A wrongful death lawsuit is a lawsuit filed against an individual or entity that unlawfully caused a person’s death. Wrongful death lawsuits are unique under Georgia law, given the nature of the damages.
A wrongful death lawsuit can raise two different claims when your spouse or family member dies as a result of another’s negligent or wrongful actions. Although both claims seek to recover for losses associated with a person’s death, they are brought by different victims and involve different types of injuries.
“Estate claims” are brought by the estate of the deceased person and seek to recover the costs arising from the injury and death of that person. These costs typically include medical and funeral expenses.
Sometimes it’s more complicated, and the estate will ask for damages the deceased person suffered in the time between their injury and their death. In addition to proving the usual elements of a wrongful death claim, the estate has to prove the deceased person suffered from their injury before passing away. Even if a person dies only a few minutes after being injured, a jury can award their estate substantial damages for a few minutes of pain and suffering.
Traditional wrongful death claims are filed by a deceased person’s surviving family members. This can include spouses, children, parents, or whatever remaining family the victim has.
Wrongful death claims allow these grieving people to recover for the loss of the “full value of the life” of their deceased loved one. This includes future damages, such as any lost wages and benefits the deceased victim would have earned but for their premature death.
It also includes intangible damages, such as the loss of companionship, care, and protection. Wrongful death claims compensate the widowed spouse who will never be able to celebrate another wedding anniversary, or the surviving child who will never get to play catch with his father again.
Plaintiffs in wrongful death cases have to show that the defendants caused the death of the deceased person intentionally or through their negligence. Whether the case involves a botched surgery or a car accident, that means the surviving family member bringing the wrongful death claim must prove two important elements — 1) that the victim would not have died but for the defendant’s actions; and 2) the defendant caused the victim’s death either intentionally or by acting negligently.
It’s important to move fast in a wrongful death case, as courts in Georgia will dismiss any wrongful death claim that is brought over two years after the death. An attorney can help you navigate through the complicated procedures of a wrongful death lawsuit.
Given the prospective nature of the damages in a wrongful death case, an experienced lawyer can help frame your losses to a jury and maximize your claim. An attorney can also help you determine how to divide an award for damages between surviving family members in compliance with the law.
But besides experience, you need an attorney who will fight for your best interests and no one else’s. Wrongful death lawsuits usually involve a lot of money, but they’re also expensive and time-consuming for the attorneys handling them. Unfortunately, many attorneys use the temptation of a life-changing settlement check to pressure their clients into settling early with insurance companies. Sometimes, that check isn’t as big as it seems but could have been a lot bigger if the attorney investigated and built up the case before settling.
We don’t sell out our clients that way. In a wrongful death case, a smart and experienced attorney will know how much your case is worth and the risks involved in settling with the insurance company or taking the case to trial.
Given the complex nature of wrongful death claims, it is always best to consult with an experienced lawyer as soon as you can after the loss of a loved one. Wrongful death lawyers can help you determine whether you are the type of family member that can file a wrongful death claim, which can be complicated if there are several surviving family members.
Our firm has significant experience trying cases, and we work hard to come up with innovative trial strategies to help our clients. If you have lost a loved one to an avoidable death, you may have a wrongful death claim. Call our firm to speak with one of our experienced trial lawyers. The call is free and completely confidential. Call us now if you need help with a serious injury case in Georgia.
Call us now if you need help with a wrongful death case in Georgia. We have staffed law offices in Atlanta and Brunswick, Georgia, with a satellite office in Washington, D.C.