Losing a loved one or family member is incredibly difficult and painful. However, when the negligent actions of another person cause that loss, the emotional toll can be even more devastating. In these cases, it’s important to remember you and your family may have legal recourse through a wrongful death claim.
Our law firm has over 20 years of experience helping accident victims and their families. We’ve obtained over $1 billion in compensation for our clients. We work on a contingency fee basis, so there is no fee unless we win the case. Call or contact a Macon personal injury lawyer online to learn your rights during a free consultation.
What Counts As a Wrongful Death in Georgia?
A wrongful death occurs when a person dies due to another party’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct. According to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) § 51-4-1, wrongful death claims seek to recover the “full value of the life” of the deceased, thus considering what the victim would have earned and experienced if they’d lived.
When a wrongful death occurs, the surviving family members may be entitled to compensation for their losses. If you believe someone else’s negligence caused your loved one’s death, seek professional legal guidance. We represented many wrongful death cases during our practice, so we will easily identify the best path to pursue damages.
Common wrongful death cases include:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Boating accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Construction accidents
- Workplace accidents
- Defective products
- Violent criminal acts
These claims are considered civil cases. They request compensation from the person whose negligence caused the death. Georgia’s wrongful death laws are complex, and it is helpful to seek the advice of an experienced wrongful death attorney.
A legal professional will help guide the family through the legal process, ensure all requirements are met, and work to obtain the wrongful death compensation the client deserves. In addition, having legal representation ensures your rights are protected throughout the proceedings.
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Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
Georgia law is clear about who can bring a wrongful death claim. Under O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2, the following people, in order, could bring a case:
- A surviving spouse
- A child or children
- Parents or guardians
- A representative for the deceased’s estate
The surviving spouse is entitled to bring a claim first. Then, the deceased’s child or children may file if there is no surviving spouse. Finally, if there are no surviving children or spouses, the deceased’s parents can exercise their rights to recover.
An estate representative could take action if none survived to recover damages. A spouse can also bring a claim on behalf of surviving children. However, the spouse must receive at least one-third of the total recovery.
How Much Can the Settlement Be Worth?
Wrongful death claims are significant because the award largely depends on the full value of your loved one’s life and other details. “Full value of life” has two parts: your family member’s reasons for living, such as personal relationships, and income or contributions your loved one would have provided.
A personal injury attorney working on a wrongful death case will consider both. Furthermore, a claim looks at the details from the deceased’s perspective. A legal professional will help you relay your loved one’s point of view.
The value of a settlement largely depends on the damages incurred. Your lawyer will help you prove the extent of your financial losses and negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance company.
Damages the Deceased Experienced
Under Georgia’s wrongful death law, a survival action is a legal claim that your loved one’s estate can bring to recover damages they would have been entitled to if they had survived. In other words, this targets the damages the deceased experienced from the accident or injury to the time of death.
These damages might include the following:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Physical pain and suffering
- Burial expenses
- Funeral expenses
Since the award is sought on behalf of the deceased, the legal representative of the decedent’s estate can pursue a survival action. Furthermore, these costs are considered a part of their estate and are handled under O.C.G.A. Title 53, Ch. 2, Art. 3.
It’s important to consider everything your loved one experienced before they died. A wrongful death attorney in Macon, GA, will help quantify losses due to the responsible party’s negligence.
Damages Experienced by Family Members
Wrongful death damages also consider what the surviving family experiences. Unlike a survival action, a wrongful death action filed by the decedent’s surviving loved ones aims to recover damages for their losses resulting from the death. You may recover:
- Future loss of income the victim would have earned during their lifetime
- Retirement benefits, health insurance, or other benefits from the deceased person
- The loss of emotional support, guidance, comfort, and the loss of a loved one’s physical presence under the loss of companionship
- The total value of services offered by the victim
- Loss of consortium addressing the loss of love, companionship, and intimacy
The financial award accessed through a wrongful death action is not considered the property of the estate, as this is aimed to compensate the survivors of the deceased directly. Thus, the money will be distributed under Georgia’s intestacy law.
Average Wrongful Death Claim Settlements
Putting a “typical” number on wrongful death lawsuits and claims is impossible. Every situation can vary widely. However, cases may range from $500,000 to $1 million.
Again, every case is different. To understand what your family might receive, consult a lawyer. Our legal team is here for you after an untimely death. We aim to make financial recovery as easy as possible during this challenging time.
In Georgia, punitive damages in a wrongful death case can be offered in addition to compensatory damages. However, these are awarded rarely, only when the defendant’s conduct was particularly egregious, reckless, or intentional. For instance, if a drunk driver killed a pedestrian, a Macon pedestrian accident lawyer would seek exemplary damages of up to $250,000.
Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for their actions that led to the death and to deter similar behavior in the future.
Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Georgia
Keep in mind that there is a deadline to file your claim. In Georgia, the statute of limitations is generally two years from the date of death. That leaves limited time to take action. However, under certain circumstances, you may have more time or less.
Therefore, it’s best to immediately protect your family’s rights by hiring a Macon wrongful death attorney.
You might extend the statute of limitations depending on the circumstances surrounding the death. Scenarios that can change the standard time frame include:
If the plaintiff or defendant dies and their estate has no executor or administrator appointed, the deadline may be extended to five years.
The Defendant Leaves the State
When a defendant leaves Georgia, their absence won’t be estimated in their favor. Therefore, the standard time limit might be extended until their return.
If the person pursuing the wrongful death lawsuit is under 18 years of age at the time of the victim’s death, they can take legal action until their 20th birthday.
Filing Against a Branch of the Government
If you take legal action against a government branch, you might have less time to file a lawsuit. Depending on the government entity (city, county, state, or federal), you have only six months or a year to act.
Our wrongful death lawyers will investigate the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death and determine the statute of limitations that applies to your case. We will also determine if your case might qualify for extensions.
What Happens After You File a Claim?
A lawyer will help you file a complaint and bring the wrongful death claim. Then, you and the other side might negotiate to reach a settlement amount. If you cannot settle, you’ll enter the pre-trial period.
Most claims settle without having to go to trial. Still, there are exceptions for lawsuits. An experienced attorney will help determine if going to court is best for you and your family.
Wrongful death cases can be lengthy and complicated. However, they also help seek justice for deceased loved ones and their families. If someone else’s actions led to the death, that party is responsible for the costs.
How Hard Is It to Prove Wrongful Death?
Proving wrongful death is challenging, but an experienced wrongful death lawyer in Macon, GA, will know what to do. Find an attorney experienced in wrongful death cases who empathizes with you.
There are four parts to consider when proving wrongful death:
You must show that your loved one died because of another party’s negligent action. Negligence is a legal term that describes a failure to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm or damage to a person. In Georgia, the negligent party in an accident is liable for the costs, including accidents where someone dies.
Everyone has a “duty of care” to others. For example, drivers in Georgia have a duty of care to be safe on the roads. For a successful case, you must show that the other party breached their duty to the deceased loved one.
There must be a direct link between the breached duty to the loved one’s death. This is the only way to show how the at-fault party is responsible for the costs.
The loved one’s unexpected death must have led to damages. Therefore, your claim should outline all the damages resulting from the accident and the death. You must prove each part to be eligible for wrongful death damages. Thankfully, you don’t have to do it alone. Your attorney will work to establish each fact and fight for your rights.
A Statistical Overview of Georgia’s Wrongful Deaths
Losing a loved one is an incredibly difficult experience, and it becomes even more painful when it is a preventable death. Unfortunately, wrongful deaths have become a reality for far too many families in the state of Georgia.
As we delve into the statistics surrounding these tragic incidents, it’s important to remember the individuals behind the numbers and their deaths’ profound impact on their families and communities.
Fatal Transportation Accidents
According to longitudinal studies conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Georgia has seen a consistently high number of traffic fatalities in recent years. For example, from 2011 to 2020, the state experienced over 1,000 traffic fatalities yearly, with a peak of 1,664 in 2020.
Alcohol-impaired driving and speeding-related fatalities were the leading contributors to fatalities. These statistics suggest a significant need for increased traffic safety measures in Georgia, particularly in urban areas and passenger vehicle occupants.
Fatal Work Accidents
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 187 fatal work injuries in Georgia in 2021. This is a decrease from the previous year, the second-lowest number of work-related deaths recorded in the state since 1992.
Transportation incidents were Georgia’s leading cause of fatal work injuries, accounting for 41% of all fatalities. Violence and other injuries by persons or animals were the second-most common cause of fatal work events in Georgia, with 37 fatalities recorded in 2021.
Talk to Our Wrongful Death Lawyers in Macon for Free Today
Take action today if you’ve lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligence. Contact John Foy & Associates to get started on your case as soon as possible. Our team of compassionate personal injury lawyers will assist in your pursuit of justice.
We do not collect a fee unless we win you compensation. So you can get started at no risk today. Call or contact us online for a free consultation and guidance during this difficult time.