The death of a loved one is a shocking event, regardless of how it occurred. Some people die in traffic accidents while others die at work. Some of our loved ones pass when a person negligently harms them, while others are the victims of violent crimes. While there is nothing that can ever truly make up for such a tragic and heartbreaking loss, a wrongful death claim allows family members to seek justice and financial support.
At MG Law, our Atlanta wrongful death lawyers are compassionate and experienced advocates for clients and their loved ones. We meet regularly with grieving family members who are unsure of how they will continue without their spouse, parent, or child. We understand that this is a difficult time. If your loved one was killed in an accident, our firm can help. Please call our law office or contact us online to set up a FREE, strictly confidential initial consultation.
What Is A Wrongful Death Claim & How Does Georgia Law Work?
Georgia allows some family members to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death claim is a type of legal action that allows close family members of the victim to hold the negligent defendant accountable for a fatal accident. Our state’s wrongful death laws are complex. To recover compensation, plaintiffs must meet certain legal standards.
A wrongful death claim is a civil suit, not a criminal one, but it allows family members to receive compensation from the person responsible for their loved one’s death. In some circumstances, there may also be criminal proceedings. For example, if your loved one was killed in a drunk driving accident in Atlanta, the impaired driver is likely to face criminal charges under Georgia law. While it could serve as evidence for your civil wrongful death claim, any corresponding criminal case is a separate and distinct legal matter. If you would like more information, please contact us today to speak with our legal team in Atlanta.
Defining Wrongful Death In Georgia
Not every death is “wrongful.” Instead, Georgia’s statute identifies a wrongful death as one committed negligently or criminally. These cases can come in a wide range of different forms. Here are some basic examples:
- Motor Vehicle Accidents: Drivers have a duty to operate their vehicle in a careful and cautious manner. Deadly car accidents may be the basis for a wrongful death lawsuit. For example, a motorist who accidentally backs up into a person because they weren’t looking has been negligent.
- Defective Products: Wrongful death cases can also be brought when a defective product leads to death. Manufacturers and corporations should ensure that their products are tested and safe for consumers.
- Reckless Behavior: Reckless conduct is more morally culpable than mere negligence. For example, a person who shoots a gun into a crowd is not intentionally trying to kill someone. But their conduct is so risky that there is a high probability that someone will be seriously injured.
- Criminal Attacks: Intentional acts are even more culpable and are often criminal. Homicide is an example of an intentional, criminal act. Even though the defendant can be prosecuted, they can also be sued for wrongful death. Third parties (businesses and property owners) may be held liable for their failure to provide adequate security.
Ultimately, the key thing to takeaway is that wrongful death claims are liability claims. To recover wrongful death compensation, you must prove that the defendant was at-fault for your family member’s fatal accident—either because of their negligence, recklessness, or outright criminal conduct.
Strong evidence is always needed to bring a successful claim. It is not always easy for people to know whether or not they have a claim. In some cases, the wrongful conduct of a defendant is clear, obvious, and egregious. In other cases, negligence is subtle. Do not assume that you and your family have no options. Set up a free, comprehensive consultation with an Atlanta wrongful death lawyer.
Who Is Eligible To Bring A Wrongful Death Case In Atlanta?
Under the Georgia wrongful death statute, there are very strict rules for who exactly has the legal right to bring a claim. Generally, each case will fit into one of the following four categories.
- Surviving Spouse — No Kids: If the deceased has a surviving spouse and has no surviving children, then the surviving spouse is the only person who has the right to bring a wrongful death claim. In terms of eligibility, this is the most straightforward type of wrongful death claim: the surviving spouse is the only party with the authority to bring the lawsuit.
- Surviving Spouse — Kids: If the deceased has a surviving spouse, and they also have surviving children, then the surviving spouse will be eligible to bring the wrongful death claim and they will also be required to act as a legal representative for the children. No matter how many children there are, the surviving spouse is guaranteed at least 30 percent of the total wrongful death recovery.
- No Surviving Spouse: If the victim does not have a surviving spouse, then the wrongful death claim rights will advance to their children. If they have no surviving spouse and no children, then the claim will advance to their parents. If the victim only has minor children, then a legal representative will be selected for the parents.
- No Surviving Spouse, Surviving Children, or Surviving Parents: If the victim has no surviving spouse, no surviving children, and no surviving spouse, then any wrongful death lawsuit must be brought by their personal estate. When this occurs, Georgia law (O.C.G.A § 51-4-5) mandates that any benefits recovered will be held for the next of kin.
Understanding Wrongful Death Damages
The damages available to the family members of the victims are meant to account for their direct financial losses as well as their intangible losses. In most wrongful death cases, the largest share of damages covers non-economic losses. By their very nature, these damages are inherently difficult to put a precise dollar figure on.
Defendants and insurance companies can be aggressive when handling these claims — they often attempt to settle the case for the lowest amount that they can get away with. During this challenging time, you and your family need an experienced Atlanta wrongful death attorney by your side.
At MG Law, our wrongful death lawyers know how to hold negligent defendants and their insurers accountable. We can help you recover financial relief for:
- Out-of-pocket medical expenses;
- Funeral and burial cost;
- Lost wages and future earnings;
- Lost benefits, including loss of insurance coverage and loss of inheritance;
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress;
- Loss of love;
- Loss of support; and
- Loss of companionship/consortium.
Recovering Compensation for Wrongful Death Claims
Through a claim, a victim’s loved one can recover compensation for the following damages:
- The victim’s funeral and burial expenses;
- The loss of the victim’s companionship, guidance, and love;
- The loss of the victim’s income, employment benefits, and any other tangible support he or she provided to his or her family;
- If the victim received medical care in the moments following his or her accident or leading up to his or her death, compensation for these medical bills; and
- Compensation for any trauma the victim personally experienced between the accident and his or her death.
Compensation for the victim’s medical expenses, funeral expenses, and personal trauma is awarded to his or her estate. The other damages are awarded directly to the claimant. In Georgia, the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is two years from the date of the victim’s death. Once two years pass, a victim’s loved one or estate representative cannot bring a claim to court or recover compensation for his or her damages.
In a wrongful death claim, the victim must demonstrate that the death occurred because of another party’s negligence. He or she can do this by providing sufficient evidence to illustrate the nature of the accident and how the negligent party breached their duty of care to the victim. Evidence to support a claim can include:
- An official accident report;
- Testimonies from witnesses to the accident;
- Expert testimony about the victim’s injury from a doctor; and
- Photographs of the accident scene.
Compensation in the Form of Damages
Wrongful death lawsuits are not criminal, so the defendant cannot be sent to jail. Instead, a court can order the defendant to pay compensation in the form of money damages for certain losses. Under the statute, compensation is available for the “full value of the life” of your loved one. Full value can include things like lost wages and benefits that your loved one would have earned had he or she not passed away.
Our clients can also receive money for intangible losses like loss of companionship or care. We understand that no amount of money can make up for the death of a family member, but awarding money damages is all a court can really do to try and make up for the loss.
Our Atlanta wrongful death attorneys have also managed to obtain compensation to cover funeral and burial expenses, as well as the medical expenses incurred to treat your loved one after the incident. We might also be able to receive damages for any pain and suffering your loved one experienced before passing.
If you are a surviving spouse, you are entitled by law to receive at least 50% of the damages, regardless of how many children survived your spouse. If there are no children, you will receive 100% of the compensation.
Wrongful Death Claims: What Is Georgia’s Statute Of Limitations
Our state gives family members a limited amount of time to bring this lawsuit. The relevant statute of limitations states that you must file your claim within two years from the date of your loved one’s death. Delay any longer, and a judge will dismiss your case for being tardy.
There are situations where the law grants family members additional time. For example, if there is an ongoing criminal case, then the clock is paused until the criminal case finishes. However, it is best to obtain professional legal representation as soon as possible because it is not always clear when the statute of limitations runs out.
Investigation Takes Time
A person or business only needs to pay compensation if their conduct was in some way wrongful and it contributed to your loved one’s death. Under Georgia law, wrongful conduct can consist of:
- Criminal negligence
- Intentional criminal acts, such as murder
- Manufacturing defective products
In some situations, no one might be to blame for your loved one’s death. For example, if your son ran into traffic while drunk, then he might have died because of his own reckless conduct. You probably can’t hold the driver who struck your loved one responsible.
In some situations, it is clear who is at fault for someone’s death. But when it isn’t clear, each side will need to investigate. Investigation can take a while, and a comprehensive investigation should include:
- Tracking down and questioning witnesses who might have seen the incident that caused your loved one’s death
- Examining medical records to fully understand the cause of death
- Analyzing any police report or insurance claim related to the incident
- Reviewing safety information, if someone died at a business or jobsite
- Searching for CCTV footage that might have captured the incident
We also need to know whether your loved one’s own actions contributed to their demise. Under Georgia law, you can receive compensation in many cases even if your loved one was negligent themselves; however, the amount you will receive will be reduced.
It is hard to estimate how long this investigation could last, since each case is different. But a thorough investigation could take a few months at a minimum, and in some cases will take much longer.
Negotiating A Settlement Adds More Time
Everything would be easy if the at-fault party or their insurer quickly agreed to pay full and fair compensation to our clients in wrongful death cases. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, insurers would like you to agree to accept as little money as possible. In many cases, our clients are struggling when a loved one dies, particularly when it is the family breadwinner. Bills don’t stop arriving simply because the main income earner has passed, and many clients feel pressure to accept any offer. Insurance companies know this. For that reason, they will typically make a low-ball initial offer and hope you agree to accept it.
At MG Law, our goal is to get as much compensation as possible for our clients. There is no reason why you should have to suffer the financial fallout from the untimely death of your spouse, parent, or child. As a result, we can obtain compensation to cover the wages your loved one would have contributed to your household, as well as expenses for other services.
If our client can reject the initial offer and continue negotiating, they can often receive more in a settlement. And remember—this is your one chance to obtain compensation for your loved one’s death. Once you accept a settlement, you’ll need to sign a form releasing the defendant from any further liability for the death. This means you can’t go into court and sue for more money. All told, negotiations could take a couple months as well.
Benefits of Working With an Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorney
Wrongful death claims are complicated. If you feel overwhelmed, you are certainly not alone. During such a difficult time, you and your family need trustworthy representation. At MG Law, we are focused on providing superior representation. You are our priority. When you get in touch with our Atlanta law office, you will have an opportunity to speak to an Atlanta wrongful death lawyer who will:
- Listen to your story, answer questions. and explain your legal options;
- Investigate the fatal accident—identifying responsible parties and gathering evidence;
- Handle all correspondence and communications with defendants and insurers; and
- Take whatever legal action is needed to get your family justice and full financial support.
We are committed to representing each and every client with compassion, care, and personal attention. As our Atlanta wrongful death attorneys take on a limited number of cases, we are able to provide comprehensive, attentive guidance to every client. The last thing that you and your family need to worry about is out-of-pocket legal bills. MG Law handles wrongful death claims on contingency. Our Atlanta attorneys only recover legal fees when you and your family get paid.
Speak With A Wrongful Death Lawyer In Atlanta
MG Law puts our clients first and cares about their entire well-being, not simply their legal case. Although this is certainly a difficult time, we encourage you to contact us today to schedule a free consultation. We will explain your options and the likelihood of receiving a settlement.
Our experienced attorneys also handle clients with other types of injury cases, including:
- Bike Accidents,
- Trucking Accidents,
- Drunk Driving Accidents,
- Trip and Fall Accidents,
- Uber/Lyft Accidents,
- Child Injuries,
- Daycare Injuries,
- Crosswalk Accidents,
- Negligent Security,
- Pharmaceutical Injuries,
- Mass Torts,
- Motorbike Accidents,
- Pedestrian Accidents,
- Premises Liability,
- Dog Attack,
- Traumatic Brain Injury,
- Burn Injury, and
- Catastrophic Injury.
Contact our firm today for a free, no-obligation review of your wrongful death lawsuit. With a conveniently located office in Atlanta, we serve communities throughout the entire region, including in DeKalb County, Cobb County, and Fulton County.