When a family member dies due to someone else’s actions, it can be emotionally and financially draining.
Surviving members would have legal rights if another party caused your loved one’s death.
Pursuing a wrongful death claim is not necessarily straightforward, so you should speak with a Georgia wrongful death attorney.
At MG Law, we understand what a traumatic time this is for your family.
You don’t need to navigate the legal system on your own. Instead, let us help you fight to hold the responsible party accountable.
Wrongful Death in Georgia Defined
Wrongful death is when a person dies due to a criminal act, negligence, or defective property.
That means someone who acts with intention, such as the commission of a crime, or someone who makes a negligent mistake, such as distracted driving, could be guilty of wrongful death.
How Wrongful Death Differs in Civil and Criminal Cases
It’s important to point out that a wrongful death civil lawsuit differs from criminal charges for your loved one’s death.
Some prospective clients may be concerned that they do not have grounds to file a wrongful death civil lawsuit if the defendant is facing criminal charges.
These are two separate causes of action and two entirely different court systems. With a civil case, your lawyer for a wrongful death lawsuit will be pursuing financial compensation on your family’s behalf.
A criminal case involves a potential loss of freedom, fines, restitution, and probation or parole.
The State of Georgia would be the initiating party for criminal charges rather than individual family members of the decedent.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Countless events, accidents, and incidents can give rise to a wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia.
Some of the most common ones include:
- Motor vehicle accidents, including large trucks, bicycles, motorcycles, and pedestrians;
- Boating accidents;
- Slip and fall accidents at a business, theme park, and public or private property;
- Other premises liability accidents, including dog bites and swimming pool and trampoline accidents;
- Medical malpractice, including failure to diagnose, birth injuries, and delayed diagnosis;
- Dangerous or defective products;
- Crimes such as assault, domestic violence, robbery, and sexual assault;
- Work-related accidents; and
- Nursing home neglect and abuse.
These are some of the most common incidents that lead to a wrongful death lawsuit; however, they are not the only ones.
If your family member died due to an event not listed here, you might still have a viable cause of action. Contact a wrongful death attorney in Georgia to learn more about your family’s legal rights.
Family Members Entitled to Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Georgia
Georgia law restricts the legal right to file a wrongful death lawsuit to certain surviving family members.
Under the law, eligible family members can bring a lawsuit in the following order:
- Surviving spouse of the decedent;
- The decedent’s surviving child or children, if there is no surviving spouse; and
- The decedent’s parent or parents should there be no surviving spouse or child.
If the decedent had no spouse, children, or parents, then the estate executor can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Unfortunately, there are no provisions in the law for recovery by other family members, such as a grandparent or a sibling.
Types of Compensation in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Recovery in a wrongful death lawsuit varies based on individual case circumstances. In general, recoverable damages in a successful wrongful death lawsuit include loss of companionship, care, and counsel.
Family members could also be entitled to compensation for lost benefits, earnings, and other services, including what the decedent could have potentially earned had they not been killed.
Other damages in a wrongful death lawsuit involve financial losses related to the person’s death.
The executor of the estate must bring a claim for compensation related to:
- Funeral and burial expenses,
- Medical expenses related to the person’s last injury or illness, and
- Any other costs related to the person’s injury, illness, and death.
Recovering the maximum compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit is not necessarily easy.
It would be best if you hire a Georgia wrongful death law firm with a proven record of successfully resolving wrongful death lawsuits for previous clients.
How the Claims Process Works for Wrongful Death Cases
Many people hear the word “lawsuit” and immediately think of a court trial. However, filing a lawsuit doesn’t necessarily mean your case will go through a trial before it resolves.
In fact, most wrongful death lawsuits settle through negotiations long before the court sets a trial date.
However, before your family successfully recovers any compensation from the liable party, there is a thorough investigative phase known as discovery.
During discovery, both sides will build their case and exchange relevant evidence and documentation.
Negotiations can occur throughout the discovery phase, even while both sides are preparing for trial. Your Georgia wrongful death attorneys will explain the litigation process and what to expect as your case progresses.
Proving Liability in a Georgia Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Before collecting compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit, you must prove the defendants are responsible. There are four main elements in a negligence case.
These elements are:
- Duty: the defendants must have owed the decedent a legal duty of care;
- Breach of duty: the defendants must have breached the duty of care;
- Causation: the breach of duty is what caused the accident and injuries; and
- Damages: there must be a financial loss associated with the accident.
Georgia allows recovery when the decedent is partially responsible for the accident or event that led to their death.
However, when someone is 50% or more at fault, they are prohibited from getting any compensation. That means your family could be barred from recovery in some cases.
If your family is entitled to recover, Georgia law reduces damages based on the degree of fault.
For example, in a slip and fall where the decedent was 10% at fault, the maximum compensation your family could receive is 90% of your losses. But in a car accident case where the decedent was 51% at fault, your family would receive no money.
Because of this rule, the defendant’s insurance company will look for any way to place as much responsibility as possible on the decedent.
Their goal is to find the decedent a minimum of 50% at fault, which extinguishes the insurance company’s exposure.
No matter what the defendant’s insurance company or attorneys tries to convince you of, they are not on your side. They may claim to sympathize, but their only priority is reducing or eliminating any payout.
That is why hiring a skilled wrongful death attorney in Georgia is so important.
Benefits of Working with a Wrongful Death Attorney in Georgia
Hiring a Georgia wrongful death lawyer is a smart decision unless you have extensive experience with the Georgia legal system.
The law doesn’t require you to hire a lawyer, but you need a legal advocate on your side who understands the court system. Our legal team has years of litigation experience, and we know the importance of building the strongest case possible.
When you hire MG Law to represent you in a Georgia wrongful death action, we will:
- Open a thorough investigation,
- Contact and interview all involved parties and witnesses,
- Request all documentation and records,
- Handle all communication with the defendant’s insurance company and lawyers,
- Hire any necessary experts,
- Negotiate a potential settlement on behalf of your family, and
- Prepare your case for trial if necessary.
Your loved one just died. You shouldn’t have to fight with the insurance company on your own. Let our experienced team handle all the challenging legal tasks while you concentrate on your family.
Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death in Georgia
Like other states, Georgia imposes a specific deadline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
The court will most likely dismiss your case if you miss the deadline. That means your family would be precluded from any compensation.
In most cases, you have two years from the date of death to file a lawsuit. However, this deadline is not always the same for every case.
There are some exceptions to the filing deadline, which could result in a shorter or longer deadline.
For example, there are certain situations where the deadline might be “tolled,” which means temporarily stopped. One of these situations involves criminal acts.
The filing deadline would be on hold until the criminal case concludes for a maximum of six years. The clock starts running on the date the criminal case resolves. Your lawyer will know all the exceptions and how much time you have to file.
Contact a Georgia Wrongful Death Lawyer at MG Law
Contact MG Law today to schedule an initial consultation with one of the best wrongful death lawyers in Georgia.
We only practice injury law, so we know it well. We are proud of our reputation for success and the numerous awards our attorneys have received.
When you hire MG Law, you will receive compassionate and top-notch legal representation. We won’t ever treat you like just another case file.
We know what a traumatic time this is for you and your family. Let us help you navigate the complex legal system while you concentrate on grieving the loss of your family member.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you with a wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia.