As wrongful death lawyers, we know that nothing is more shattering than unexpectedly and abruptly losing a loved one because another driver was negligent or reckless. When a negligent or reckless driver gets behind the wheel, tragic wrongful death is likely to happen.
How is the term “wrongful death” legally defined? In Georgia, if someone dies in a crash because another driver was negligent, do the surviving family members have legal recourse?
Of course, no sum of money can make up for the tragic, sudden loss of a beloved family member in a traffic accident. Nevertheless, a wrongful death action can help surviving family members avoid any financial hardship that otherwise may arise after the unexpected loss of a loved one.
No one expects to be in a fatal traffic accident, but in 2017, more than 1,500 people were killed in accidents on Georgia’s streets and highways. You are about to learn what everyone needs to know regarding wrongful death, liability, and Georgia state law.
WHEN IS A DEATH CONSIDERED WRONGFUL?
When a reckless or negligent driver accidentally causes a fatality – even if the driver has no premeditation or intention to kill anyone – the fatality is considered a wrongful death.
The negligent or reckless driver can be held legally accountable when surviving family members seek monetary compensation in the civil courts with a wrongful death lawsuit.
While the criminal courts may impose fines and jail time, a wrongful death victim’s survivors can be compensated only through a wrongful death claim.
If you lose a loved one suddenly and accidentally, although it will be difficult in a time of grief, it will be imperative to have the counsel of a reliable and experienced Atlanta wrongful death attorney. The survivors of a wrongful death need top-quality, aggressive legal representation.
WHO MAY PURSUE A WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM?
Exactly which family members have the right to pursue a wrongful death claim? The specific rules governing wrongful death are different in every state. Who has the standing to file a wrongful death claim in Georgia?
If a wrongful death victim was married at the time of death, only the spouse may initiate a wrongful death lawsuit.
If a wrongful death victim was not married at the time of death, the right to take legal action falls to the victim’s children.
If a wrongful death victim had no children or spouse, the right to sue for wrongful death falls to the victim’s living parents.
If a wrongful death victim had no children, spouse, or living parents, the right to take legal action then falls to the administrator of the wrongful death victim’s estate.
Additionally, the law in Georgia provides that a surviving spouse will receive at least one-third of the damages awarded in a wrongful death case without regard to the number of children who must divide the remaining amount.
HOW DOES GEORGIA LAW DEFINE NEGLIGENCE IN THESE CASES?
Georgia defines “wrongful” deaths as deaths caused by another party’s reckless, negligent, or intentional acts. The law defines “negligence” in traffic collisions as a breach of the “duty of care” to drive with the reasonable care and caution that drivers owe to others on the road.
Georgia provides for two different types of claims subsequent to wrongful death. A wrongful death victim’s estate may seek to recover death-related losses such as final medical expenses, burial and funeral costs, and compensation for a victim’s pain and suffering before death.
WHAT CAN SURVIVORS EXPECT IN A WRONGFUL DEATH CASE?
But when surviving family members pursue a wrongful death claim, they may also seek compensation for the “intangible value” of their loved one’s life, including:
lost income and benefits, including the victim’s projected earning capacity
loss of companionship, consortium, and other “intangibles”
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO SUCCEED WITH A WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM?
Legally, a wrongful death claim is handled similarly to a personal injury claim. The plaintiffs – that is, the survivors pursuing the claim – must prove the same “elements” of the case that personal injury plaintiffs must prove in their cases:
- The defendant (the party purportedly at-fault for the wrongful death) had a “duty of care” to the wrongful death victim.
- That duty of care was breached by the defendant’s negligent or reckless behavior.
- The negligent or reckless behavior was a direct cause of the wrongful death.
- The family’s losses are quantifiable, and the defendant should pay the family that amount.
IS THERE A TIME LIMIT FOR FILING A WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM?
How much time do a wrongful death victim’s survivors have to launch a wrongful death case?
Georgia’s statute of limitations in most wrongful death cases is two years, but in several narrowly defined circumstances, the two-year period may be paused or “tolled.”
For example, if the negligent driver responsible for wrongful death is prosecuted for driving under the influence, the statute of limitations “clock” can be paused until the criminal prosecution is concluded.
Your grief may be overwhelming if you unexpectedly lose a person you love. You already know that money will not assuage your pain, but your family’s future after a family member’s wrongful death must be considered.
WHAT WILL IT COST SURVIVING FAMILY MEMBERS TO SEEK JUSTICE?
Families who have lost a loved one due to another person’s negligence or recklessness have every right in this state to file a wrongful death claim with the help of a reliable and qualified wrongful death lawyer.
What will it cost your family to seek justice? Georgia’s wrongful death attorneys provide surviving family members with a free, no-obligation first legal consultation, so it costs nothing to learn more about your family’s rights and how the law applies to your family’s own situation.
If you take legal action, you will pay no lawyer’s fee until your lawyer recovers compensation on your family’s behalf. By working on a contingency fee basis, wrongful death lawyers can help every family victimized by wrongful death seek the justice they need and deserve.
A skilled wrongful death lawyer can be sensitive to the emotions of surviving family members while simultaneously being aggressive on their behalf to obtain the compensation and justice they need and deserve.
It will be difficult to handle dealing with legal issues and emotional grief simultaneously, but you must let an experienced Atlanta wrongful death attorney advise and represent your family after a beloved family member’s wrongful death. Your loved ones have that right.