If you have tragically lost a spouse, parent, or child, you may feel understandably adrift and unsure of where to turn. However, you have rights. You and your family may be able to make a wrongful death claim that will pay for funeral costs, medical bills, your own mental suffering, and the income that your loved one would have earned.
Speak with an Atlanta wrongful death attorney to get the help you need. Our attorneys are here for you. We have decades of experience, and we know how to make the process as pain-free as possible – with a strong record of winning cases. Let us give you a FREE consultation to answer your questions and explain your rights.
Understanding Wrongful Death Claims in Atlanta
Wrongful death is a legal term for any fatality that was caused by someone’s intentional or careless behavior. Wrongful death claims are often based on “negligence.” Negligence means that someone wasn’t as careful as they should have been, and as a result, another person was injured or killed. Negligence is at the root of many deaths caused by car accidents and falls.
But a wrongful death can happen in many other ways. Some of the elements that may qualify for an Atlanta wrongful death lawsuit include:
- Defective construction
- Food contamination
- Medical malpractice
- Drunk driving
- Defective products
- Dangerous medical devices
- Nursing home neglect
- Criminal activity
- Unsafe prescription drugs
How Wrongful Death Claims Are Unique
Most injury claims are made by the injured person, and they seek to recover costs like medical bills and car repairs as well as wages lost due to missed days of work after the accident. But when the injuries are fatal, the injured person is no longer around to make a claim.
The law recognizes this and allows certain close family members to bring a claim instead. Family members can also make claims for their own suffering related to the injury and death of their loved one.
Wrongful death claims are also different from many other injury cases because of their complexity. First, the decedent cannot serve as a witness to explain what happened. This can make it harder to determine who is at fault.
Second, a wrongful death claim seeks to recover compensation for the estimated economic contributions the decedent would have made to the family in the future. This is a complex calculation that requires input from experts.
Family Members Who Can Make a Wrongful Death Claim in Atlanta
In Georgia, only the closest relatives of the decedent can make a wrongful death claim, per Georgia Statutes §51-4-2. This means that:
- The spouse can make a claim
- If there is no spouse, the children of the decedent can make a claim
- If there is no spouse or children, the decedent’s parents can make a claim
- If there is no spouse, children, or parents, the estate of the decedent can make a claim
Same-sex life partners can file wrongful death claims, but only if they were legally married to the decedent. Unmarried life partners cannot file the claim themselves, but they may be able to seek a share of the settlement from the administrator of the estate.
Calculating the Value of Your Wrongful Death Claim
The amount of money you receive in a wrongful death claim depends on many factors, including the age of the decedent, their expected lifetime earnings, and the circumstances surrounding the death. In Georgia, you are eligible to recover 100% of the costs and expenses associated with their death, plus money to represent the loss of their income and future earnings.
You are also entitled to recover for your own losses. This means that you may be able to recover money for:
- Medical bills
- Funeral costs
- Pain and suffering experienced by the decedent
- Your own pain and suffering as a result of losing a loved one
- Loss of your loved one’s love and protection
- Loss of the decedent’s future income, including raises
- Loss of retirement and other benefits
- Emotional distress
In some cases, you may be eligible for even larger punitive damage awards. Courts award punitive damages to punish behavior that they want to discourage, such as drunk driving. Punitive damages can mean your case settles for far more than you expect. It’s not uncommon for wrongful death settlements to be in the millions of dollars.
Money is no substitute for the life of someone you love. But our Atlanta wrongful death attorneys know that a sudden death in the family can cause financial stress on top of the grief, and these financial awards aim to keep your family on a firm financial footing as you try to rebuild your life.
Caps on Awards and Judgments in Your Wrongful Death Case
Many states place a numeric cap on the amount of compensation you can receive for personal injury or wrongful death claims. This can limit your potential for punitive damages, depending on the situation leading up to your loved one’s death.
Though Georgia does not have a specific cap or standard, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that compensation ratios that are more than single-digit ratios are likely unconstitutional and unfair.
For example, it’s unlikely that you would be able to pursue compensation that is more than ten times as much as the total value of your family’s damages, even in punitive cases.
When to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia
As with personal injury claims, wrongful death claims must be filed within two years of your loved one’s passing. However, there are exceptions to this statute of limitations. For example, you may have less time to file the claim if the death stems from medical malpractice.
The best course of action is to consult with our wrongful death attorneys in Atlanta to better understand the details of your claim. If you wait too long to file the claim, you risk losing the right to pursue compensation at all.
Determining the Validity of Your Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawsuit
If your loved one died and you feel like someone else might have been at fault, there’s a good chance you have a claim. There are many types of wrongful death claims, and some of them, like products liability cases, require investigation to determine whether your claim is valid.
Never second guess yourself. Schedule a consultation with a good wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta and let them use their professional experience to evaluate whether you have a claim.
When you’re dealing with an enormous loss, lawyers and the legal system may be the last thing you want to think about. But it’s best to see a lawyer as soon as possible. Wrongful death cases are complicated, and the longer you wait to get started, the longer you will have to wait for a financial recovery.
Dealing With Insurance Companies After a Wrongful Death
Insurance companies are motivated by profits, and they know that wrongful death claims can be expensive. They will find any way possible to pay you less than your claim is worth. If you have already received an offer from the insurance company, it is almost certainly far less than the full amount you deserve under the law.
Atlanta car accident lawyers are trained to fight for you and maximize your settlement. At our law firm, we start every case with an investigation into how the death happened and who is responsible. This is important because insurance companies sometimes try to avoid paying by blaming the decedent.
We review medical records and police reports, and we bring in experts who can estimate future earnings and put a dollar value on emotional injuries like pain and suffering or emotional distress. Then, we go back to the insurance company with our evidence. That alone is often enough to make them offer significantly more money.
NEVER accept the first offer an insurance company gives you. If you do, you likely lose the right to pursue additional compensation.
How Our Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorneys Can Help
In addition to negotiating with insurance representatives and opposing counsel for a fair settlement, skilled wrongful death lawyers in Atlanta can help your family in a variety of ways.
Discovering Liable Parties
One of those is by working to identify all possible at-fault parties in your case. More at-fault parties often means more avenues to get you the compensation you deserve.
At-fault parties can include:
- The individuals responsible for your loved one’s initial injury
- The company that oversees those individuals
- Manufacturers of car parts, medical devices, or other sources of your loved one’s injury
- Hospitals or nursing homes (in medical malpractice cases)
Gathering and Preserving Evidence
Another crucial way to assist your family is by obtaining all available evidence of wrongdoing in your loved one’s passing. This can include official police records, medical records, expert witness testimony, eyewitness testimony (for example, in the event of a car accident), and more.
Our lawyers have experience gathering evidence before it fades away or is lost to memory. The more evidence you have to bolster your claim, the more likely it is that you will receive a fair settlement or court award.
Talk to an Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyer for Free
Our lawyers have spent decades helping the families of accident and injury victims recover money in wrongful death claims. You don’t pay us anything unless we win money for you. Our Atlanta car accident lawyers can help you decide whether you have a claim and what to do next. Call us our fill out our online contact form to schedule your FREE consultation today.