The ripples that a loved one’s death sends through your life and the lives of those around you are far-reaching and long-lasting. You need time to grieve, and you shouldn’t have added stress while you do it. However, if someone else was responsible, you should also be able to collect compensation for your loved one’s accident.
The Doraville wrongful death lawyers at John Foy & Associates will be able to walk you through every step of your claim and make sure your case gets the attention it deserves. We know how devastating a loss like this can be, so we will handle your claim with care and make sure you aren’t overwhelmed by legal difficulties.
What Counts As Wrongful Death?
Accidents happen every day, and unfortunately, those accidents sometimes result in death. What counts as wrongful death, though, and when is someone’s death grounds for legal action?
Georgia law defines wrongful death as a death caused by criminal, reckless, or negligent action, either intentional or unintentional. Usually, wrongful death claims are based on negligence, which is similar to other personal injury cases. For that type of claim, three things must be true:
- The at-fault party owed the decedent a duty of care, which is the basic standard that any reasonable person should meet in their treatment of others. If a driver is on the road, they owe a duty to other drivers. If a doctor is on the clock, they owe a duty to their patients.
- The at-fault party breached that duty of care. In wrongful death cases, this is what constitutes negligence. Just proving negligence isn’t enough, though.
- The other party’s negligence caused damages, either economic (financial costs) or non-economic (tolls on your quality of life and that of the decedent before their passing).
To prove that those three points are all true, your attorney will gather evidence, including your medical bills and other expenses, to show how the at-fault party wronged your loved one and why you deserve to be compensated.
Some people sometimes get wrongful death cases and murder or manslaughter cases confused. If someone has been charged with murder, manslaughter, or another criminal charge, you can still pursue a wrongful death claim. That’s because wrongful death cases are civil, which is totally separate from criminal charges.
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Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Georgia?
In some states, a deceased person’s estate is trusted to a designated administrator or executor who has to file the wrongful death claim. That isn’t the case in Georgia, though. Because there can be separate wrongful death claims and estate claims, the person who files the wrongful death claim does not have to be a designated estate executor.
Instead, the responsibility of bringing forward a wrongful death claim follows a line of succession through the decedent’s family, according to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) § 51-4-2. In order, the parties who can sue for wrongful death in Georgia are:
- The spouse of the decedent
- If there is no surviving, willing spouse, the children of the decedent
- If there is no surviving spouse or child, the parents of the decedent
- If there is no surviving family, the executor of the decedent’s estate
Sometimes, family members can’t agree on what to do or who gets to file the claim. It’s best for all parties if beneficiaries can agree. If there is major disagreement, compensation could end up being less than it would if everyone worked together.
Family members who aren’t sure if they can file a claim or whether it’s worth it can talk to one of our Doraville wrongful death lawyers for free. Someone from our firm can assess your situation and tell you what your options are, as well as how much you might be able to recover.
How Is a Wrongful Death Settlement Split Up?
A major question that many families have after a wrongful death is who actually receives the settlement. Unlike inheritance, the deceased person’s will usually does not specify who receives money in a wrongful death case. Instead Georgia law specifies who receives what, depending on what family members are living:
- If there is a living spouse but no children, the spouse receives all the compensation
- If there is a living spouse and children, the spouse receives one third of the compensation and any surviving children split the rest
- If there is no living spouse or children, but there are living parents, the parents split the compensation
- If there is no living spouse, child, or parent, the next-of-kin of the decedent will receive the compensation, divided up by the estate
A lawyer will be able to help your family understand who is to file the claim and how the compensation from your settlement will be paid out.
Talk to a Wrongful Death Attorney in Doraville for Free
A loved one’s death can be a burden on your entire family. While you grieve and figure out important arrangements, an attorney can help handle the legal details of getting compensation for your family member’s accident.
The Doraville wrongful death lawyers at John Foy & Associates know what is needed to handle your case with the care it calls for. For a free consultation with an attorney, call us or contact us online. We’re available to talk to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.