Wrongful Death Claim: Can You get Punitive Damages?

Losing a family member or a loved one can take an enormous emotional toll on the family and have lifelong emotional consequences. In addition, it can lead to extreme financial hardship. However, laws in every state provide the means to ease that financial burden, especially when another person is responsible for the death of your loved one.

In addition, the law recognizes the right of the legal beneficiaries to file claims for economic and non-economic damages against anyone responsible. But are punitive damages awarded in a wrongful death claim?

This is one question most plaintiffs want an answer to. This article delves into punitive damages, explaining whether you can get it in a wrongful death claim. We also discuss who can legally commence this action under Georgia law.

If you have experienced a wrongful loss of a loved one, a Smyrna, GA, wrongful death lawyer can help you hold those responsible accountable and pursue damages. Contact us today.

How Do We Describe Punitive Damages?

In a wrongful death case, the surviving loved ones or family members may be awarded some damages. These damages compensate for some difficulties they have to face due to the victim’s death.

This compensation awarded is known as compensatory damages. You can get a settlement for economic and non-economic losses such as funeral expenses, medical bills, lost wages, loss of parental guidance where children are involved, etc.

However, in some wrongful death cases, punitive damages may be awarded in addition to compensatory damages. Punitive damages are monies the defendant is ordered to pay, especially if their actions were found reckless or there was malicious intent. Punitive damages are usually awarded to punish the defendant for wrongful actions and to discourage them and others from taking similar actions.

Can I Pursue Punitive Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim?

Yes. As a surviving member of a deceased person, you can get punitive damages in a wrongful death claim depending on the evidence gathered. However, you will need an experienced lawyer on your side to gather all the evidence needed to claim punitive damages.

In addition, the court or jury can award punitive damages to the surviving family or loved ones of the deceased, depending on the circumstances of the death. For example, punitive damages are awarded if the at-fault party knew their action could cause harm and still went ahead to do it.

How Are Punitive Damages Determined in a Wrongful Death Claim in Smyrna, GA?

The best possible method of determining if punitive damages should be awarded in a wrongful death case is to determine if the defendant acted with negligence. The next step is determining whether it was gross or ordinary negligence.

Gross negligence means the person at fault acted indifferent to others’ safety or showed a conscious disregard for life. On the other hand, ordinary negligence requires the defendant to have caused the death without reasonable care. However, it is completely up to the court to decide the amount of punitive damages awarded.

Some factors are usually considered before determining the amount of punitive damages.

  • The extent of the defendant’s negligence
  • The extent of the deceased family or loved ones’ struggles after the death
  • Whether a reasonable amount of punitive damages would prevent the defendant from acting recklessly again.

Also, punitive damage is hardly awarded, except if it can be proven with convincing evidence. Here are a few examples of wrongful death cases where you can get awarded punitive damages:

  • A drunk or reckless driver leading to a car accident
  • Wrongful death as a result of the caretaker’s negligence in a nursing home
  • Product liability cases due to the negligence of large corporations
  • Wrongful death cases as a result of doctors involved in medical malpractice

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Smyrna, GA? Smyrna, GA, Wrongful Death Lawyer Explains

A wrongful death claim is usually filed by beneficiaries or surviving family members of the deceased. However, it is not every surviving family member of the deceased that can initiate a wrongful death claim.

The list of persons entitled to commence this action in Smyrna, GA, is as follows:

  • The Deceased’s Parents: Parents who have a lost minor can file a wrongful death claim. Alternatively, parents have the right to sue if the victim is unmarried and has no children.
  • The Deceased’s Spouse: Surviving spouse of a deceased can claim lost companionship, loss of consortium, loss of household contribution, etc. Also, the spouse can file an action on behalf of the deceased’s children, especially minors.
  • Estate Representative: Where there are no spouses, adult children, or parents, an estate representative can commence the action. The money awarded in such a case goes to the victim’s estate or the surviving next-of-kin.

Going by the above, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, friends, and grandparents cannot commence a wrongful death action. Also, in cases where the deceased did not appoint an estate representative, the court will select one.

Furthermore, wrongful death claims are subject to the Georgia Statute of Limitations. Under this law, you must commence a wrongful death claim within two years of the incident.

If the defendant is a government entity, the Statute of Limitations will be shorter. In such an instance, you have to file a claim within six months of the incident. If the Statute of Limitations is not exceeded, you can decide to file a claim after the defendant is found not guilty by a criminal court. However, it is best to start the action earlier as the outcome of the criminal trial does not affect the wrongful death lawsuit, which is a civil suit.

Our Smyrna GA Wrongful Death Lawyers Will Help You Get Punitive Damages!

If you have lost anyone due to another person’s reckless action or negligence, you may be entitled to punitive damages. However, we understand that no amount of money can replace the presence of a loved one. But monetary compensation helps ease your financial burden, especially from medical bills.

Our legal team at Jamie Ballard Law is dedicated to helping people who have lost loved ones due to negligence or intentional or reckless actions. We understand that punitive damages are not always granted, but we are trained and experienced to help you get what you are entitled to under the law.

Also, we work on a contingency fee basis, so you do not have to worry about upfront fees. Therefore, if you are ready to get civil justice for your loved one’s death, you can contact us today for a free case evaluation with our injury lawyer Smyrna GA.