After the death of a family member, it can be hard to tell what way to turn. You could be even more confused and hurt if someone else intentionally or negligently caused their death. Filing a wrongful death claim can allow you to hold them accountable and ease your financial burden.
A wrongful death lawyer in Smyrna can help you by investigating your case and gathering evidence that proves the other party’s negligence.
We recognize that no amount of money can take away the grief. However, compensation can allow you to focus on healing instead of dealing with expenses related to your loved one’s death. You can talk to a Smyrna personal injury lawyer for free if you have more questions about your claim.
Family Members Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim
Georgia has restrictions on who can file a wrongful death claim on a deceased family member’s behalf. This cuts down on inter-family conflict and ensures that one claim is filed for the decedent’s accident.
The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) § 51-4-2 lays out the order in which people can claim compensation for wrongful death. Keep in mind that this is simply who can file, but not necessarily who gets the entire settlement:
- If there is a surviving spouse, they file the claim.
- The decedent’s children file the claim if there is no surviving spouse.
- If the decedent had no living spouse or children, their parents would file the claim.
- If none of the above apply, someone designated by the decedent’s estate may file the claim.
The payment in these scenarios depends on what family members are living and who is filing. For example, if a surviving spouse files and has two living children, the settlement is split into three equal parts. If there are more than two surviving children, the spouse receives a third, and the children split the rest equally.
If you’re unsure whether you can file or who will be receiving compensation for your family member’s death, an attorney can help. At your initial consultation, your lawyer can help you understand what steps you and your family should take.
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The Key Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim
Your loved one’s death is tragic, regardless of whether anyone was at fault. However, to legally count as a wrongful death, there are specific criteria that your situation must meet. If there is no valid argument for wrongful death, you may have to rely on your loved one’s insurance to pay for expenses.
The key elements of a wrongful death claim are:
- A duty of care: You and your lawyer have to show that the other party owed your loved one a duty to treat them as well as any person can reasonably expect to.
- Negligence: This occurs when someone breaches the duty of care — this can be intentional or unintentional and does not necessarily have to be a criminal act. It just has to be below the standard that someone should treat someone else.
- Causation: You and your lawyer will have to show that not only was the other party negligent, but that negligence also caused your loved one’s death.
- Damages: It’s not enough to show how the other party caused your family member’s death. To get compensation, you also need to show why you deserve compensation. You need to show the economic and non-economic damages that the at-fault party’s negligence caused.
Your wrongful death lawyer in Smyrna will gather evidence proving these points. By proving your claim and showing the full extent of your damages, your attorney will ensure the other party and their insurance company give you as much as possible.
Damages You Can Recover for Wrongful Death
Your compensation in your wrongful death claim will depend on the damages your loved one and your family suffered because of the at-fault party’s actions.
Damages like yours are usually split into economic, non-economic, and punitive.
The first type of damage that your lawyer will calculate will be your economic damages. These are the financial losses you and your family experienced due to your loved one’s accident and subsequent death.
Economic damages can include:
- Medical bills
- Funeral expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of future household income
In most accident cases, the other type of damage that comes into play is non-economic. Non-economic damages are the toll on your quality of life and that of your loved one before they passed away.
Non-economic damages can include:
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of companionship
- Pain and suffering
- Mental trauma
To calculate your non-economic damages, your lawyer will most likely use your economic damages.
They will first multiply your financial losses by a specific number. This number is determined based on the suffering your loved one and your family endured. The product of this calculation will then define the amount you receive for your non-financial losses.
The third type of damage you could recover compensation for does not factor into every accident case. Punitive damages punish parties whose actions were particularly egregious and discourage others from making the same mistake.
You aren’t guaranteed any punitive damages, but they appear more in wrongful death claims than other accident claims.
Understanding the Legal Process and Statute of Limitations in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
When navigating through the challenging journey of a wrongful death lawsuit, it is crucial to understand the legal process and the associated time constraints due to the statute of limitations.
An experienced attorney specializing in personal injury claims can guide you through the complex landscape and help identify the responsible parties.
One of the first steps in the legal process involves the calculation of damages, including medical expenses and funeral costs. For many families, these unforeseen costs can be financially devastating. A wrongful death lawsuit can provide a financial lifeline to help cover these expenses.
In Georgia, the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is generally two years from the date of the loved one’s death. This time limit can make it crucial to begin the process quickly, especially since evidence collection and case-building can take some time.
Nuances to the Georgia Statute of Limitations
Certain circumstances can alter this timeline in Georgia, making consulting with a team of experienced personal injury attorneys even more vital. Cases of wrongful death can arise from various incidents, including fatal accidents such as:
- Truck accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Workplace accidents
Irrespective of the cause, proving that the responsible party failed to exercise reasonable care leading to the fatal event is essential.
Traffic laws, for instance, mandate certain responsibilities for drivers to ensure the safety of others. A breach of these laws resulting in death can constitute a wrongful death claim. Our personal injury firm has experience handling a wide range of wrongful death cases, including ones involving vehicular accidents.
During these difficult times, you need a reliable support system that understands the emotional turmoil and can guide you through the legal intricacies of a wrongful death lawsuit. You need an experienced attorney throughout the process, ensuring your family gets the justice and financial relief it deserves.
Talk to a Wrongful Death Attorney in Smyrna Today
Your family member’s passing should not mean you carry a financial burden over the emotional one you already suffer. The Smyrna wrongful death lawyers at John Foy & Associates can help you recover from your ordeal, if only monetarily.
To get a free consultation with an attorney who can help, call us or contact us online today. We are available to talk to you any day of the week.