Losing a loved one, especially in a sudden fashion can be devastating. The pain can be unbearable if a family member passed away because of the reckless or negligent actions of another party. Thankfully, in Georgia, you can seek justice by filing a wrongful death claim. This allows surviving family members to get monetary compensation. While no amount of money can replace a loved one, compensation helps cover the financial hurdles that come with the unexpected death of a family member.
However, it is not advisable to take on the lawsuit alone. You should be able to grieve without the stress of handling the complex claims process. This is where the Smyrna wrongful death lawyers at Diaz & Gaeta come into the picture. We are experienced in this field and will work aggressively to seek the settlement you deserve. We will figure out the value of your claim and fight to ensure you get justice.
What Is Wrongful Death?
In the state of Georgia, wrongful death is defined as the death of an individual as a result of intentional, reckless, criminal, or negligent acts of another party (business or person). Negligence in this regard entails when a party fails to practice reasonable care when there’s a duty to do so. That’s why it’s mandatory to prove negligence in a wrongful death claim.
In Georgia, possible legal grounds for a wrongful death claim include:
- Defective products
- Pedestrian accident fatalities
- Criminal acts
- Improper or illegal alcohol service
- Nursing home neglect
- Driving under the influence
- Engineering malpractice and faulty construction.
Who Is Eligible for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
The law in the state of Georgia is specific to the parties that qualify to file a wrongful death claim. According to Georgia’s Wrongful Death Act, the loved ones of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim.
The first party allowed to file a wrongful death claim in the state is the spouse of the deceased. They are also allowed to represent the interest of their children in court if they had children with the deceased. It’s important to note that the spouse gets at least a third of the settlement money, regardless of the number of kids.
The children can file a claim if there is no surviving spouse, followed by the parents of the deceased if there is no surviving spouse or children of the deceased.
Lastly, the deceased’s estate representative can file a claim if the deceased left no surviving spouse, children, or parents. The estate holds the damages and utilizes them for the next of kin of the deceased if the wrongful death claim is successful.
What Types of Damages Can Be Recovered From a Wrongful Death Claim?
The deceased’s loved ones can recover the following types of damages:
Full Value of Life Damages
These types of damages are designed to put a monetary value on the life of the deceased. It is hard to determine the precise value and so, the jury panel assigns an amount that they consider fair. The full value of life damages can be divided into two:
This entails the earnings capacity of the deceased. It is easy to calculate the total if the deceased was a working individual. Economic value factors in how much time was left in the workforce, benefits, pension, as well as their salary.
However, it is difficult to calculate the total for a child, unemployed victim, stay-at-home parent, or senior citizen. Georgia believes in assigning value to the life of the individual. As such, the jury will handle each case differently to give the best possible compensation.
This factors in the fact the life of the victim was cut short. As such, they will miss the chance to lead a happy and meaningful life with their loved ones. Therefore, the jury awards the damages that they consider fair to the deceased’s loved ones.
Medical, Funeral, Burial, and Other Expenses
These damages are awarded to help the family members of the deceased handle the medical, funeral, burial, and associated expenses. In this regard, you should make a list of all the expenses and give it to your attorney as related damages tend to be broad. If you hire our team, we will be able to assess your list and know what you can recover through damages.
Can the Surviving Family Members File for Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages aren’t mentioned in Georgia’s Wrongful Death Act. As such, judges strictly interpret the law and don’t permit the award of punitive damages in wrongful death claims.
However, punitive damages are possible in an estate claim. In this type of claim, the estate seeks to recover expenses like funeral costs and the deceased’s medical bills. The estate can also pursue damages for pain and suffering by the deceased if he/she didn’t die immediately.
Even if the deceased only survived for a few seconds, it’s possible to seek punitive damages. Similar to personal injury cases, punitive damages in estate claims are awarded where the court decides the party at fault intended to harm the deceased or when they showed extreme disregard for others’ wellbeing.
Claims for punitive damages tend to be hard to prove and you will need a great attorney on your side. This is where the team at Diaz & Gaeta Law comes into the picture.
How Is Negligence Proven in a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
In order to get compensation for a wrongful death case in Georgia, you need to prove negligence. However, this is easier said than done, especially if you don’t have proper legal representation. Our Smyrna wrongful death lawyers know how to prove liability in these cases.
You need to prove the following aspects of negligence to have a valid wrongful death case:
Duty of Care
First and foremost, the liable party must have owed the deceased a duty of care. For example, a nursing home has a responsibility to properly care for residents, and all drivers have a responsibility to follow traffic laws.
Breach of Duty of Care
Second, you need to show that the other party breached the duty of care. Examples include a driver running a red light and a nursing home failing to give staff proper training.
Third, you need to present evidence showcasing the cause of death. You need to show that the death was a result of the reckless or negligent actions of the defendant. This means finding solid evidence.
Fourth, you can only receive compensation after showing that the deceased and their family suffered damages. In this regard, you should present evidence of unpaid medical bills, unexpected financial losses, funeral costs, etc.
How Do You Start a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
First and foremost, you need to make sure you’re within the statute of limits. In the state of Georgia, you have a 2-year limit from the death of your loved one to make a wrongful death claim. Past this period, the law does not allow you to seek any compensation.
There are exceptions, however, particularly when there’s an ongoing criminal case handling the same events as your case. This results in a time limit suspension until the criminal case concludes. Also, in cases where the deceased’s estate has not been probated, the time limit may be increased by 5 years.
Given the complications that come with these cases, hiring a Smyrna wrongful death lawyer is the best approach. They provide legal advice and tell you whether your case will hold up or not. In addition, they will thoroughly investigate the cause of your loved one’s death, and create a robust case that proves the defendant’s negligence in court. Also, they will ensure you adhere to the laws and follow the due process to avoid making mistakes.
What Is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim & an Estate Claim?
The surviving loved ones make a wrongful death claim in order to seek compensation for the value of their loved one’s life. On the other hand, the estate brings forth an estate claim to seek compensation for the monetary expenses associated with the death. An estate claim can also include punitive damages in some cases. The representative named in the will is required to bring the estate claim if the deceased had a will.
Contact Our Experienced Smyrna Wrongful Death Lawyers Today!
Accepting you have lost someone you love is not easy, especially if was due to the intentional or negligent actions of another party. It even feels worse knowing that they could have survived. An experienced attorney will assess your case and determine whether you have a solid wrongful death claim.
If you are entitled to file a wrongful death case in Georgia, it is advisable to work with a seasoned lawyer given the complexity of these cases. Schedule your free consultation with Diaz & Gaeta Law by calling 678-329-9084 today!