A wrongful death lawsuit is what the estate or relatives of a deceased person bring against the person whose negligence caused their death. It is also brought when an intentional act leads to the demise of the victim. Wrongful death claims allow the estate or family of the deceased to get monetary compensation for their loss. This article examines how a wrongful death lawsuit works in Georgia.
When Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Applicable?
A wrongful death claim arises in a situation where the victim would have had a good personal injury action. It means that had the victim survived, the person would have successfully claimed damages against the defendant.
Different situations would give rise to a wrongful death lawsuit. They include:
When the Defendant Kills the Victim Intentionally
Most criminal cases involving the death of a person from another’s intentional act fall under this category. Outside the criminal trial the defendant would face, the victim’s family can commence a civil action against the fault party.
In cases like this, a decision of guilt at the criminal court would result in a win for the plaintiffs at the civil court. If the defendant is acquitted of the charges, then the wrongful death lawsuit would likely fail.
When the Victim Dies from Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice is a legal cause of action that involves a medical practitioner, healthcare provider, or medical device manufacturer. It occurs when a physician, through a negligent act or omission, deviates from the standard of care. This deviation must have caused the injury that led to the death of the victim.
Medical malpractice examples are wrong treatment, wrong diagnosis, bad aftercare management, or poor medical device manufacturing. It wouldn’t be medical negligence if an underlying condition outside the doctor’s recklessness caused the patient’s death.
It would also not be negligence if the victim failed to follow a treatment plan adequately and died. If the ailment or condition is not treatable, the patient’s family cannot succeed in a wrongful death lawsuit. This is why it is vital to consult a medical malpractice attorney. They will let you know if your claim qualifies as medical negligence.
Motor Vehicle Accidents Resulting in Fatalities
Most wrongful death lawsuits are from motor vehicle accidents. Vehicle crashes often result in injuries that victims either survive or die from. However, note that, like in medical negligence cases, crash injuries must be the direct cause of death.
If the defense can prove that any other factor outside the accident injuries caused the victim’s death, the claim would fail. Also, if there is evidence that the deceased is the fault party in the accident, the claim will not succeed. Speak to a car accident lawyer to determine the strength and weakness of your wrongful death lawsuit.
What You Must Prove to Win a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Unlike criminal trials where the prosecution must establish guilt beyond any reasonable doubt, he who asserts must prove in civil lawsuits. Thus, to win a wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia, you must show each of the following:
- Duty: The plaintiff must show that the defendant owed the deceased a duty of care. Care in this instance is what a “Reasonable person” under the same circumstances would do. It usually involves refraining from causing harm to another person.
- Breach of Duty: After establishing the duty of care, the next thing is to show the duty’s breach. It means that the defendant acted contrary to what is required and caused harm to the plaintiff. Drivers who drive impaired are said to be in breach of their duty of care.
- Causation: The next thing is proving that the defendant’s actions led to the injuries that caused the victim’s death. As mentioned earlier, there must be a link between the injury caused by the defendant and the victim’s death.
- Damages: The last thing to prove in a wrongful death action is that the defendant’s action caused damages to the victim. If the plaintiff can’t prove the victim incurred losses before their death, the jury may not grant them compensation. Note that the damages must be tangible, receipts of medical bills, funeral expenses, etc., would serve as proof.
If the plaintiff succeeds in proving the above, they will be entitled to financial compensation. It would cover economic damages and non-economic damages. If there’s evidence of gross negligence, the court will award punitive damages.
Contact Calvin Smith Law for More Info on Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Losing a loved one is a traumatic experience, and most people don’t find closure until they get justice. At Calvin Smith Law, we can help you with both. Contact us today for a free case review and all the information you need on wrongful death lawsuits.