There is nothing more tragic than the serious injury or death of a loved one. But when someone close to you is hurt because of the negligence of another, the tragedy is often harder to bear.
A wrongful death lawsuit or serious injury claim cannot end the pain and grief, but it can prevent your family from suffering financial losses in addition to emotional ones.
What is a wrongful death claim?
Wrongful death is when a person dies due to the actions or inaction of another person. If someone causes a death through negligence, intent, or recklessness, the surviving family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit. The victim’s death must have been unnatural or untimely, and only a parent, child, or spouse can benefit from these types of suits.
Unlike criminal claims for death, wrongful death claims cannot result in a prison sentence. They can only award financial damages to the victim’s family as a penalty for the actions of the accused.
Typically, they are used when a criminal lawsuit, such as murder, cannot be filed against the defendant, or in cases where the criminal lawsuit was unable to convict. That said, you can file a civil wrongful death suit against someone who has been successfully convicted of criminal charges.
A civil wrongful death claim is completely separate from a criminal lawsuit. It can be filed before, after, or during criminal court proceedings, at your discretion.
You can seek a wrongful death claim if the defendant did any of the following and it resulted in a loved one’s death:
- Sold or made defective goods
- Served contaminated food
- Sold a dangerous drug
- Car accident where the driver was negligent
How does a wrongful death claim work?
Essentially, wrongful death claims work like a personal injury case. However, an Atlanta personal injury lawyer cannot always successfully represent you in a wrongful death claim. Ensure that the lawyer you hire has prosecuted similar cases before, proving that they know the relevant local statutes.
Wrongful death cases are different in every state. Cases may differ based on:
- Who can file the wrongful death claim
- How quickly the claim must be filed
- What damages are available
- How damages are divided among the victim’s relatives
It is beneficial to hire an Atlanta wrongful death lawyer to ensure you are acting within the bounds of local wrongful death statutes.
Important Things to Know About Your Wrongful Death Case
Before you file a claim for wrongful death, there are five important things you should know about Georgia’s wrongful death laws:
Only certain family members can file a wrongful death suit.
Primarily, your spouse is able to file. If they are not living or you are unmarried, then the ability to file the claim will pass through a sequential list of other relatives.
You can seek compensation for more than medical bills.
Damages awarded from wrongful death cases do cover medical bills for the deceased, but they also cover a variety of other financial and emotional costs as a result of a lost loved one. For example, you can seek damages for funeral costs, loss of companionship, and the deceased’s lost wages.
Wrongful death lawyers are different than personal injury lawyers.
While wrongful death is a type of personal injury, it is a more complex area of law. An experienced attorney will know more about the types of damages you can seek and how to prove their necessity. Hire an Atlanta wrongful death lawyer to support your claim.
Claims are time-sensitive.
The grieving process can take years; however, there is a statute of limitations for when you can file a wrongful death claim. Although you may still be grieving, you only have two years from the date of the victim’s death.
You aren’t alone.
Don’t feel stranded in the courthouse, trying to file a claim while you’re still mourning. Hire an attorney to support you through this difficult time. They’ll make the complex process easier.
Contact an Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyer Today
If your loved one was taken from you too soon, an Atlanta personal injury lawyer can help you get a little closure. We will work with you to financially punish those responsible and discourage them from hurting another family the way that they’ve hurt yours.
Facing the person or company responsible for your loved one’s death is extremely difficult. Doing it in a courtroom, where you’re unprepared to handle the emotions, is even worse. Hire an expert attorney to support you through this challenging process. They’ll increase your compensation while decreasing your stress.
Mike Rafi has won millions for clients who have been wronged by the negligence of others. For a free consultation, call today.
What qualifies a wrongful death lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit cannot be filed for every type of death that occurs. The death must occur when the victim would not have died if the defendant had not acted maliciously or negligently. Essentially, a wrongful death lawsuit is valid if a victim was healthy before the accident, but perished due to the accident, which was the fault of the defendant.
To further explain the concept, let’s examine some examples.
A famous wrongful death lawsuit was brought against O.J. Simpson after he was acquitted in criminal court. The civil court case for the wrongful deaths of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman were brought forward by their parents. The plaintiffs argued that the malicious acts of Simpson (namely, committing a murder) caused these individuals to die when they otherwise wouldn’t have. His actions were malicious and had the intent to cause the deaths. This isn’t always the case in wrongful death suits.
Cases of medical malpractice can qualify for wrongful death. Doctors have a duty to give their patients proper care. If they do not, due to carelessness or misdiagnosis of an illness any other reasonable doctor would have diagnosed, and it results in a patient’s death, they can be sued for wrongful death. They can also be sued if they over or misprescribed medications that lead to an overdose or poisoning of a victim.
Car accidents caused by a driver’s negligence result in wrongful death suits when a victim dies as a result of the collision. While many car accidents result in injuries, most are not fatal. For a car accident to cause death, the crash must have been severe. This could be the result of an impaired driver, a truck accident, or even a pedestrian hit by a turning car.
An easy way to determine if a case qualifies for wrongful death is to ask “would this have been a personal injury claim if the victim had lived?” If the answer is yes, then it’s a wrongful death claim.
How hard is it to prove wrongful death?
To win a wrongful death case, the plaintiff, on behalf of the deceased victim, must prove that the defendant directly caused their loved one’s death due to negligence or malice.
Duty of Care
Society operates smoothly because we care for each other. This duty of care involves following rules, maintaining safe areas for others to visit, and allowing people to live their lives safely.
Individuals have this duty of care in many circumstances.
For example, drivers have a duty of care to others on the road to obey traffic laws. If they run a red light, are impaired behind the wheel, or otherwise make a choice that violates this duty of care, they are putting others at risk.
Other examples of duty of care:
- Shopkeepers maintaining their store to ensure it’s safe for visitors
- Rental companies providing safe cars
- Manufacturers producing quality products and not selling broken equipment
- Doctors working diligently, while sober and properly rested, to provide quality healthcare
- Employers to provide safe work equipment, hours, and buildings
Breach of Duty
Once the defendant’s duty of care has been established, you must prove that they did not provide this duty to you. A breach of duty is any action that violates the duty of care, such as a drunk person choosing to drive. Another individual who runs a red light and enters a busy intersection has breached the duty of driving safely and following society’s structure.
Other examples of breaches of duty:
- An impaired worker or driver behaving unsafely
- Workplace with asbestos knowingly making employees work in the building
- Doctor prescribing the wrong medication
- Grocery store owner not cleaning a spill or clearing debris from aisles
- Manufacturer sending out damaged parts
Now that it is clear that the defendant breached their duty of care to the victim, you must prove that this breach directly caused your loved one’s death. Although individuals can act negligently, they are not always the cause of individual accidents.
In fact, this is where the stereotype of false personal injury claims comes from. Defendants spread the lie that people fake injuries to seek damages that they don’t deserve.
However, negligent actions and malicious accidents are real risks in society. Individuals who have lost a family member know how challenging it is to suffer a loss that you know could have been avoided.
Causation is proved by evidencing the victim’s injuries and death, and proving that they were caused by the defendant.
Examples of proving causation:
- Proving that they would not have passed away without the defendant’s intervention
- Proving that injury/death can be caused by the negligent and malicious actions of the defendant
- Witness statements
- Expert testimony
The victim’s death must have caused damages that the plaintiff is attempting to recover. Wrongful death claims aren’t solely about punishment, as criminal cases are. Rather, they focus on helping the victim’s family recover from their loss.
The plaintiff will need to demonstrate how the loss of the victim has affected their life – both financially and emotionally. They can then seek damages to compensate for the amount that was spent on the victim’s medical care before they passed away, funeral expenses, and emotional trauma.
Not sure what kind of damages your case could collect? Contact an Atlanta wrongful death lawyer at Rafi Law Firm.
Common Types of Wrongful Death Cases
Breaches of duty of care can occur at any time. That makes wrongful death cases extremely varied. However, there are six common types of wrongful death cases:
Automobile accidents include any type of accident involving a motor vehicle, such as trucks, cars, motorcycles, and pedestrians that are hit by vehicles. In 2017, Georgia saw over 1,500 deaths due to traffic accidents. Thousands more suffer life-altering injuries.
Most automobile accident fatalities occur when one or more driver(s)’s attention is not on the road. If a driver is negligent, impaired, or exhausted, they are actively risking the lives of others on the road. They can be liable for everyone’s injuries and deaths in an accident.
Most doctors and nurses are highly skilled and dedicated to their job. They are trusted to give you the best care possible. But they are also human, which means they sometimes make mistakes. These mistakes can result in death.
Most often, deaths occur because the doctors or nurses don’t follow protocol or simply miss something. If a doctor is overly tired and misdiagnosed or misprescribed treatments, a patient’s life could be at stake. There are also risks of overdose from overprescribing drugs or death due to errors in surgery.
If a defective product causes death, the company that manufactured the product is liable. This is because manufacturers have a duty of care to provide only safe and usable items.
For example, you could not sue for wrongful death if you tried to use a car battery as a stool and it injured you. You could sue if the car engine exploded while driving at a regular speed and killed the car’s passengers. Product liability can only be argued if the product was being used as any reasonable person would use it.
A homicide can trigger a wrongful death case. Typically they are pursued in criminal court first before being heard in civil court. These are especially difficult cases to prosecute on your own, as you will have to directly face the murderer in the courtroom. Homicide cases should always be tried by an Atlanta wrongful death lawyer, who knows how to win your case and punish those responsible appropriately.
If you fall at work and break your leg, that is a valid personal injury case. Similarly, if you fall at work and die due to your injuries, your family can file a wrongful death suit.
Workplace accidents are typically minor injuries with lasting consequences. Most are not as severe as wrongful death. However, dangerous workplaces, unsafe working conditions, or tainted air or water can result in a workplace wrongful death.
Premises liability means that the owner of the premises breached their duty to provide a safe space for visitors. This can be a home, a shop, or an organization’s offices. If a victim slips, falls, and dies due to their injury, (and the owner was negligent in maintaining the grounds) then the premises owner is liable for the accident.
What damages may be claimed in a wrongful death lawsuit?
Wrongful death lawsuits can claim three types of damages: economic, non-economic, and punitive. These damages are both on the behalf of the victim and for the surviving family members. Typically, seeking damages for the value of the deceased’s life is why individuals file wrongful death cases. They are hoping to recoup the expenses of their injuries and burial.
However, victim’s families are entitled to more than just these financial compensations.
Economic damages refer to all of the financial losses as a result of the victim’s loss of life. These include:
- Medical costs before their death (survival action)
- Funeral and burial costs
- Transportation of the body
- Loss of the deceased’s expected income
- Loss of any inheritance
- Value of the services the deceased would have provided
- Lost wages due to caring for the deceased, handling funeral planning, or grief
Non-economic damages are the emotional and psychological impact of the loss of a loved one. These include:
- Survival claim (the deceased’s pain and suffering)
- Loss of love, care, and guidance from the deceased
- Loss of love and companionship
- Loss of consortium (spouses only)
- Survivor’s emotional anguish and suffering
Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant. They are meant to deter similar behavior in the defendant or society in the future.
Punitive damages can be awarded if the defendant was especially reckless or negligent, often to the point of criminality. This can include homicidal actions or driving under the influence.
Who has the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit?
In Georgia, the Wrongful Death Act states who may file a lawsuit:
- The victim’s spouse
- If unmarried, the victim’s children
- If the victim was unmarried and had no children, their parents may file
- If none of the above apply, an estate administrator
While other loved ones of the victim—siblings, uncles, aunts, and grandparents—may participate in certain ways in the lawsuit, they are not able to file the lawsuit itself.
In Georgia, the party eligible to file has two years from the date of the victim’s death to start their claim. While there are exceptions to this statute of limitations, they are uncommon. To ensure you file a valid claim, begin speaking with an Atlanta wrongful death lawyer as soon as you can.
In a wrongful death case, you may recover “the full value of the life of the decedent without deducting for any of the necessary or personal expenses of the decedent had he lived.” O.C.G.A. 51-4-1. Estates can also claim damages for pain and suffering, if applicable.
Mike Rafi has fought for justice and maximum compensation on behalf of families who have lost loved ones. Mike tells all of his clients that he hopes one day he is out of business because folks are not getting hurt or killed in Georgia or elsewhere.
Call Mike so he can get justice for your loved one and hold the responsible parties accountable; your case may prevent another needless injury or death.
What is the average settlement for a wrongful death lawsuit?
There is no average settlement amount for wrongful death lawsuits. Every case is a different entity, with settlement amounts depending on a range of factors. The value of a case primarily hinges on the severity of the injury, the cost of treatments, and having a strong lawyer on your side.
Cases tried by individuals representing themselves receive 300% less compensation than cases defended by an Atlanta wrongful death lawyer.
To increase your settlement potential, hire an attorney today.
How long does it take to settle wrongful death claims?
There is no easy way to estimate how long a wrongful death claim will take to settle. In some cases, the plaintiff will receive damages within a few months. In others, the claim can take four years to resolve.
The length of your case will depend on the type of wrongful death, who you are filing against, and whether or not you have legal support.
Individuals who represent themselves have shorter claim periods because they settle for unfair offers from insurance companies. They get less than the economic damages. Settling a claim faster isn’t always better.
Wrongful Death Questions and Answers
Medical malpractice is a cause of personal injury, as is wrongful death. Medical malpractice doesn’t always result in death. It typically results in scarring, delayed treatment, or the need for additional treatment. Only in its most severe form does medical malpractice lead to wrongful death.
Ask the following to ensure your wrongful death lawyer has the time and experience to handle your case:
- How many wrongful death cases have you tried? How many have you won?
- What challenges do you see in my case?
- Who will be leading my case?
- How many cases are you currently working on?
Wrongful death lawyers specialize in the state laws regarding your case. They are able to get you more compensation because they know what damages to seek.
Representing yourself would mean losing money, because you don’t know all of the damages you’re entitled to. You will be on your own without someone to protect your rights.
Hire an Atlanta wrongful death lawyer to get maximum compensation and ongoing support.
Insurance coverage for wrongful death varies depending on the policy type. Business policies may cover small death claims, but they will not cover the entirety of the losses. Similarly, car insurance policies cover wrongful death claims in certain cases. Only select policies have these as part of their insurance policy.
These policies rarely pay the full amount of the losses suffered by wrongful death.
You will need to exercise your best judgment to determine if the police are required for your wrongful death claim. In most instances, they are not, since wrongful death claims are lengthy civil processes.
However, in the case of homicides, you should always involve the police.
If you have lost a loved one in a vehicle accident, call an Atlanta wrongful death lawyer for assistance. They will help you through the process of filing a legal claim, determining liability, and penalizing those at fault.
Rafi Law Firm believes in a better society with safer roads for everyone. If a negligent driver has to pay for their mistakes, they’re less likely to behave the same way in the future.
Worker’s compensation offers death benefits for certain family members. The benefits can only go to spouses, children, or parents of the employee who live with and depend on the deceased person’s income.
However, it will not cover more than their wages for a period of time.
Death benefits only cover situations where an individual dies on the job due to an accident, develops and dies from an illness from the site, or if they are injured on the job and die a few months later.
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