What is the average settlement for a wrongful death lawsuit?
Each wrongful death lawsuit is utterly unique to the person and the situation involved, which makes it impossible to predict what the value of your wrongful death lawsuit will be before the fact.
An accomplished Lawrenceville wrongful death lawyer will fiercely advocate on behalf of the full range of damages you have suffered. Some of the variables that factor most heavily into the value of wrongful death claims include:
- The age of your loved one at the time of their death
- Your loved one’s income and earning capacity at the time of their death
- The value of your loved one’s lost employment benefits, including their pension, retirement accounts, and/or life insurance policies
- Your loved one’s level of education and job training
- Your loved one’s overall health
- The age and relevant circumstances of your loved one’s dependents
- The cost of your loved one’s medical expenses incurred before succumbing to their injuries and the cost of their funeral and burial
Ultimately, these values must be supported by evidence – and cannot be based on ballpark figures or guesstimates – which is yet another reason why having a distinguished wrongful death lawyer on your side is paramount.
How long does it take to settle wrongful death claims?
Because your wrongful death claim is unique, it is nearly impossible to guess how long your claim will take. Some claims that are quite straightforward are settled fairly quickly, but others that are fraught with challenges can prove to be very complicated and lengthy affairs.
Some of the factors that tend to make wrongful death claims even more challenging include:
- If the matter of fault is complicated, such as in a hit-and-run car crash
- If the at-fault party is also facing criminal charges and waiting for the verdict could be advantageous to your claim
- If the insurance company involved refuses to negotiate in good faith
- If the insurance company refutes fault in the matter or maintains that another party shares fault
- If there is a significant amount of money involved, and the insurance company is attempting to delay the process
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