A Quick Guide to Wrongful Death Claims
Posted in Wrongful Death on May 9, 2017
After the unexpected death of a loved one, the greatest question on your mind might be why it happened. A life cut short opens the door to several important questions, many of which concern fault. If you have a feeling that someone is responsible for the passing away of a relative or spouse, ask an Atlanta wrongful death attorney about filing a claim in Georgia. A lawsuit may be the only way to receive just compensation for the negligence-related death of someone you love. Here’s what you need to know about wrongful death laws in Georgia.
What Counts As “Wrongful Death?”
Georgia Code Title 51 defines wrongful death as one that occurs due to the “negligent, reckless, criminal, or intentional” acts of another person or entity. Negligent acts are those that stem from failure to use reasonable care when the person has a duty to do so, resulting in harm to another individual. Example causes of wrongful death include car accidents, medical malpractice, defective products, or unsafe premises. In many ways, a wrongful death claim is similar to a personal injury claim. They both center on the same legal theory, yet a wrongful death claim can lead to awards for surviving family members instead of the deceased person.
Time Limits for Filing
There is a time limit that restricts how long you have to file a wrongful death claim with the civil courts of Georgia. The statute of limitations is two years from the date of your loved one’s death. There are exceptions for statutes of limitations in certain situations. For example, if the case also involves a criminal filing, the courts suspend the time limit on the wrongful death claim until the criminal case concludes. Ask an attorney about your particular case to find out if you’re within the deadline. Failure to file within the limit almost always results in the inability to bring a claim.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Parties allowed to file a wrongful death claim differ significantly across different states. In Georgia, the spouse or children of the deceased person can file such a claim. If no spouse or surviving children exist, the surviving parent(s) or a personal representative of the deceased person’s estate may bring the claim. If a personal representative brings the claim, it is on behalf of the deceased person’s next of kin. A surviving spouse must represent the interests of any children in court. A spouse cannot receive less than one-third of the total recovery amount in a case, no matter how many children exist between the couple.
Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim
Damages in wrongful death claims in Georgia are unique in that they recognize two separate and distinct types of claims: one to establish the value of the life of the deceased, and the other to remedy the financial losses the family suffered related to the person’s death. Damages for the decedent include medical expenses related to the deceased person’s illness or injury, pain and suffering endured before death, and funeral and burial expenses. The courts may also award the plaintiff damages for:
- The decedent’s lost wages and benefits, including what he/she reasonably might have earned in the future.
- Loss of the decedent’s love, care, and companionship (“loss of consortium”).
- Loss of the decedent’s knowledge, support, counsel, and guidance, especially to minor children.
- Loss of inheritance.
- The value of services the decedent likely would have provided.
- Punitive damages. If the defendant is guilty of gross negligence, the courts may award additional punitive damages to account for particularly harmful conduct.
There is no way to estimate the value of your claim accurately without speaking to a personal injury lawyer in Atlanta, as each case differs greatly depending on the circumstances of the death and the types of losses.