The sudden death of a loved one is one of the most devastating and traumatizing things that can happen. The emotional distress that follows can be unbearable, particularly if they passed away due to recklessness or negligent behavior of another party. If you have lost a family member due to another person or entity’s negligence, you are eligible for compensation in Georgia.
However, proving negligence in a wrongful death claim is no easy feat and the case becomes trickier given your emotional state. This is where a reliable Atlanta wrongful death lawyer comes in handy. We know that no amount of money can replace your family member, but we will work to protect your rights and seek justice. Jamie Ballard Law aggressively fights for clients in personal injury cases, you can be certain that you’re in the right hands. Call 571-331-2381 today for a free consultation!
What Is Wrongful Death in Georgia?
In the state of Georgia, wrongful death is defined as the death of an individual resulting from the negligent, reckless, criminal, or intentional acts of another party. Negligence must be proven in a wrongful death claim and in this regard refers to failure to practice reasonable care when there’s a responsibility to do so.
There are several potential grounds for a wrongful death claim in the state including:
- Medical malpractice
- Defective products
- Criminal actions
- Engineering malpractice and faulty construction
- Driving under the influence
- Nursing home neglect or abuse
Who Is Eligible for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
The Wrongful Death Act in Georgia sets specific rules for who can file a claim. The law establishes that the family of the dead individual can file a wrongful death claim, and the first to do so should be the spouse.
In addition, if the spouse and the deceased had children, he or she can represent the interest of the kids in court. The spouse receives 1/3 or more of the settlement amount, no matter the number of children.
The surviving parents of the deceased can also file a claim if there’s no spouse or children left. The estate representative of the wrongful death victim can also file a claim. The estate holds the damages and utilizes them for the benefit of the next of kin if the claim is successful.
What Types of Damages Can You Recover?
In a wrongful death claim in Georgia, the loved ones of the deceased can recover two types of damages:
Full Value of Life Damages
This type attempts to put a monetary value on the life of the deceased. As you may have guessed, it is particularly hard to assign the precise value and so, the jury usually determines an amount that they consider fair. There are two forms of full value damages: economic value and non-economic value.
This represents the earning capacity of the dead individual. These damages are easy to calculate, especially if the person was a working adult. Economic value factors in how much time they had before retirement, salary, benefits, and pension.
However, it can be hard to calculate the amount for an unemployed person, senior citizen, stay-at-home parent, or a child. The state believes in assigning a value to a person’s life and so, they will handle each case differently to ascertain fair compensation.
This takes into account that the victim’s life was cut short. The individual will miss the chance to have a meaningful and happy life with their loved ones. Here, the jury awards an amount that they consider is fair to the loved ones of the deceased.
Medical, Funeral & Related Costs
These are awarded to help the family of the victim cover the mentioned expenses. As such, it is important to make a list of your expenses and give it to your lawyer as the related damages are often broad. Your attorney will then assess the list and determine what you can recover through damages.
Can the Surviving Family Members Claim Punitive Damages?
In Georgia, the surviving family cannot claim punitive damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. However, the court may award punitive damages in an estate claim in cases where the victim experienced pain and suffering before dying. This type of claim is filed by the estate administrator, and the compensation goes to the family members.
Punitive damages are designed to punish the party at fault for grossly negligent or reckless actions. As such, they are not meant to reimburse the loved ones of the dead for losses. That’s why it is rare for civil courts in Georgia to award punitive damages.
You can seek punitive damages in an estate claim if the responsible party was extremely reckless or took the life of their loved one intentionally (murder case, homicide, and manslaughter being good examples).
An Atlanta wrongful death lawyer at Jamie Ballard Law will help you pursue punitive damages by establishing that the party at fault was grossly negligent, intentional, or malicious in the actions that led to the death of your spouse or family member.
How Is Negligence Proven in a Wrongful Death Claim in Atlanta, GA?
In order to win a wrongful death case, you need to prove negligence. Unfortunately, it can be hard to do so, especially if you don’t have the right legal representative. Our team is ready to help prove negligence by focusing on the following elements:
Duty of Care
This means the at-fault party had a legal responsibility to ensure your loved one’s safety. For example, all drivers have a responsibility to protect others on the road by obeying traffic laws.
Breach of Duty of Care
Second, you need to show that they violated or breached that duty of care. In this case, you need to present evidence showing that they acted in a way that endangered others.
Next, you’re expected to present evidence showing the cause of death. You must show that the death was a result of the reckless or negligent actions of the defendant. Our team will be tasked with finding the right evidence to convince the judge.
You are only eligible to receive damages if you can prove that the deceased suffered these damages. The judge will see no reason to award damages if you cannot present adequate proof. In this regard, you need to present evidence of unpaid medical bills, funeral expenses, and unforeseen financial losses.
How Do You Start a Wrongful Death Claim in Atlanta, GA?
In order to file a wrongful death claim in Georgia, you need to be within the statute of limitations. In GA, you have 2 years from the date of death to file a claim. If you miss this deadline, then you will have no legal grounds to make a claim and the court will dismiss it.
However, there are exceptions whereby this deadline can be extended. An example is where a criminal case is ongoing in a court that’s dealing with the same events as the claim. As such, the 2-year time limit will be extended until the criminal case is done.
Also, in cases where a dead individual’s estate isn’t probated, the time limit may be extended by 5 years, totaling to a 7-year statute of limitations
It is wise to hire an experienced Atlanta wrongful death lawyer to help you with the claim. They will be able to advise on what will hold or won’t hold up in court. In addition, they will investigate the death in order to establish what occurred.
Keep in mind that if you’re not allowed to file a wrongful death claim in GA, your case won’t be heard. As such, make sure you’re qualified to file a claim under the Wrongful Death Act.
Wrongful Death Claim Vs. Estate Claim: What Is the Difference?
In a death claim, the family members step into the shoes of the deceased and demand compensation for the full value of their life. This means that the judge will be tasked with determining what the individual’s life meant from the perspective of the deceased. Parties with the right to file a wrongful death claim start from the spouse, followed by the children, and then parents. If the deceased has no living spouse, children, or parents, the task is handed over to the representative of the deceased estate.
In a wrongful death claim, monetary damages like lost wages, work-related benefits, pension, etc. are awarded. Intangible benefits like loss of consortium, companionship, love, and the like are also compensated.
In an estate claim, the family members are allowed to seek settlement for the pain and suffering of the victim, unpaid medical bills, funeral expenses, and the like. If the dead left a will, the appointed administrator should bring the estate claim to court. If they didn’t leave a will, the state’s laws of intestacy will take over to determine who should make the claim.
Hire an Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyer Today!
If a loved one dies because of negligent, reckless, intentional, or criminal acts of another party, you should seek monetary damages by making a claim. In such situations, it is best to seek ideal legal representation to increase your chances of compensation. Jamie Ballard Law firm is here to help Atlanta, Georgia residents seek the justice they deserve so call us today at 571-331-2381 to learn more about your legal options.