Accidents happen all too often, ranging from minor fender-bender car accidents to instances of slipping and tripping and more.
It is rare that an accident is so severe that it results in death, but it does–tragically–happen.
When an accident occurs that takes the life of an individual, surviving loved ones are left dealing with emotions of shock and grief, anger and misunderstanding – How could this happen? – they may ask.
While nothing can undo the tragedy that has occurred, filing a wrongful death claim can, at the very least, offer some financial compensation to surviving loved ones and beneficiaries who have suffered both economically and non-economically as a result of the death.
If your loved one has been killed in an accident caused by another’s fault in Georgia, wrongful death lawyers at the Pritchard Injury Firm want to meet with you.
Schedule your free consultation today to learn how we can help.
What Is Considered Wrongful Death?
While all deaths that are caused by unexpected accidents can be shocking and tragic, not all accident-related deaths warrant a wrongful death claim.
To be sure, in Georgia, a party has a civil action for wrongful death when the death of an individual is caused by the negligent, reckless, intentional, or criminal acts of another party.
Types of Wrongful Death Claims
Whenever the death of a party is caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another, a wrongful death action may be appropriate.
This means that a variety of different accident types may end up resulting in a wrongful death claim.
At the office of Prichard Injury Law, our wrongful death practice areas include:
- Motor vehicle accidents;
- Motorcycle accidents;
- Bicycle accidents;
- Pedestrian accidents;
- Truck and commercial vehicle accidents;
- Slip and fall accidents;
- Dangerous premises accidents;
- Medical malpractice; and
- Defective product accidents.
These are only some of the wrongful death practice areas that the attorneys at Pritchard Injury Firm can handle. If your loved one has been killed in an accident type that you don’t see listed above, please call our Georgia wrongful death lawyer directly to learn more about whether or not you have a case.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Only certain family members or the personal representative of the decedent’s estate may file a wrongful death claim. The ability to file a wrongful death claim goes first to a surviving spouse of the deceased.
If the surviving spouse and the deceased had minor children, the surviving spouse must bring the claim on behalf of the children as well as on their own behalf. Regardless of children, the surviving spouse is always entitled to at least one third of the total recoverable amount.
If there is no surviving spouse, the right to bring a wrongful death claim goes to any surviving adult children. If there is no surviving spouse and no surviving adult children, the surviving parent(s) of the deceased may file. The personal representative of the decedent’s estate may also bring a claim if there is no surviving spouse or children.
How to Go About a Wrongful Death Claim
If you think that you have a wrongful death claim, there are a number of things that you need to do as early on in the process as possible.
Some steps to take when going about a wrongful death claim include:
- Get the decedent’s affairs and legal documents,
such as a will, in order. This is necessary for a couple of reasons, including:
- The deceased person cannot bring the suit themselves – the personal representative (typically named in a will) will need to file the action;
- Compensation will be recovered on behalf of the deceased person’s estate and then distributed to beneficiaries.
- Start putting together evidence of wrongful death. This includes medical reports, photos of the accident, eyewitnesses’ statements, and any other evidence you have. You should also document monetary losses that have resulted from the death, such as medical expenses, funeral and burial expenses, lost wages, etc. You may consider asking for an autopsy to help prove wrongful death in some cases as well.
- Hire a lawyer – your lawyer can provide more insight regarding the specifics of your case and what you need to do to improve your chances of a successful suit. You should hire an attorney as soon as possible.
These are just a few of the steps you should take when considering a wrongful death claim.
What Do I Need to Prove?
There are four elements of a wrongful death suit that you must prove in order to be successful. These include:
- Duty of care. The first thing that you must prove is that the party against whom you are filing a suit owed your loved one a duty of care. In many cases, the duty of care is implied.
- Breach of duty of care. You must prove that the defendant breached the duty of care owed to your loved one via a negligent, reckless, intentional, or criminal act.
- Causation. Perhaps most importantly, you must prove that the death would not have occurred but for the negligence of the defendant.
- Damages. Finally, you must prove that the deceased person’s estate and beneficiaries suffered actual losses as a result of the death.
The state of Georgia recognizes two separate types of wrongful death claims: one to compensate surviving family members, and one to compensate the decedent’s estate. Through both types of claims, you can recover for both economic and noneconomic losses.
In a claim brought by or on behalf of surviving family members of the deceased, damages are a reflection of the “full value” of the deceased person’s life. Economic damages include things like the wages that the deceased would have earned had they lived. Noneconomic damages for surviving family member claims include the monetary value of the deceased’s care and companionship to surviving relatives.
A relative or representative of the deceased person’s estate can also bring a wrongful death claim on the estate’s behalf. Damages for such claims attempt to restore monetary value that the estate lost as a result of the wrongful death.
For example, paying medical expenses associated with the wrongful death decreases the value of the decedent’s estate. This means that beneficiaries of the estate will receive less money or property. A representative or beneficiary can sue to recover this lost value. This type of claim also includes noneconomic damages for things like pain and suffering endured by the deceased before death.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Claim?
Surviving family members and personal representatives of the deceased must file a wrongful death claim within two years of the date of death. In some situations, the clock for the two-year time limit may pause, allowing a relative or representative to file a claim more than two years after the death occurs.
The clock that starts running on the date of death can pause for up to five years while the administrators of the decedent’s estate value and distribute the estate and pay any of the decedent’s debts. This process is called probate, and if the decedent had high value assets, it can take a long time. Once the administrator has probated the estate, the two-year timer for the wrongful death claim will start to run again.
If there is a criminal case in progress regarding the events of the accident that caused the wrongful death, the clock will also pause until the criminal case concludes. If you are thinking of filing a wrongful death claim, you should speak to a Georgia wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible to avoid missing the filing deadline.
How a Georgia Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help
Losing a loved one is an incredibly difficult thing to suffer. As you grieve and think about your future, working with a lawyer can take a load off of your plate.
When you hire an attorney, your attorney will be responsible for managing all of the elements of your wrongful death claim, including investigating your case, proving fault and causation, calculating damages, filing all wrongful death paperwork, negotiating your claim with an insurer, identifying beneficiaries and the representative of the estate, and filing a lawsuit in court if necessary.
Your attorney will also be available to answer any questions you have throughout the process and help you recover the maximum compensation amount possible.
Call Our Georgia Wrongful Death Lawyers Today
To learn more about filing a wrongful death claim in Georgia and when such a claim is possible, please contact a wrongful death attorney, Georgia, from Pritchard Injury Firm today.
Pritchard Injury Firm also helps families of victims with wrongful death claims in Bartow County, Cobb County, Cherokee County, and throughout the great state of Georgia.
We know how devastated that you may feel and want to help you recover the compensation award that you and your family deserve. Reach us today online or by phone to get started – we offer consultations free of charge.