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Atlanta wrongful death attorney

The unexpected death of a loved one is a traumatic event that leaves families reeling with grief and sorrow — and questions about what happened. If the negligence of another party is responsible for your loss, filing a wrongful death claim can help answer those questions and provide loved ones with the compensation they need to begin moving forward.

atlanta wrongful death attorney

We are here for you and your family

At Harrison Injury Law, we understand that no amount of financial compensation can replace a life, but taking legal action can help grieving families achieve closure and relieve some of the financial burdens of their loss.

Our wrongful death attorneys in Atlanta are here to assist you in this difficult time, providing compassionate legal counsel as you weigh your legal options and navigate the complexities of a wrongful death claim.

How Georgia defines wrongful death

Under Georgia law, a person’s death is considered “wrongful” when it is caused by the negligent or criminal act of another party. Deaths caused by defectively manufactured property may also be considered wrongful.

An act is negligent when the responsible party had a duty of care to the victim, breached that duty and their breach caused the death of the victim. For example, a person driving a car would be expected to follow the rules of the road; if they break a traffic law, like speeding, and cause an accident that results in someone’s death, the driver breached their duty of care and could be considered negligent.

Who can file a wrongful death claim in Georgia

In the state of Georgia, only certain surviving family members are permitted to file a wrongful death claim for the “full value of the life” of the deceased.

The deceased person’s spouse has priority to file the claim. If the deceased has no surviving spouse, their child or children may file the claim. There are no age restrictions on the children; both minor and adult children can file a claim. Minor children may have an authorized adult represent them through the claim process.

If the deceased has no surviving spouse or children, their parents may be eligible to file a claim. And if nobody else is eligible to file, the administrator or executor of the deceased’s estate may be able to do so on behalf of the deceased’s next of kin. 

How wrongful death settlements are paid out

Keep in mind that the above guidelines only refer to who can file a wrongful death claim, and the actual distribution of settlement money may differ.

For example, if the deceased was married at the time of their death and their surviving spouse files a wrongful death claim, the spouse won’t necessarily receive all of the compensation. If the deceased also has surviving children, they’re entitled to a portion of the settlement as well. The surviving spouse must receive at least a third of the settlement, and the amount designated for the children will be divided among the children evenly.

Similarly,  if the deceased has two surviving parents but only one parent files the claim, both parents will receive a share of the compensation.

Wrongful death claims have special deadlines. Make sure you file on time

In Georgia, all civil claims — including wrongful death claims — are subject to a statute of limitations, meaning that there is a deadline for filing the claim. If you fail to file the claim within that window, you may be prevented from obtaining compensation for your loved one’s wrongful death, so prompt action is essential.

Generally speaking, a Georgia wrongful death claim must be filed within two years of the date of the person’s death. This deadline may be extended or “tolled” in certain circumstances — such as when there’s an uncompleted criminal case connected to the events that caused the death — but these extensions are few and far between, so it’s best to speak with a wrongful death attorney in Atlanta, GA as soon as possible.

The primary goal of a wrongful death claim is to provide financial compensation for the losses, or damages, sustained by the deceased person’s survivors as a result of their untimely passing. The damages available in a wrongful death claim will depend on the specifics of the case, but they typically fall under one of two categories: economic damages and non-economic damages.

Economic damages

Any tangible financial losses that the deceased’s family suffered and is expected to suffer in the future may be considered economic damages. This could include medical expenses related to the injury that caused the death, lost benefits and wages that the deceased would have earned if they had survived, and funeral and burial expenses.

Non-economic damages

Some losses cannot be easily quantified in terms of money but may still be recovered as damages. These non-economic damages may include the pain and suffering the deceased may have experienced in the moments leading up to their death and the loved ones’ loss of companionship and care provided by the deceased.

When a loved one in Georgia passes away due to the negligent act of another, there are two potential claims: (1) a personal-injury claim that is controlled by the decedent’s estate; and (2) a wrongful-death claim that is controlled by the next of kin defined in the wrongful-death statute (most commonly the surviving spouse or children). The estate’s claim for personal injury covers the medical bills, loss wages,  and the decedent’s pain and suffering up until the time of death. The wrongful death claim covers the full value of the life of the decedent and costs associated with burial. 

An experienced Georgia wrongful-death attorney can help the decedent’s family decide whether to pursue a personal-injury claim, a wrongful-death claim, or both. Some inexperienced laymen may assume that two claims are always better than one, but this is not always true.  For example, if a decedent incurred a very large hospital bill before passing away, the hospital is likely to file a lien against the personal injury case under O.C.G.A. § 44-14-470.  In some unfortunate situations, this hospital lien could be larger than the total amount of available insurance money to recover. In these situations, it is possible to pursue the wrongful death claim only and intentionally not pursue the estate’s personal-injury claim. This can be advantageous because the hospital’s lien can’t reach the relative’s claim for wrongful death. Nash v. Allstate Ins. Co., 256 Ga. App. 143, 567 S.E.2d 748 (2002).  An inexperienced attorney who pursued both claims in this situation could trigger the hospital lien’s ability to attach to the settlement proceeds thereby costing the client huge amounts of money by unnecessarily repaying the hospital lien for the decedent. 

These situations are extremely complicated and the right strategic path to pursue in each case varies greatly depending on a host of factors at play that are different in every case. It is very important to find an attorney who has significant experience in handling wrongful death cases to help you plan the best possible strategy to maximize the amount of the client’s recovery. 

Finally, in some unusual situations there can be conflicts between the different loved ones of the decedent. If a decedent leaves a will that apportions the estate proceeds differently from the wrongful death statutes, the amount of money that ultimately flows to each loved one can vary greatly depending on how the proceeds are apportioned between the estate’s claims for personal injury and the relative’s claim for wrongful death. In these situations, it is incredibly important to have an experienced Georgia wrongful death attorney advocating for you early on in the process.  

atlanta wrongful death lawyer

Relative’s (most often surviving spouse or children) claim for wrongful death

Typically, when we refer to a “wrongful death” claim, we’re talking about a full value of life claim. This type of claim is regulated by Georgia’s wrongful death laws and allows eligible loved ones to seek compensation for the value of both the tangible and intangible aspects of the deceased’s life. This value is determined from the perspective of the deceased rather than the survivors. 

Estate’s claim for personal injuries 

An estate claim may be pursued by the wrongful death victim’s estate on behalf of a victim, but it’s subject to Georgia’s estate laws instead. Where a “full value of life” claim seeks compensation for the value of the deceased’s life, an estate claim primarily seeks compensation for the losses directly associated with their death (such as medical bills or pre-death loss wages or pain and suffering).

The standard eligibility criteria for filing a wrongful death don’t apply to an estate claim — rather, the administrator of the deceased’s will must file this type of claim. If the deceased didn’t have a will, Georgia’s intestacy laws will determine who is entitled to file the claim.

A wrongful death claim is usually filed against the party whose negligence or wrongdoing resulted in the victim’s death. This could be a person or an entity, such as a business or government agency. In some cases, multiple parties may be liable.

At-fault drivers

Motor vehicle drivers have a responsibility to obey traffic laws and exercise reasonable caution while behind the wheel. When they fail to do so and their negligence contributes to a collision, other parties on the road may be killed as a result, making the at-fault driver liable for their wrongful death.

Medical providers

Medical providers, such as doctors, nurses, and hospitals, must adhere to a certain standard of care while caring for patients. If they fail to provide an appropriate level of care, and the patient passes away due to their negligence, the provider may be held liable for wrongful death.

Criminal offenders

When a person commits a crime that results in another’s death, they may be subject to a civil wrongful death claim in addition to criminal penalties. This is particularly likely in cases involving vehicular homicide or murder.

Defective or dangerous product manufacturers

Manufacturers of consumer products, such as vehicles, medical equipment, and toys, are responsible for producing and selling products that are safe for the intended use. If a defect in the product causes an injury that results in death, the manufacturer may be liable in a wrongful death case.

Many types of accidents can lead to wrongful death claims, but some are more common than others.

Car accidents

Each year, more than 1,500 people lose their lives in collisions on Georgia’s roads. The negligent behaviors that often contribute to these fatal crashes include speeding, distracted driving, drunk driving, and disregarding traffic signals.

Truck accidents

The risks of traffic accidents are heightened when large trucks like 18-wheelers and semi-trucks are involved. These massive vehicles have larger blind spots and require more time to slow down, which can increase the likelihood of a fatal crash. Negligence-related factors such as driver fatigue, mechanical issues, and improper loading can further increase the risks.

Medical malpractice

Medical malpractice occurs when a medical provider fails to provide an appropriate level of care, and the patient suffers harm as a result. Common examples of medical malpractice that may lead to wrongful death include improper or delayed diagnosis, failure to monitor or follow up with a patient, medication errors, and surgical errors.

Workplace accidents

Employees are entitled to a safe and secure workplace, free from known hazards, and any deviation from this standard may put workers at risk for a fatal accident. Examples of workplace accidents that can lead to wrongful death claims include slips and falls, machinery malfunctions, and collapse of scaffolding or other structures.

Accidental poisoning and overdose

Substances such as carbon monoxide, lead, and certain medications can be toxic — and sometimes deadly — if ingested in excess. This type of wrongful death claim may occur when a person is exposed to hazardous chemicals on the job or when a doctor prescribes medication in an incorrect dosage.

You’re dealing with enough when you’ve lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, and you shouldn’t have to worry about the financial burden of hiring a wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta. That’s why our attorneys represent clients on a contingency fee basis.

This means that you don’t have to pay anything out-of-pocket for our services, and we only get paid if we successfully recover a settlement or verdict on your behalf. If we achieve a recovery, our fee will be taken out of the proceeds before you receive the payment. We’re proud to offer a reasonable fee structure that lowers your costs to ensure that the majority of the money will serve as compensation for your loss.

Our Atlanta wrongful death lawyers are here to help you and your family

When you turn to Harrison Injury Law, your case won’t be passed back and forth between paralegals and assistants. Instead, you’ll speak directly with the Atlanta wrongful death lawyer working on your case. Personalized and compassionate representation is our top priority, so you can be sure that your wrongful death case will get the attention it deserves. If you believe that your loved one’s death was caused by negligence, Harrison Injury Law is here to help you seek justice, closure, and compensation. Contact us today at (404) 796-7664 for a free consultation. We look forward to speaking with you.

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