Gwinnett County Wrongful Death Attorney
Losing a loved one in an accident is a devastating experience. Even more devastating is the fact that many deaths are caused by someone else’s negligent or reckless actions. If you lost a loved one in an accident that wasn’t their fault, you have the right to hold the negligent person or party accountable.
With an estate claim, you may be able to recover compensation for your loved one’s medical and funeral bills, pain and suffering, and other damages that they incurred immediately before and after their death. With a wrongful death claim, you may be able to recover for your loved one’s lost wages and value that they brought to your household.
The best way to ensure that you collect what you are entitled to for your wrongful death claim is to work with a Gwinnett County wrongful death attorney. The attorneys at the Rafi Law Firm are standing by to provide you with a free case evaluation
Read on to learn more about your rights through a wrongful death claim in Georgia.
Important Things to Know About GA Wrongful Death Claims
To start, you need to know whether or not you have the right to file, along with other essential factors. We discuss each of these below.
When an individual passes as a result of a wrongful death, the resulting suit will have two parts. There is the estate claim, which is the claim that the decedent could have pursued had they survived the accident, and the wrongful death claim.
In terms of the estate claim, only the executor of the estate is legally allowed to file. An executor is a person who has the legal authority to act on behalf of another, and when a person passes their estate can stand in their shoes legally.
The wrongful death claim is also known as the “full value of life” claim. Through this claim, certain damages can be recovered to compensate for the loss of your loved one’s financial and emotional contribution to your household, as we’ll discuss below.
The following family members can bring a wrongful death claim under Georgia Law:
- The spouse of the victim – When the accident led to the tragic loss of a married person, their spouse has a legal right to bring a wrongful death claim on their behalf.
- Surviving offspring – The children of the victim generally benefit from a wrongful death settlement and can bring the action themselves if the deceased was unmarried. If the victim was married, the children and surviving spouse split the compensation.
- Surviving parents – Should the decedent have no surviving spouse or children, their parents can bring the wrongful death lawsuit, with damages split evenly between the surviving parents.
- The estate administrator – When there are no surviving children, parents, or spouse, the administrator of the victim’s estate may file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf.
Filing can be a relatively difficult process and must be done properly for the courts to recognize it.
For example, when there is a surviving spouse and children, the spouse will generally be entitled to at least 1/3 of the compensation no matter how many children there are. These details might not be easily discoverable, and without experience working on other wrongful death cases, you will be at a significant disadvantage.
This is where the value of working with an attorney comes into play.
As noted above, the estate claim can only be brought through the executor of the estate. The executor of an estate is a person with legal authority to advance the interests of the estate. This could be a relative of the deceased, or it could be an experienced attorney working to advance your best interest.
When it comes time to file a lawsuit, it is important to understand that your rights have an expiration date. This expiration date of your right to attempt to collect compensation for your injuries is called the statute of limitations.
If a claim is not brought during the statute of limitations, then you will lose your right to ever pursue compensation related to the accident.
In Georgia, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is usually two years from the time of the death. This means from the date of the person’s passing, as opposed to the date of the accident which would apply in personal injury cases with a surviving victim.
The estate claim generally will have five years from the date of death. When an accident leads to incompetence in the form of a coma, unconsciousness, or otherwise, the statute of limitations begins when they regain consciousness.
It is essential that you file your claim on time or you will lose the ability to collect anything in the future.
Additionally, it is important to understand that if you accept a settlement, that is all you can possibly collect. If it fails to cover a great deal of what you are entitled to, it will be too late. Accepting an offer of settlement from an insurance company without speaking to an attorney can put you at risk of being taken advantage of.
The compensation available to you is different between the estate claim and the wrongful death claim.
As explained, an estate claim is the claim that the person could have brought if they had survived the accident. This includes medical bills from the accident before death, and in some circumstances, damages may be available for conscious pain and suffering experienced prior to death.
While the estate claim covers many of the direct costs of the loss of your loved one, it does not account for the financial and emotional loss to your household.
Through the wrongful death claim, you can recover damages for the value of the deceased person’s life. This includes compensation for the loss of their financial contribution to your household through the remainder of their working life years.
For example, let’s say your loved one used to pick up your kids from school and watch them for you until you got off work. That’s a significant service to provide someone, and the cost of things like gas, toys, snacks, and time spent with the children adds up quickly.
Calculating the present value of many years of future wages is complex. A wrongful death claim includes elements of both personal injury law in addition to a strong understanding of present and future costs and how to calculate them into a proper settlement.
Working with a Gwinnett County wrongful death attorney will ensure that no boxes go unchecked and that the amount you pursue is the full amount of compensation you are entitled to.
How Wrongful Death Settlements Are Paid Out in Georgia
The way compensation is paid out will be straightforward and follow the rules and precedents established by other cases. However, the amount you are entitled to will depend upon the unique facts and circumstances of your case and sometimes, the facts will change how things go.
For a wrongful death claim, the settlements will generally be paid out as follows:
- When the surviving spouse of the deceased files and has no children, the surviving spouse takes the entire settlement.
- A surviving spouse with children who files a wrongful death claim will take 1/3, and the remainder is split evenly between the children.
- Should the deceased have no spouse or children, their surviving parents may file, and they will split the settlement equally among themselves.
These are the normal procedures that are followed in cases that meet certain standards and have certain facts. Given that each accident has unique facts and circumstances, it’s important to understand that the amount you may be entitled to, and how your compensation is paid, will vary.
How long do wrongful death cases take in Georgia?
While it would be great if there were a clear-cut answer, there isn’t. The first step is to establish an estate on behalf of the deceased to act as their legal representative to collect. Your wrongful death attorney can accomplish this quickly for you to get the process moving. Then, the damages have to be measured and evidence gathered to prove them.
If you opt to collect evidence, draft your claim, then file and negotiate it on your own behalf, the process can seem almost impossible. Learning the law and then applying it to your loss while you and your family are grieving is extremely difficult. The best way to ensure you collect what you are entitled to as quickly as possible is by working with an attorney.
When you have lost a loved one, you may have immediate costs associated with the accident that led to their death. This can include funeral bills, medical expenses, as well as the loss of their financial contribution to your household.
Once you have a local wrongful death lawyer from Rafi Law Firm on your claim, the process of receiving your compensation will get moving with the collection of evidence. Your attorney will handle the entire process to ensure that you have sufficient evidence to accurately measure your complete damages.
If an appropriate settlement is offered in response to the claim, the process can move quickly. However, insurance companies work for profit, and they make more profit by reducing costs. The greatest cost to an insurance company is the amount paid out to injured parties like you and they will do whatever they can to deny your claim or pay as little as possible.
Claims that do not result in a quick offer of a fair settlement can require a lawsuit. Lawsuits must be formatted correctly, contain evidence that is admissible in court, and follow the standards and processes of your local courts.
When lawsuits are required, the duration of time that your case will take depends largely on the court. Given the pandemic, the courts are moving at a sluggish pace, so working with an aggressive attorney who can encourage a fast and full settlement can help you recover damages faster.
4 Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim
To collect compensation for the damages associated with your loss, you have to prove negligence. Here are all four elements of the legal concept that is negligence.
When a law is broken, the offender will have explicitly violated their duty. For example, when a driver engages in speeding or drunk driving, they are violating the rules of the road.
A violation of the law is a violation of duty. If a driver is alone on their private property, they have no duty to follow traffic laws. If a driver is on the road with other drivers, they have a duty to all others to follow the rules of the road.
All persons have a duty to not harm others, and some duties originate from the relationship between the parties involved.
For example, an employer has a duty to keep the workplace safe from injury to the workers. A store has a duty to its customers to keep the premises safe so that they do not experience injuries. The owner of a pool generally has a duty to prevent children from wandering into it and drowning.
Owing another person a duty is the first step of negligence, followed by breach of duty.
Once it has been demonstrated that a party owed your loved one a duty, it must be proven that their duty was breached, or broken. In the courts, there are defenses to breach, and the opposing party will usually be an insurance company that employs lawyers to put forward as many defenses as possible to escape responsibility.
If you cannot prove that the party that caused the untimely death of your loved one owed them a duty and then breached it, you cannot collect compensation.
Keeping with the example above, if a driver gets on the road, they have a duty to follow the rules. Any illegal behaviors, like texting while driving while is an illegal form of distracted driving, or drunk driving, will lead to the driver having breached their duty.
If a store fails to fix a dangerous condition, they have breached their duty to keep the store safe for customers. If a pool owner leaves their gate open to the public, they have breached their duty to keep the pool safe from wandering children.
Once duty and breach are proven, it must be proven that the breach of duty was the cause of the accident.
For example, if there is a drunk driver on the road but they are following traffic signs and you get into an accident with them because you ran a stop sign and T-boned them, the drunk driving was not the cause of the accident, it was the running of the stop sign.
If a drunk driver runs the stop sign and causes a T-bone accident, their breach of duty caused the accident.
Collecting what you are entitled to is referred to as collecting damages or receiving compensation. Once you have proven that a duty was broken, causing an accident, it then must be proven that the accident resulted in damages.
The damages are the costs associated with the loss that you will pursue through your claim or lawsuit.
You can only collect compensation for damages that you can prove with evidence. For example, if a person earned $50,000 each year at a salaried job and had 20 years left to work, then the associated lost future earnings damages will be around $1,000,000, 20 times $50,000.
The present value of those future earnings would be incorporated into your claim and must be proven with evidence of the deceased’s income.
Alternatively, when an individual did not have a salary or pay stubs to prove their earnings potential, it can be difficult to prove these damages. Covering the gap between expected earnings and estimates of potential earnings is a complicated process and is best supported by an experienced wrongful death lawyer on your claim.
Did you lose a loved one in an accident? We can help.
The loss of a loved one in a tragic accident can be extremely difficult to deal with. The cost associated with the loss can also negatively impact your family. When the death was due to the negligence of another party, you will be entitled to compensation for the associated damages.
Working with a Gwinnett County wrongful death attorney helps to take the stress of the claim process out of your day-to-day life.
With an attorney on your case, you may recover the full amount you are entitled to with no up-front cost, and no out-of-pocket expenses, ever. If we take your case, we take it on contingency, which means we only get paid if we win. You are not obligated to anything until we come to an agreement and establish an attorney-client relationship, so reach out now to discuss your claim.
For your risk-free, cost-free assessment of your case, schedule a consultation with Rafi Law Firm today.