Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyers
Losing a loved one is painful, and it is even harder to cope when their death was preventable. If the negligent conduct of others causes a fatality, those left behind may have legal rights to help compensate for the loss.
While a family is in mourning, the last thing they want to think about is a lawsuit. And no amount of money will be able to replace the one who passed. But often an untimely death results in extra expenses that can put unnecessary strain on a grieving family. For that reason, it may be helpful to consult an Atlanta wrongful death lawyer with experience in these types of cases.
With discretion and tact, a knowledgeable wrongful death lawyer could evaluate your situation, advise you of your legal rights, and help you move forward so you could focus on the needs of your family.
What is a Wrongful Death?
When an individual’s death is due to the action of another, whether deliberate, negligent, or careless, it is a wrongful death. For example, deaths resulting from a car accident caused by a drunk driver would be a wrongful death.
Who Can Recover According to Atlanta Statutes?
Atlanta enacted legislation allowing family members to recover compensation for the wrongful death of a loved one. These statutes are set forth in Title 51, Chapter 4 of the code. Under the law, the surviving spouse or, if there is no spouse, a child or children may file a wrongful death suit. This would include children born outside of marriage.
Where there is neither spouse nor children, a parent may recover. Failing that, a personal representative may file a wrongful death suit.
Types of Situations That Can Lead to Recovery
Many different circumstances can cause an individual to suffer an untimely death that gives family members grounds to file a wrongful death action. If an individual dies due to the intentional criminal act of another such as a homicide, that clearly gives rise to not only a criminal case but possibly a civil lawsuit. For example, if there were prior similar crimes, the property owner could be found negligent if it failed to provide adequate security or take steps to deter similar criminal activity.
In many instances, however, the wrongdoing that leads to a wrongful death claim is not deliberate but rather due to negligence on the part of another. Medical malpractice, defective products, faulty construction, driving while distracted or intoxicated, nursing home neglect or abuse, dangerous medical devices, and improperly prescribed or administered medications are all circumstances that may result in suits.
What Are Recoverable Damages in a Wrongful Death Action?
Title 51, Chapter 4 Section 2 of the code specifies that the surviving family may recover “the full value of the life of the decedent, as shown by the evidence.” Courts often interpret this to include:
- Loss of the decedent’s future wages
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of the inheritance for children
- Loss of retirement and other employment benefits
- Emotional distress
- Compensation for pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
On occasion, courts may also award punitive damages to discourage future wrongdoing.
Damages in Wrongful Death Actions
The most common causes of wrongful death in Atlanta are motor vehicle or truck accidents, followed by premises liability. Premises liability can cover on-the-job accidents, explosions at a plant or factory, criminal actors on a premises, or failures of premises owners to provide a safe environment.
However, there is a wide variety of causes of wrongful death. Anytime there is a death that results from the negligence of an individual or a company, a loved one could file a claim. With the help of an established wrongful death attorney, there may be a basis for someone to obtain damages in Atlanta wrongful death actions.
What are Wrongful Death Damages?
Wrongful death cases are broken down into liability, causation, and damages. Damages in Atlanta wrongful death actions include economic losses such as lost wages, medical expenses, and funeral expenses. Damages also include non-economic losses which often far exceed the economic damages.
Non-economic damages are losses a person cannot necessarily put a price tag on such as pain and suffering, loss of experiences, and loss of consortium. Damages are comprised of a variety of general categories, but a lawyer must analyze each case closely to determine what the specific damages exist in a case and more importantly and what damages give the case the most value in front of the jury.
Parties that Can Recover Damages
A spouse who survives the decedent will usually bring the wrongful death claim. The spouse has the authority to file and pursue the wrongful death claim, but if the decedent has children, they must share the proceeds of the claim. However, in any scenario, the spouse is guaranteed at least a third of the settlement.
If there is no surviving spouse, but there are surviving children, then the children hold the claim. If there is no surviving spouse or surviving children, the parents of the decedent can pursue the claim or a representative of the estate can be appointed to pursue the wrongful death claim.
Defining Possible Economic Damages in Atlanta Wrongful Death Actions
The role economic damages play in a wrongful death action is very case-specific and the estate may not choose to pursue them. In a wrongful death claim, the individual generally does not have significant medical expenses. Further, if the decedent did not have a steady job when living, the case would also not have significant future lost wages, which is another key component of economic losses. However, if the individual incurred significant medical expenses prior to death and/or had a steady pattern of wages to establish the lost wages because of their death, a lawyer could present those economic damages to the jury as a loss of actual economic earnings. It is case specific and a person does not need to have economic damages for a wrongful death to have tremendous value.
Can Someone Seek Damages for their Grief?
Grief factors into non-economic recoverable damages in Atlanta wrongful death actions. The jury must analyze these aspects from the perspective of the decedent. While their loved ones may experience significant grief because of their loss, that is not the compensable injury. If the decedent experienced some grief, shock, or conscious pain and suffering, that is compensable. However, the potential value and how an attorney will present it to a jury is case-specific.
Damages and Compensation for Loss
The jury must also analyze loss of love and affection in a wrongful death case from the perspective of the decedent. Attorneys will discuss the significant value of the decedent’s loss of the ability to love and have affection for their spouse or children with the jury. Attorneys will seek significant monetary awards for those aspects of life that are important to people but that they may take for granted such as being there for their child, seeing their child graduate, or having grandchildren. However, a surviving loved one, other than a spouse, is not able to pursue a compensable claim due to the loss of the love and affection they suffered.
Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium is the more general term used to define the claim a surviving spouse may bring that focuses on their losses. It does not focus on the fact that they lost someone who was earning a certain sum of money but rather on the more intangible elements of the loss. They lost their partner, an individual who helped around the house, helped raise the kids, and who they relied on for love and affection and they may be able to recover damages that reflect those losses.
In the State of Georgia, a wrongful death is the death of an individual as a result of the negligent, reckless, or criminal acts of another person or entity. A compassionate wrongful death attorney can be an ally to the decedent’s family. Once your claim has been presented, a compassionate wrongful death attorney can help you prepare for calculating damages following an Atlanta wrongful death case.
They will be available to answer any questions or to speak with them about their grief or anguish. A compassionate attorney is a counselor who not only pursues the case, but understands the sorrow and seeks to provide comfort and strength.
Wrongful Death Defined
The term wrongful death is a legal term that describes a case brought against a person or entity for negligent acts that caused a death. For there to be a civil case arising from a death, the claimant must be able to prove the at-fault person or entity acted in some wrongful manner. It could be that they acted in a negligent manner or failed to meet another standard that may apply. For example, a professional negligence case is when someone failed to act in accordance with the standard of care applicable to their profession.
Analyzing Loss of Income and Companionship
The factors juries consider when calculating damages following an Atlanta wrongful death case are both the economic and noneconomic losses. Economic losses include lost wages and medical expenses. Noneconomic losses include the loss of years of life and the experiences associated therewith.
An economist will consider many factors when analyzing the loss of income. Many people do not realize that income beyond simple wages are also a part of the lost income calculations. This can include such as bonuses and fringe benefits. The loss of companionship is a complex loss to calculate. It also is not a loss that arises in every case as it is not a compensable loss per se. The Wrongful Death Law in Georgia awards damages to the surviving family or representative for losses the decedent suffered. However, a surviving spouse can seek to recover for loss of consortium.
How is Evidence Gathered in a Wrongful Death Case?
Oftentimes, calculating damages following an Atlanta wrongful death case requires gathering relevant evidence. The distinction between personal injury case evidence is that in a wrongful death case, the individual who potentially had the most information is no longer alive. The gathering of information in a wrongful death case is accomplished through a much broader investigation to cope with the inability of the victim to provide a first-hand account of what happened.
Atlanta Wrongful Death Case Process
The Atlanta wrongful death case process varies based on the facts of the case. Some aspects of the investigation are standard across different types of wrongful death cases. For example, an experienced wrongful death lawyer will immediately send a Letter of Representation to the potential defendant advising them to preserve all evidence and to disclose all insurance policies.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Actions?
The statute of limitations for a wrongful death action in the State of Georgia is two years from the date of death. There are provisions that could extend this limit in certain circumstances.
For example, the time limit may be extended in a premises case if someone committed a crime that resulted in a death or it could be extended in a motor vehicle case if there are criminal charges pending related to the incident. The safest course of action is to file a claim within two years of the date of death.
Common Duration of a Wrongful Death Case
An Atlanta wrongful death case process typically begins with a Letter of Representation from the lawyer to the potential at-fault person or entity. It is best to involve a wrongful death attorney at the earliest possible opportunity so they can begin preserving evidence, investigating, and speaking with potential witnesses. The investigation process begins well before lawyers file a lawsuit and the earlier a person speaks with a lawyer, the earlier they can begin the process.
The length of time it takes to complete a wrongful death case varies tremendously. There are wrongful death cases with clear liability but with limited insurance coverage and inadequate economic resources. These cases would typically be resolved within a matter of months. There are other wrongful death cases the lawyers will have to litigate which can take years.
Investigation Process for Unjust Loss
Other actions are more specific to the case. For example, a case involving a death in a tractor-trailer wreck may require the retention of an expert to inspect the scene and analyze the information to be able to prove the negligence of the defendant.
Difference from a Premises Liability Case
In a premises liability case, an initial step may be to retain an expert to inspect the premises and analyze the situation. However, a premises case involving negligent security would be investigated a bit differently, the lawyer will inspect the crime grid to analyze the level of crime on those premises. The process is going to vary from case-to-case as to what steps are specifically necessary, but the general process is to capture all the available information as it relates to what happened at the earliest possible opportunity.
What is the Value of Compassion?
Compassion is invaluable in dealing with the Atlanta wrongful death case process. The best wrongful death attorneys take immense pride in being counselors, not just lawyers, and are empathetic towards those experiencing the incredible grief following the loss of a loved one.
Compassionate attorneys understand anyone pursuing a wrongful death suit is dealing with more than just the legal repercussions of their loss, they are also coping with the associated emotional and psychological trauma.
Compassion is also invaluable when speaking to the jurors in these types of case. Most jurors want to help the family and are looking for the lawyers to explain how they can help. What defense lawyers and insurance companies fail to appreciate is the importance of compassion. An attorney must be able to demonstrate true compassion for the family of the decedent so that a jury can likewise feel that and act upon it.
Speak to an Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyers About a Claim
An attorney can help you begin calculating damages following an Atlanta wrongful death case to propose in court. Once you have an understanding of what a jury is likely to do and the risks and benefits of trying the case, they can analyze what a potential appropriate settlement value may be in the event that the defendant or the defendant’s insurance company is willing to settle prior to a trial. It is best to speak with an attorney who is familiar with wrongful death cases as these cases are very complex and knowledge of how to handle them only comes with experience.
The loss of a spouse, parent or child has a tremendous impact on a family emotionally, physically, and economically. While you focus on grieving, consider allowing an experienced legal professional to take on the financial concerns. An Atlanta wrongful death lawyer who is familiar with court rulings, procedures, and settlements could help you take the necessary steps to protect your family’s financial future. A lawyer could work tirelessly to recover any compensation to which you may be entitled. Contact an attorney now to learn how they could help.