Grief can be a devastating process. It is even worse when your loved one is taken away because of someone else’s carelessness. The grieving process in wrongful death can be frustrating, and it is even harder to move on because you know it was not their time yet.
Unfortunately, the world does not stop when you grieve. You still have to manage your expenses and pay your household bills through it all. The law in Georgia allows you to file a wrongful death claim if you lose your loved one due to other people’s negligence. This will enable you to seek financial compensation and hold the responsible party accountable.
Have you recently lost a loved one in a wrongful death incident? Do you have questions about how to fight back and file a wrongful death lawsuit? A Smyrna wrongful death lawyer at Jamie Ballard Law can help.
We know it can be challenging to handle wrongful death claims. We are knowledgeable about the law and complexities of the legal process, so we will guide you through the whole process.
How Does the Law Define Wrongful Death in Georgia?
The Georgia Wrongful Death Act has been around for over 100 years, and it has had multiple add-ons through the years. This law is defined under the Wrongful Death Act (Ga. Code § 51-4-1). Here are the viable legal grounds to file a wrongful death claim in Georgia:
- Improper or illegal alcohol service. For instance, if a bartender keeps serving alcohol to any individual who is visibly intoxicated.
- Pedestrian accident fatalities
- Contaminated food and other sanitation issues in a commercial establishment
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Nursing home neglect or abuse
- Engineering malpractice and faulty construction
- Defective products
- Medical malpractice such as medical injury, misdiagnosis, medication errors, and surgical errors.
- Criminal actions such as intentional homicide
Who Qualifies to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
A wrongful death case is when you lose your loved one due to someone else’s negligence. Unfortunately, multiple families in Georgia have lost their loved ones due to someone else’s criminal actions, carelessness, recklessness, and neglect.
A living family member can file a wrongful death lawsuit on the deceased victim’s behalf. Since the deceased cannot go to court and file their claim as they would in a personal injury case, it makes sense for their family to file the claim. Here is how Georgia law identifies who can qualify to file a wrongful death claim:
- The deceased’s spouse: The deceased’s spouse is the first person who should file for a wrongful death lawsuit. They can also file the claim on behalf of their children under 18.
- Child or children of the decedent: The surviving child or children of the deceased can file the claim if there is no surviving spouse.
- The decedent’s parents: If the decent has no surviving children or spouse, any surviving parent can file the wrongful death claim.
- The deceased’s estate administrator: The designated executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate can file for a wrongful death claim. The damages they recover from the claim will go to the heirs of the deceased.
Have you recently lost a loved one to wrongful death but are unsure whether or not you can file a wrongful death claim? Our Smyrna wrongful death lawyer at Jamie Ballard Law can help. We will offer you the necessary legal counsel to hold the offender accountable for the death of your loved one.
What Type of Damages Are Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
The financial and emotional repercussions after the untimely death of your loved one can be devastating. Besides the financial losses such as burial and funeral costs and the medical costs, the surviving family members will have lost their loved one’s emotional and financial support and income.
Luckily, the wrongful death statutes allow the surviving family members to file a wrongful death claim. You can recover two categories of damages from the wrongful death lawsuit, namely non-economic (emotional or intangible losses) and economic (calculable financial losses).
Non-economic damages include:
- Loss of moral support, comfort, affection, and companionship
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of the decedent’s care, guidance, or protection
- Other intangible/emotional benefits the surviving family members would have received from the decedent
Economic damages include:
- Compensation for household services the deceased would have provided for their family
- Loss of benefits or gifts the surviving family members would have gotten from the decedent
- Medical expenses the family covered
- Lost expected income
Can Surviving Family File for Punitive Damages?
A family member can file for punitive damages. However, they cannot do this directly.
Per the law in Georgia, a surviving family member- including the decedent’s beneficiaries and spouse- cannot file for punitive damages. You can only recover punitive damages in Georgia in a wrongful death case through the estate.
Punitive damages are paid to the deceased’s estate on behalf of the surviving heirs of the estate. They are often meant to punish the offender. A DUI motorcycle crash is an example where punitive damages can be available.
How Is Negligence Proved in a Wrongful Death Case?
A significant number of fatal accidents in Georgia are caused by negligence. Sadly, it can be challenging to prove wrongful death in Georgia without help from a professional lawyer. Here are the four elements of proof of negligence you need to have on your day in court in Georgia:
- Duty of care: This means one is legally required to offer reasonable care, ensuring another person’s safety. Therefore, you must present proof that shows the defendant owed the decedent duty of care.
- Breach: You must demonstrate to the court how the defendant breached the duty of care through specific inaction or action where a reasonable person would have acted appropriately.
- Causation: You must show how the defendant’s action directly caused the deceased’s death.
- Damages: You must prove the defendant’s violation of the duty of care caused the loss of life.
Georgia’s Modified Comparative Negligence Law:
According to the modified comparative negligence law, the deceased’s family cannot be compensated if determined that the deceased was more or equally responsible for the accident.
In addition, if different parties are held responsible for the accident, the court can bar you from receiving compensation if the deceased’s negligence is more than the combined percentage of all defendants. You can only recover compensation for damages in the wrongful death of your loved one if their fault is less than 50%.
Do not worry that your case may not hold ground because your loved one contributed to the accident. Let our Smyrna wrongful death lawyer help. We work to reduce their percentage for the blame of the accident, so you receive your rightful compensation.
How Do You File a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
Filing a wrongful death claim can be a challenging position to be in as you will be grieving but also need to seek justice. Here is how to file a wrongful death claim:
If you lose your loved one and believe it is because of someone else’s negligence, it is essential to get the facts right, including the parties potentially responsible. You have to collect and examine vital proof that shows the defendant’s negligence caused your loved one’s death.
Negotiations & Settling
It is not uncommon for the accused party to offer you an out-of-court settlement. You can file a wrongful death lawsuit when you decline the offer. However, if you think the compensation is fair and reasonable, you can accept it as you are not guaranteed to win the case.
Prepare a Pleading/Petition
You need to file a petition to form an initial complaint. The petition should name the potentially responsible party and components of the wrongful death claim based on legal facts and precedent. The petition has to be filed according to the Georgia rules.
Summons and Service of Process
A summons specifies when and where the legal proceedings will take place and informs the accused of the wrongful death lawsuit. Once investigations are done, and the party at fault is identified, your attorney notifies them about your lawsuit against them.
The service of process is a notice that lets the defendant know about the lawsuit and informs them of their summons.
There are three stages under litigation, namely pre-trial, trial, and arbitration. You can still negotiate during litigation, and if you do not reach an agreement, the case will have its day in court. Should you go to trial, the judge and jury issue the final verdict determining the settlement you will be awarded, if any.
The above-listed steps may appear straightforward, but they are not. It would be best to tackle these outlined steps with our professional Smyrna wrongful death lawyer. Doing so ensures we protect your rights from the start to the end of the claim process.
What Is the Time Limit or Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims in Georgia?
When you lose a family member, the last thing on your mind is getting involved in a legal battle. At Jamie Ballard Law, we have skilled wrongful death lawyers who can guide you through this process. We understand it’s a hard time for your family, so we will ensure the legal process is as flawless as possible.
While grief can be a complex process, you must remember there are stringent deadlines to filing a wrongful death claim. The statute of limitation to file a wrongful death claim in Georgia is two years (O.C.G.A § 9-3-33). However, this period can vary – and possibly be shorter – depending on the unique circumstances and facts surrounding your case.
Georgia courts may ban you from recovering any compensation if you do not file your wrongful death claim within the specified period. If you lose a loved one in wrongful death, make time to talk to our Smyrna wrongful death lawyer to start the legal process so you get your rightful compensation.
What Is The Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and an Estate Claim?
The decedent’s family members can file two legal claims in the Georgia law courts in a wrongful death case. The first claim the family can file is the ‘wrongful death claim,’ and the second claim is an ‘estate claim.’
A wrongful death claim is a claim involving “the full value of the deceased’s life.” In simpler terms, this claim considers what the decedent’s life meant from their point of view. Essentially, a wrongful death claim seeks compensation for both the intangible and tangible value of the deceased’s life.
On the other hand, in an estate claim, the surviving family (through the executor or estate representative of the deceased) can recover punitive damages. They can also recover compensation for the deceased’s losses before death, including funeral expenses, pain and suffering, and medical bills.
Starting a legal battle while grieving the ill-timed death of your loved one can be challenging and frustrating. In addition, the wrongful death claims in Georgia tend to be complex, making the process even more difficult and stressful.
However, you do not have to navigate the complex process of a wrongful death claim by yourself. Our Smyrna wrongful death lawyer at Jamie Ballard Law is well-versed in the legal process of estate claims and wrongful death claims in Georgia. Call us 571-331-2381 and let us help you with your case.
Smyrna Wrongful Death Lawyer – Fighting Back!
Losing a loved one can be pretty painful. This period is even more complicated when you have to cover accrued medical bills and burial or funeral expenses when you have little to no money. If you solely depend on the decedent, you may worry about how you will meet your needs. Luckily, you can recover these damages through a wrongful death lawsuit.
Jamie Ballard of Jamie Ballard Law in Smyrna has years of experience helping families file wrongful death lawsuits. She is well-versed with the complexities and Georgia law and is ready to help you get compensation.
We know that money cannot make up for your loved one’s lost life. However, it can help you cover the expenses resulting from the accident, and it may make moving on easier.
Call 571-331-2381 today to schedule a free consultation with our skilled Smyrna wrongful death lawyer.