Dealing with the death of a loved one can be very tragic, it’s all of our worst nightmares that don’t want to come true. Especially if the loved has died due to wrongful death. An Atlanta wrongful death lawyer at Calvin Smith Law has the skills to help you through the devastation of losing your loved one and help you get the justice you deserve.
Our personal injury lawyers in Atlanta are dedicated to serving all of our clients and delivering the best service possible. We want you to feel like family. Contact Calvin Smith Law today and schedule a free consultation.
Table of Contents
What is Wrongful Death?
Each state has its own regulations and definition as to what can be considered a wrongful death. In the state of Georgia, it’s defined as the death of an individual caused by reckless, negligent, criminal, or intentional action of another party or entity. An entity, in this case, refers to a hospital, business or employer.
For the death to be categorized as wrongful, negligence will need to be proven first. More often than not, negligence happens when the duty to deliver reasonable care is not taken into account, and injury is caused to somebody as a result.
A majority of families are usually conflicted with the idea of taking legal action after they have lost their loved one since the value cannot be estimated; however, a wrongful death claim takes the position of a personal injury claim. If the said individual were to survive the accident, S/he would file for a liability claim against the negligent entity or party and would have been capable of pursuing compensation for covering their associated expenses. A claim for wrongful death gives the rest of the family a chance to file on behalf of their loved one so that any expenditure is cleared and the assailant held accountably.
Several accidents can lead to the loss of life all over the state of Atlanta. Regardless of the situation, if the death of your loved one could have been avoided, you can opt for a legal recourse with the assistance of a wrongful death attorney.
In Atlanta, auto accidents top the list. Most of the causes are attributed to irresponsible drivers who may possibly be driving while intoxicated with alcohol or any controlled substance, disobeying basic traffic regulations, speeding or distracted by their phones. Consumer products and vehicles can result in fatalities when manufacturers make defective products.
When an institution such as a hospital or nursing facility is negligent, the patients and residents living there are put at risk. Nursing homes could be having abusive care providers who may cause elderly harm. At the same time, a negligent practitioner could perform an act of medical malpractice that ends up claiming a life. But regardless of the circumstances surrounding the passing of your family member, we at Calvin Smith Law firm have the experience required to move your legal case forward.
The Two Categories of Wrongful Death Claims: Wrongful Death Action and Survival Action
A wrongful death claim basically consists of two different claims: a wrongful death action and a survival action.
The survival action entails getting compensated for the damages the deceased incurred until their death. The damages in question may entail suffering and conscious pain, medical expenses until the time of death, and lost wages resulting from injury until death. Because the deceased individual incurred the damages of a survival action, the estate will be paid those damages. To follow a survival action successfully, you must be able to prove that the deceased person was able to survive the event in question that resulted in their death to experience suffering and pain. So not every wrongful death claim has grounds for a survival action.
The wrongful death action entails seeking compensation for damages the deceased individual’s loved ones have incurred as a result of their death. The damages in question may include the pain and suffering of losing a loved one, funeral expenses, and economic damages, which relate to the fact that the deceased won’t be able to provide for their family financially. According to Georgia statutes, the people entitled to compensation under a wrongful death lawsuit are specifically set out.
Those damages are for the deceased individual’s surviving children and spouse, and in the event, there’s no spouse or children in the picture, then those damages go to the immediate next of kin like siblings and parents. For instance, parents can seek compensation for the wrongful death of their child if they weren’t married or has own kids, and a child is entitled to recovery for the wrongful death of their parent(s).
Causes of a Wrongful Death
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the ‘decedent’ is the victim, while the ‘tortfeasor’ is the wrongdoer. You may be entitled to a wrongful death claim if the cause of death lies under the following categories:
Negligent actions are avoidable or preventable accidents that would otherwise not occur if the tortfeasor were acting reasonably.
Intentional wrongful actions are typically violent and criminal in nature. In this case, the criminal act will be prosecuted by the state, which is totally separate from the Georgia wrongful death civil action.
What Are Some Types of Wrongful Death Cases?
These are the most severe cases of personal injury and can arise from various accidents. To handle this sort of case accordingly, it will require a high level of skill and knowledge in personal injury law.
Our Calvin Smith Law firm has dealt with several cases entailing:
- Automobile accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Fire liability
- Premises liability
- Nursing home negligence
- Animal Bites
Georgia’s Wrongful Death Act
Pursuing civil claims pertaining to the wrongful death of a loved one has not always been a right in this country. Before the mid 19th century, common law adopted from England stated that any claim for damages died with the party inflicted. So, only living people could file civil suits against perpetrators that have caused the injury. And since the claims of the injured party didn’t pull through their death, there, in turn, were no grounds for filing a wrongful death act favoring the surviving loved ones in Georgia or the rest of the states.
Like many other states, Georgia proceeded to change that outdated common law rule by incorporating statutes establishing an apparent cause of action. Georgia’s current Wrongful Death Act was first passed over 100 years ago, and the version has been subject to several major amendments over the years. As of today, the latest Georgia Wrongful Death Act version is coded in the 5 code sections below:
O.C.G.A. § 51-4-1 “Definitions”
O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2 “Homicide of spouse or parent; survival of action”
O.C.G.A. § 51-4-4 “Homicide of a child”
O.C.G.A. § 51-4-5 “Recovery by administrator or executor of the decedent”
O.C.G.A. § 19-7-1 “Parental power; recovery for the homicide of child”
What Are Some of the Most Common Types of Atlanta Wrongful Deaths?
In the city of Atlanta and the rest of America, Traffic accidents are the leading cause of wrongful death lawsuits and include:
More prevalent wrongful death causes also include:
- Medical malpractice
- Workplace accidents
- Products liability cases
- Medical device or prescription use
- Criminal acts, including violence and murder
- Private transportation accidents, including:
- Airline crashes
- Boat accidents, including drownings
- Shuttle crashes
- Tour bus crashes
- Public transportation sources, which include MARTA operated: Buses, School Buses, and Trains
What to do After the Wrongful Death of a Loved One
When a loved one is lost in a fatal accident, it’s essential to keep in mind four steps:
Step 1: An investigation into the incident should happen as soon as possible. Even if a homicide investigation is conducted, the scene of the crime should still be assessed by the proper professionals.
These days, cameras are virtually everywhere. They can be found at most intersections, nearby buildings, and even dashboard cameras found in most commercial vehicles and cars today.
Step 2: Review of possible witness interviews. In any wrongful death lawsuit, witness statements are crucial, which necessitates the need to interview them after a fatal accident. Memories usually tend to fade faster, so this should be conducted ASAP while the info is still fresh in mind.
It is also essential to keep updated witness information, considering that some people may decide to move, change the phone number, or address. Some wrongful death claims have taken years to resolve either on trial or through a settlement. Preserving the contact info and statements of those witnesses is critical.
Step 3: Recover any important evidence that could be lost or destroyed. Vital pieces of evidence might range from the deceased person’s clothing to the car involved in the collision. Law enforcement will have to keep the proof and impound the vehicles for a while, but could easily be discarded when the vehicle is being impounded.
Step 4: Open an estate. Wrongful death claims need a personal representative appointed to deal with all the decedent’s claims. The person in question here is often a family member like a surviving parent or spouse.
Deal with a wrongful death claim matters first then start handling the opening of an estate after. To fit you in the schedule of estate lawyer can cost you valuable time, and evidence required for your claim may be gone. Generally, opening an estate is not considered a pressing issue.
Who is Entitled to Recover for the Loss of a Loved One?
As per Georgia statutes, the victim’s spouse is entitled to filing a wrongful death claim. In the event there’s no spouse, the children of the decedent have the right to compensation. And if there are no children or a spouse, the decedent estate’s administrator has grounds to file a wrongful death claim.
Per Georgia law, if a spouse files a claim and there’s no existing Will, they will be required to distribute the proceeds gotten from the wrongful death lawsuit with the children. However, Georgia statutes guarantee that then the spouse will get a third of all damages for wrongful death. If a minor child is involved, the right to seek compensation is vested on the legal guardian or parent until S/he is of age (typically 18 years of age).
Why Should I Hire an Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyer?
If you decide to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Atlanta by yourself, especially if it’s a municipality or corporation, it can be extremely complex and take a toll on the family during an already difficult and very emotional time.
Our Atlanta attorneys will take the point in every segment of your wrongful death lawsuit which includes:
- Being in Liaison with the offending entity or party and their lawyers;
- Communicating with insurance service providers and their reps;
- Investigate your claim to deliver expert testimony that will hugely benefit the case;
- Use a direct accounting approach to uncover your losses;
- Cut through the red tape and bureaucracy involved in civil suits and advocate on behalf of your family.
What Are the Advantages of Pursuing An Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Our Calvin Smith Law wrongful death lawyers know that pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit will not be enough to bring back your loved one. But a successful wrongful death lawsuit can make sure that you get the financial compensation you need to move on with your life. If the loved one lost is the head of the household, ascertaining the financial stability of your family is essential. Your wrongful death suit can also result in meaningful change, which will prevent similar dangerous acts of negligence from escalating and harming somebody else.
What Happens in an Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Whenever a prospective client visits us after suffering the loss of a loved one, the first thing we do is determining whether the suit is viable. For the claim to be deemed feasible, the other entity, like a doctor, driver, must have been intentional or negligent, which resulted in death.
Our Atlanta lawyers will have to prove that the individual/entity being sued (defendant) owed the deceased party a responsibility to prevent her or him from harm and that it was violated. This is the only way of proving negligence.
For example, doctors are mandated to offer their patients with certain care levels. If the level of care provided by the doctor is below standard (i.e., S/he failed to issue a standard diagnostic test) and the patient in question dies as a result, the doctor could be liable.
After that, our attorneys will have to prove that this breach of duty directly resulted in death. This may see us employ the services of medical experts to showcase the link between the patient’s death and the doctor’s negligence. And last, we will have to prove that the remaining family members suffered an injury resulting from the death of their loved one. Some of these damages may include non-financial and financial losses, as detailed below.
If you suspect that your loved one was a victim of wrongful death, our Calvin Smith Law attorneys may be capable of assisting you in suing the entity or person who is responsible for the loss. After determining liability and obtaining the needed evidence for your loss, we’ll work with economic pros to help in determining the extent of losses incurred.
If the defendant disagrees with a settlement offer, we will employ the services of specialists, witnesses, and investigators to stand on trial. At Calvin Smith Law office in Atlanta, our lawyers take pride in being attorneys who aren’t hesitant about going to trial to ensure our clients are appropriately compensated.
Wrongful Death Damages
In an Atlanta wrongful death case, the victim’s survivors may be entitled to seek recovery for funeral expenses, medical bills, and other punitive damages incurred. Punitive damages become available if the offending party breaks the law during the wrongful death action, and the punishment gets severe for certain egregious behavior.
Other damages that may be available in a wrongful death case include:
- Suffering and pain for the deceased estate
- Recovery for the suffering of the deceased before his or her death.
- Future work wages loss
- Relationship compensation loss for a parent, spouse, or child
- Work and retirement benefits loss
As per Georgia statutes, there are a select few people you are eligible to pursue a wrongful death case. Under Georgia laws, only the following family members have a right to seek compensation for the death of their loved one:
- The spouse of the victim
- In the event that there’s no spouse, the deceased children
- The deceased parents (in the event there is no spouse or children)
- The deceased estate’s administrator (if there are no living parents, children or spouse)
The law also says that if there’s no Will and the spouse receives compensation, there are required to share the reward with the children. If there are minors, the award will be put under the legal guardian’s or parent’s name until they turn 18 years old.
To talk with us more about your prospective claim, please fill out your information to get a free, non-obligatory case review form.
Georgia’s Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
This refers to the given time during which a legal claim can be filed. If the stipulated time elapses, if your case isn’t settled or lawsuit not filed and served to the appropriate parties before that date, it becomes a total bar to any compensation. In Georgia, the statute of limitations is two years for wrongful death cases. The statute starts running from the date of death.