Losing a loved one suddenly is always a tragic experience. What can make this experience even worse is the knowledge that the death could have been prevented. In Georgia, the Wrongful Death Act allows certain family members of the deceased to get financial compensation for the loss of their loved one due to the negligent or intentional actions of someone else.
While no amount of money can bring your loved one back, compensation can help you get back on your feet and provide financial support for your family. An experienced Milledgeville wrongful death lawyer from The Herro Law Firm will help you navigate the complicated legal process and fight for your interests.
How Is Wrongful Death Defined in the State of Georgia?
Georgia passed the Wrongful Death Act more than a century ago and significant changes have been made to the law over the years. In simple terms, wrongful death is defined as the death of an individual due to the reckless, criminal, negligent, or careless actions of another.
The wrongful death act allows certain family members to file a civil claim to seek monetary damages against the individual or entity that caused the death of their loved one.
While a wrongful death may happen for any reason, here are a few common examples:
- Car accidents
- Defective products
- Dog attacks
- Slip and fall accidents
- Truck accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Pedestrian accidents
- Nursing home abuse
- Engineering malpractice
- Illegal or improper alcohol service
Who Is Qualified to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
Georgia does not allow anyone to file a wrongful death claim. For instance, a close friend of the deceased cannot bring a wrongful death claim. All the wrongful death claims in Georgia must be filed by one of the following.
The surviving spouse has the first right to file a wrongful death claim. 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.
If the deceased 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 deceased’s estate has a right to pursue a wrongful death case. If the administrator is successful in recovering compensation, it is given to the deceased’s heirs.
What Types of Damages Are Recoverable?
The types of damages that can be recovered in a wrongful death claim may be broadly divided into economic and noneconomic damages.
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 deceased’s current and future wages
- Loss of inheritance
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are much harder to put a value on. Examples include:
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of support and guidance
- Loss of intimate relationship with a spouse
Can the Surviving Family File for Punitive Damages?
Georgia law does not allow surviving family members to file a claim for punitive damages directly. Having said that, the estate of the deceased can sometimes recover punitive damages after a wrongful death. Georgia courts have granted punitive damages in estate claims where the victim did not die immediately and experienced pain and suffering.
If all of this sounds complicated, don’t worry. Our wrongful death attorneys in Milledgeville are here to help with your case.
How Is Negligence Proved in a Wrongful Death Case in Georgia?
The loss of a loved one alone isn’t enough to prove a wrongful death claim. It is important for you to get the assistance of an experienced Milledgeville wrongful death lawyer at Herro Law to uphold your rights.
There are four main elements that need to be proved for a successful wrongful death claim.
Evidence needs to be shown to prove that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased. For instance, in case of a motor vehicle accident, the law states that everyone has to take reasonable care for the safety of others on the road while driving.
Breach of Duty
Evidence needs to be shown to prove that the defendant breached or violated their duty of care either through their negligent or intentional action. In the example of a car accident, drunk driving would be a breach of the duty of care.
Causation means that the actions or inaction of the defendant caused the death. Simply put, it needs to be proven that the deceased person died because of the negligent or wrongful act of the defendant.
You must prove that your family has suffered “damages” in the form of economic and/or non-economic losses. Examples include medical bills, funeral expenses, and the loss of the companionship of your loved one.
Modified Comparative Negligence in Georgia
It’s important to be aware that Georgia has a modified comparative negligence law. In simple terms, the surviving family members of the decedent may not recover any financial damages if it is proven that the deceased was 50% responsible or more for the accident that led to their death.
How Do You Start a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
The first thing you need to know is that there are strict deadlines for filing such a claim. The statute of limitations in Georgia establishes a two-year deadline for filing a wrongful death case. There are exceptions but, in most cases, if the claim isn’t filed within two years of the death, the family is barred from recovering compensation.
Here is the process of filing a wrongful death claim in Georgia:
Building Your Case
After your lawyer determines that there is sufficient cause to file a wrongful death claim, the lawyer will gather evidence against the party at-fault to support your claim. You should work with an experienced lawyer to file your claim and obtain the maximum compensation for your losses.
Negotiating a Settlement
Most wrongful death cases are settled out of court. Your attorney will negotiate with the insurance company or the defendant’s lawyer for a fair settlement. Having an experienced attorney represent you will make all the difference in whether or not the offer you receive is a satisfactory amount.
If the negotiations are not successful, your lawyer will prepare the case for trial. The team at The Herro Law Firm is well experienced at arguing wrongful death cases in court and will fight for the maximum compensation you’re entitled to under the law.
What Is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and an Estate Claim in Georgia?
After a wrongful death in Georgia, there are two related legal claims that can be filed.
The wrongful death claim is filed by the surviving family members to seek compensation for the full value of the life of the deceased. The value of the life of the deceased includes both economic contributions like the income the deceased would have earned and intangible things like companionship, emotional support, etc.
The estate claim is filed through the executor or estate representative to recover financial compensation for losses related to the death like medical bills and funeral expenses. If the deceased lived even for a short time after a fatal accident, the estate can also seek compensation for the deceased’s pain and suffering and punitive damages.
If all this seems complicated, it is. You shouldn’t have to deal with all these complications on your own. Give us a call at (404) 433-6876 and let the experienced wrongful death attorneys at The Herro Law Firm assist you in every way with your case.
Contact Our Milledgeville Wrongful Death Lawyers!
If you have suddenly lost a loved one in an accident, the last thing on your mind might be filing a wrongful death claim. However, life goes on and you need to worry about funeral expenses as well as current and future expenses. If you are concerned about how you’re going to make ends meet or what will happen to your children, the Georgia wrongful death act gives you the means to recover compensation.
However, the laws are extremely complicated and the defendants will try their very best to get you to agree to the lowest possible amount or they may even completely deny any financial recovery.
Our knowledgeable team of attorneys at The Herro Law Firm has a lot of experience handling wrongful death cases. Give our Milledgeville law firm a call at (404) 433-6876 to schedule a free and confidential consultation today.