Experience, dedication, compassion and results from our Georgia Injury Legal Team
When a personal injury is severe enough to cause death, the law provides for the close relatives of the decedent (the deceased person) to bring a lawsuit for their loved one’s wrongful death. The experienced Atlanta wrongful death lawyers at Scholle Law frequently represent family members who have lost a loved one due to injury or accident.
Wrongful death cases require unique legal skills and compassionate representation as families cope with the loss of their loved one after a tragic accident. We have litigated many wrongful death matters, supporting the victim’s loved ones through the legal and personal aspects of these difficult and heartbreaking cases. We help take the burden off the shoulders of grieving families by using the legal process to secure the best possible outcomes for them.
Meet Georgia wrongful death lawyer Charles Scholle
Scholle Law provides wrongful death case evaluations at no charge.
Toll–free at (678) 831-9645 or (770) 717-5100.
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.
Why our Atlanta wrongful death lawyers?
Our skill, experience, dedication and compassion set us apart in representing Georgia families dealing with wrongful death. Unlike other personal injury law firms, we work closely with our clients in all our matters and communicate with them on a regular basis. This is particularly important in wrongful death cases where families are coping with the loss of a loved one or loved ones.
Our team has a background in probate and estate administration, which better enables us to guide families through that complicated process in coordination with executors and/or personal representatives. This is just one of the many things that set Scholle Law apart from other firms.
For example, when our office received a call from a family seeking assistance after a devastating car wreck, we sprang into action. Our client’s teenage daughter (driver) and spouse (passenger) were involved in a collision with a commercial van on the passenger side. The spouse was pronounced dead at the scene.
Although the teenage daughter was initially cited for failing to yield to oncoming traffic, we were able to uncover evidence in our own investigation that the commercial van driver was speeding and possibly distracted. This new evidence dramatically changed liability and we were able to negotiate a 2 million dollar settlement for our client. We were also able to ease some of the guilt the daughter was burdened with for being held responsible for the crash that led to her mother’s death.
In another case, we represented the family of a man who was killed in a fatal motorcycle accident. We were able to secure over 1 million dollars for his surviving wife.
At Scholle Law, we are here to lift the burden from families dealing with wrongful death and enable clients to grieve and recover. We offer free case consultations and evaluations for families, with no obligation. To begin the evaluation process, send us a message online or give us a call.
Offices throughout metro-Atlanta
If your injuries prevent you from visiting our Atlanta office, then we can schedule a time for an attorney to travel to your home or other location to meet with you or your family.
1 Glenlake Pkwy NE Suite 700 • Atlanta, GA 30328
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What is wrongful death?
Any loss of life is tragic. However, in legal terms, a “wrongful death” is any death caused by the negligent, reckless (extremely careless) or intentional actions of another. Common examples of the types of cases that give rise to wrongful death include:
In most personal injury claims, the injured person sues on his or her own behalf in order to recover compensation for their injury and the financial costs, physical pain and emotional suffering it causes. But when the injury results in the victim’s death, Georgia law allows the close relatives of the deceased person to sue for wrongful death.
Who can file a wrongful death action?
Georgia law specifies which family members may file a wrongful death claim, as well as the priority each party should have in that claim. Eligible claimants in a wrongful death lawsuit are listed below in order of priority under the law:
- Husband or wife (spouse)
- Any other heir or next of kin (designated by a will or by Georgia probate law)
Why should you consider filing a claim?
Although family members who have lost a loved one due to a wrongful death might initially be uncertain about pursuing financial damages through legal action, it’s important to consider how and why such an action can be important to the family’s future.
There are 2 parts to a wrongful death claim in Georgia.
- “Full value of life” claim. Under O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2, spouses and eligible family members may sue for the emotional (intangible) and economic (tangible) value of the decedent’s life—his or her lifetime income and enjoyment of being alive.
- Estate claim. Under O.C.G.A.§ 53-2-1, the estate of the decedent (which forms a sort of legal person in its own right) may claim damages for the financial cost of the accident, such as funeral expenses as well as the pain and suffering the decedent felt before death. If appropriate for the case, the estate, through an executor or personal representative, may also claim punitive damages—payments intended to punish the wrongdoer for extreme indifference to human life.
No amount of money will bring a loved one back, but the civil justice system provides a way to punish gross negligence and to help make families financially whole again through a wrongful death action. A large financial award can help families deal with the practical effects of a sudden death, including medical bills, funeral expenses and a lifetime of lost income that their loved one would have earned.
What is the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim in Georgia?
Georgia has a 2-year wrongful death statute of limitations, which begins to run on the date of the death of the decedent (O.C.G.A § 9-3-33). However, depending on individual and unique circumstances, this deadline might be shortened or extended, which is why it’s important to consult with a wrongful death attorney near you as soon as possible.
What damages can be awarded for wrongful death?
State laws dictate which types of damages are awarded for wrongful death. Some states permit compensatory damages as a form of restitution and to compensate a family for the loss of a loved one, as well as compensation for any medical expenses and funeral expenses incurred.
Georgia’s statutes permit 3 categories of compensatory damages to be awarded.
- The first category under Georgia’s wrongful death statute is for the “full value of the life of the decedent, as shown by the evidence.”
- The second category is for the administrator or executor of the estate, who may seek damages relating to funeral, burial and other estate-related charges.
- The third category relates to a “survival” claim and includes medical expenses, pain and suffering of the decedent and other damages during the period between the injury and the death.
Interest may be added to the damages awarded, calculated back to the date of death.
Some states also allow punitive damages to be awarded in a wrongful death claim. Georgia’s wrongful death laws do not mention punitive damages, and therefore Georgia courts have strictly construed the statute to not permit any punitive damages to be awarded in a wrongful death claim.
With that said, Georgia courts have permitted punitive damages in a survival action where there has been an extreme indifference to the value of human life and where the tort action survives the death of the decedent under the Georgia survival statute.
Due to the complexity of the laws in regards to the types of damages for a wrongful death claim and a survival action, it is extremely important that a surviving spouse, child, parent or the executor of an estate that believes to have a wrongful death claim contact Scholle Law for counsel.
How are wrongful death damages distributed?
Damages awarded or settlement proceeds obtained in a wrongful death action or claim are distributed to the wrongful death beneficiaries, including (if applicable) a spouse, children, the parents of the decedent—or to the representative of the estate if none of those exist. Therefore, if there’s a surviving spouse who doesn’t have any surviving children with the decedent, then the damages shall be distributed exclusively to the spouse.
If the spouse and children both survive the decedent, the damages shall be distributed equally among them—provided that the spouse shall never receive less than a one-third share per Georgia statute.
If there is not a surviving spouse, the surviving children will share equally the damages proceeds—provided that the child is grown and an adult. If the surviving child is a minor, Georgia requires recovery of less than $15,000 to be held by the child’s natural guardian for the benefit of the child. If the recovery is $15,000 or more, it must be held by a guardian of the property of the child.
If there is not a surviving spouse or surviving children, the parents are next of kin and will share the damages proceeds (subject to paternity, maternity, support or adoption issues).
If there is no spouse, child or parent surviving the decedent, the recovered amount shall be recovered by the estate and distributed accordingly.
How does wrongful death differ from homicide?
Wrongful death is a civil claim brought by a person (administrator of the estate, for example) against a party on behalf of the person who died (legally known as the “decedent”). The party against whom a wrongful death action is brought could be another person, business entity or a government entity.
Wrongful death by another person is a type of homicide. “Homicide” is generally defined as the unlawful killing of a human being by another and therefore this includes criminal deaths such as vehicular homicide and wrongful death.
Criminal death is governed by a state’s criminal code. The criminal code of Georgia can be found in Title 16 (Crimes and Offenses) of the O.C.G.A. and includes murder (such as felony murder) and manslaughter (voluntary and involuntary).
There are several important differences between criminal death and wrongful death in the state of Georgia:
- Unlike criminal death prosecution, a district attorney’s office will not pursue a wrongful death claim on behalf of the decedent because wrongful death is a civil claim.
- Even if the district attorney’s office decides to not pursue a criminal action against an individual for a criminal death, a civil wrongful death action can be pursued by the wrongful death beneficiaries.
- If the district attorney’s office does pursue a criminal action against an individual, a civil wrongful death action may also be pursued, regardless of whether or not the defendant in the case was found guilty or not guilty. Moreover, issues of double jeopardy will not apply.
- 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 not be a “guilty” or “not guilty” verdict in a wrongful death action, but rather a “liable” or “not liable” action as it is a civil claim.
- There is no jail time or imprisonment for a wrongful death action in the state of Georgia, but rather money damages may be awarded if the responsible party (person, business or government entity) is found liable.
Contact Scholle Law to learn how we can help
As experienced Atlanta wrongful death attorneys, Scholle Law’s team has the skill, experience and compassion to handle all aspects of your wrongful death matter. 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.
Contact us to speak with a lawyer about your accident.We’re available 24/7 and your first consultation is free.
Call 866-972-5287 or send us a message online