What are the steps for filing a wrongful death claim according to Georgia law?
Losing a loved one is one of the most traumatic experiences a person can face. In times of grief, it is important to know your legal rights when your loss is the result of another person’s negligence.
Individuals in Georgia should be aware that restrictions exist on who is legally entitled to file a wrongful death suit. The law states that, in most cases, only a surviving legal spouse or biological or adopted children are considered beneficiaries.
Consulting an experienced attorney is a critical aspect of ensuring that the person or entity responsible for such a death is held accountable under Georgia law. There are complicated rules and deadlines for anyone seeking to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia. At the law firm of Westmoreland, Patterson, Moseley & Hinson, we can help navigate those tricky legal waters.
Wrongful death statute of limitations
First, it is important to understand the requirements involved when you are seeking to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In Georgia, the law gives an affected party 2 years from the date of death to file a suit against the responsible party. This statute of limitations is one reason why finding appropriate legal counsel as soon as possible is the first step to take.
Westmoreland Law represents the best interests of our clients throughout the process and we can help you determine quickly if you meet the requirements to proceed with your claim of wrongful death.
Why file a wrongful death claim?
While no legal recourse exists that can remove the emotional damage of losing your loved one, a wrongful death suit can provide financial compensation to the family.
Losing a parent, spouse or other loved one often creates a financial hardship when income and other support is lost. Restitution and compensation may be available to cover expenses caused by the loss of your loved one and may include the costs of any medical care prior to the death, as well as the funeral costs afterward.
Financial support for the family can also include income that was lost from the date the accident occurred up until the actual death. A court may also consider the loss of net income (the income that your family member would have earned throughout the course of their natural life had the incident never occurred).
Other forms of compensation typically rewarded in a wrongful death lawsuit include payment for household tasks the decedent paid for before death as well as emotional pain and suffering.
No amount of money will erase the pain of your loss, yet knowing the financial loss is lessened can ease the burden as you make sense of your new reality without your loved one.
Here’s the general process for how wrongful death claims play out in Georgia:
Step 1: Building your case
After it has been determined that there is sufficient cause to file a lawsuit, your attorney will gather evidence against the party at fault to support your claim. Having an experienced lawyer represent you will often lead to a settlement offer by the other party. Consequently, having an attorney can make all the difference in whether or not the offer you receive is a satisfactory amount.
Step 2: Negotiating a resolution
Your lawyer’s job is to ensure a fair settlement and if one is not offered immediately, an experienced attorney will take on negotiations with the other side, making every attempt to ensure a satisfactory offer is made. A majority of wrongful death cases can reach a fair settlement without the need for a trial.
However, if negotiations break down, then you’ll need to continue onto the next step.
Step 3: Preparing for trial
Should negotiations break down or fail, your lawyer will then prepare your case for trial. Formal litigation is when your attorney prepares a complaint to be served on the responsible party. Evidence is shared between parties, called “discovery,” while questions are answered under oath pertaining to the actions and incidents that led to the death of the subject of the lawsuit.
Records related to the incident will be reviewed by both parties, including accident reports, medical records and insurance papers. Any witnesses to the incident will be deposed under oath, which simply means they’re questioned about what they know after they legally promise to speak truthfully.
The judge will often meet with both sides to determine if there remains a possibility to settle before the start of the trial. If there is not, the judge settles any issues regarding which evidence is admissible and which charges are supported by the evidence, and then a trial will commence.
Step 4: Arguing your case before a judge or jury
The trial will involve telling the story of a life lost in front of a judge or jury who will decide the outcome of your claim. Questions will be asked of both sides by both attorneys.
Our team at Westmoreland Law will fight back against the responsible party’s attorneys as they seek to downplay your loss and save money on their side. We will demonstrate to the judge and jury that what you have lost is something of immeasurable value, yet there are practical considerations at play and you are entitled to the highest financial award allowed by Georgia law for the spouse or parent that you’ve lost.
We make it our mission to assure that you are compensated for the loss of your loved one’s contributions. Contact our firm now to discuss the merits of your potential wrongful death suit today and we will make your case a priority.