Losing a loved one such as a mother, father, wife, or husband is difficult under any circumstances, but when the death is the result of the negligent or wrongful conduct of another, it can be particularly devastating emotionally.
If you have lost a loved one due to the negligent or willful act of another person or entity, the Gwinnett wrongful death lawyers at The Herro Law Firm can help you pursue the maximum compensation you are entitled to under the law. Call our Gwinnett personal injury lawyers now at (404) 433-6876 for a free case evaluation.
Georgia’s Wrongful Death Act
Seeking compensation for the wrongful death of a loved one was not always a legal right in the United States. Prior to the mid-19th century, the law adopted from England asserted that claims for damages died with the afflicted individual. Thus, there were no legal grounds for filing a wrongful death claim because the surviving family couldn’t seek compensation.
Georgia later changed the law and added statutes establishing a clear cause of action. Georgia’s current Wrongful Death Act was passed about 100 years ago and has had some major addendums since then. Today, the Wrongful Death Act in Georgia is covered in the 5 code sections mentioned below:
- O.C.G.A. § 51-4-1: Covers definitions
- O.C.G.A. § 19-7-1: Recovery for the death of a child; parental power
- O.C.G.A. § 51-4-4: Death of a child
- O.C.G.A. § 51-4-5: Recovery by executor or administrator of the deceased
- O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2: Homicide of parent(s) or spouse; survival action
How Is Wrongful Death Defined in the State of Georgia?
Losing a loved one is always tragic, but it might not always fit Georgia’s definition of wrongful death. Under Georgia law, a wrongful death is defined as one that occurs because of a crime or some form of criminal or other negligence or from a defectively manufactured property.
Essentially, there are 2 categories of wrongful death under Georgia’s wrongful death laws:
Cases here involved criminal activity, such as vehicular manslaughter, murder, elder abuse, and similar types of criminal acts that result in a fatality. If the wrongful death is the result of a criminal offense, the party responsible may face criminal prosecution, but the only way for the victim to obtain financial compensation is through civil litigation.
Broadly speaking, Georgia’s wrongful death law defines wrongful death in such cases as a fatality resulting from the failure of an individual to exercise reasonable care.
Deaths caused by the wrongful or negligent conduct of another person or party can occur in a variety of ways. Some of the most common types of wrongful death cases include:
- Driving while under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol
- Motorcycle accidents
- Construction accidents
- Slips, trip, and fall accidents involving the elderly
- Trucking companies that don’t comply with the safety regulations
- Negligence by health care providers
- Medical malpractice such as misdiagnosis, medical injury, medication errors, or surgical errors
- Contaminated food or other sanitation issues in commercial establishments
- Nursing home abuse or neglect
- Pedestrian accident fatalities
- Faulty construction and engineering malpractice
- Improper or illegal serving of alcohol, such as continuing to serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated individual
- The use of defective or dangerous consumer products such as electronics, medical devices, drugs, and appliances.
If you believe that the death of your loved one was preventable and that the negligent actions of another person or entity caused or contributed to it, you should call The Herro Law Firm in Gwinnett, GA at (404) 433-6876. We can help you secure the compensation you and your family are entitled to under the law.
Who Is Qualified to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
In Georgia, only certain individuals have the legal right to file this type of lawsuit and there’s actually an order of priority when it comes to who can file. If there aren’t any surviving representatives at a higher level of priority, the responsibility falls to the next level down.
Here are the parties qualified to file a wrongful death claim in Georgia:
The surviving spouse also represents the best interests of any of the decedent’s minor children. However, surviving spouses will receive at least one-third of the recovered compensation, regardless of the number of minor children there are.
If there’s no surviving spouse, the decedent’s surviving children can pursue a case. If any compensation is recovered, it is divided equally among the surviving children. However, if less than $15,000 is recovered, it will be held by the child’s guardian for his/her benefit. If the recovery is more than $15,000, it is held by the guardian of the child’s property.
If the decedent didn’t have any surviving children or spouse, his or her parents have the right to pursue a case.
If there’s no surviving spouse, child, or parent, the administrator of the decedent’s estate has a right to pursue a wrongful death case. If the administrator is successful in recovering compensation, it is given to the decedent’s next of kin.
To find out whether you are entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you should schedule a free legal consultation with our experienced Gwinnett wrongful death lawyers at The Herro Law Firm. We can also help you determine what forms of compensation you may be entitled to.
What Types of Damages Can Be Recovered?
Many different expenses usually follow a loved one’s death that can be recovered as wrongful death damages. Damages are the injuries and property losses that you may be compensated for following a fatal accident.
The wrongful death lawyers at The Herro Law Firm in Gwinnett, GA can help you determine the value of your wrongful death claim. However, the damages that can be recovered are divided into two broad categories:
Economic damages are the financial costs incurred as a result of the death of your loved one. Such losses can be easily quantified in monetary terms. Costs incurred directly as a result of the accident that caused your loved one’s death are included in economic damages. Examples are:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Loss of the decedent’s current and future wages along with any inheritance that surviving family would have received
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are much harder to quantify in monetary terms. Examples include but aren’t limited to emotional harm suffered by the family as a result of losing their affection, support, intimate relationships, and counsel from the victim. It also includes pain and suffering brought on by the negligent or risky behavior of another person or party.
The determination of the types of damages that can be recovered and the value of your claim will depend on the specific facts of your case. Still, you can obtain more specific information about your situation by calling The Herro Law Firm in Gwinnett, GA at (404) 433-6876 to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced wrongful death lawyers.
Can the Surviving Family File for Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are a special type of damages that are designed to punish the defendant as opposed to compensating the victim. Georgia does not allow the surviving family to file for punitive damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.
However, Georgia courts sometimes award punitive damages in a survival action (also known as an estate claim). This is a type of case that is filed in connection with a wrongful death when the victim did not die immediately.
Our Gwinnett wrongful death lawyers at The Herro Law Firm can evaluate your case and determine if you can seek punitive damages in an estate claim.
How Is Negligence Proved in a Wrongful Death Case?
Proving negligence in a wrongful death case is not always straightforward, but it can be done with the help of our experienced Gwinnett wrongful death lawyers at The Herro Law Firm. To prove negligence, several criteria must be met:
- Duty of Care: The plaintiff (surviving family or estate administrator) must show the court that the defendant (negligent party) owed the decedent a duty of care, which means that they were obligated to keep the person secure.
- Breach of Duty of Care: The plaintiff must then demonstrate how the defendant breached or violated this duty of care.
- Causation: The plaintiff must then prove that the death resulted from the actions of the defendant and not some other cause.
- Damages: The defendant’s actions resulted in damages, such as death, funeral expenses, and loss of companionship.
Wrongful death lawyers have the skills and experience to prove the 4 elements of negligence above, fully value your claim, and make a strong case for compensation. A lawyer will also negotiate settlement offers and ensure that insurance companies don’t bully you into accepting an unfair resolution.
Hiring a wrongful death lawyer won’t guarantee success, but your chances of recovering the compensation you are rightfully entitled to are significantly improved if you have knowledgeable and experienced wrongful death lawyers representing you.
Call our team today at (404) 433-6876 to find out how we can help.
How Do You Start a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
To better understand how a wrongful death claim works in regard to your specific case, you should consider calling our law firm at (404) 433-6876 to schedule a free consultation where you will get the opportunity to ask our lawyers multiple questions.
In general, starting a wrongful death claim in Georgia may follow this procedure:
- Filing a notice of claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company or municipality if the local government may be liable for the death of your loved one.
- Calculating damages to determine the amount of compensation to pursue in the wrongful death claim and sending a demand letter to the appropriate party.
- The insurance company or municipality will in turn assess your demand and send a settlement offer based on who was at fault, policy terms, and whether they believe you are entitled to certain damages.
- Consulting your lawyer when considering the settlement offer made and determining whether it is fair. If it isn’t, your lawyer may reject the offer and initiate the negotiation process.
- If settlement negotiations fail, your lawyer may recommend filing a wrongful death lawsuit to continue your pursuit of compensation.
The process may take weeks or even months, but your lawyer can guide you through it all and update you on how your case is progressing.
What Is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and an Estate Claim?
Wrongful death claims in Georgia fall under two categories: wrongful death claims and estate claims.
Wrongful Death Action
A wrongful death claim is brought by the surviving family members of the deceased to seek compensation for the full value of their loved one’s life. This includes the loss of income since the deceased can no longer support the family financially, lost companionship, etc.
Estate claims are also known as survival actions. The estate claim is filed by the estate of the deceased to recover expenses such as burial and funeral costs as well as medical expenses related to the event that led to the decedent’s death. The estate may also seek damages for pain and suffering experienced by the deceased prior to death. In some cases, courts may award punitive damages in an estate claim.
To have a successful survival claim, it is important to prove that the person who died survived the accident even if only for a short time. So, not all wrongful death cases have grounds for making estate claims.
Call Our Gwinnett Wrongful Death Lawyers Today!
If you have lost a loved one due to the negligent actions of another person or party, the experienced wrongful death lawyers at The Herro Law Firm would like to hear from you today. We will fight for you and help you recover the compensation that you deserve.
Our dedicated wrongful death attorneys in Gwinnett, Georgia offer a free, no-obligation consultation and consultation and we never collect a fee from you until you are compensated. To learn more, and speak with a member of our team, call us today at (404) 433-6876.