How to file a wrongful death suit against a nursing home in Georgia
It has been estimated that as much as 20-24 percent of all deaths in the United States occur in nursing homes. This number is increasing. The leading causes of death in the U.S. remain cardiovascular/cerebrovascular and cancer; however, in nursing homes, the leading cause of death is Alzheimer’s disease, with most dying while in hospice care.
Tragically, many nursing home deaths are the result of negligence and medical malpractice. But the true cause of death in a nursing home resident is often difficult to specify when patients seldom have autopsies. This can make it difficult to prove that the cause of death was related to negligence.
In the case of wrongful death, you’ll want an experienced Georgia nursing home abuse attorney on your side to prove it and get your family the compensation you deserve. It won’t bring back your loved one, but it can provide peace of mind and ease your family’s financial burden.
Standard protocol for death in a nursing home
Different nursing homes have different procedures for handling death. In most cases, a patient is considered palliative (expected to die) a few days before they pass away.
A doctor then fills out a death certificate. This might take time if the death occurred in the middle of the night. If you instructed the nursing home to call you, they may call at this point. You may even be called right before your loved one passes away so you can be with them.
Then, a funeral director comes to pick up the body. In some cases, the other patients are informed of the death and given an opportunity to say goodbye. Other nursing homes try to remove the body quickly.
Signs of nursing home wrongful death
While nursing home deaths are common, some were entirely avoidable. You may have seen warning signs that your family member was not being properly cared for the last couple of times you went to visit.
They may appear to be suffering from malnutrition, weight loss and dehydration. You may notice unexplained bruises on their body or a change in their personality. These can be signs that your family member was actually physically abused by nursing home staff and this may have contributed to their death.
Patients at nursing home facilities also rely on several medications. Failing to administer these medications, administering them at the wrong time, administering them too often or administering the wrong medications can lead to wrongful death.
However, the nursing home might try to cover up this error. Therefore, it’s important to have an autopsy performed to determine the cause of death.
Wrongful death litigation in Georgia
Under Georgia state law, wrongful death is the death of one individual caused by the reckless, negligent, intentional or criminal acts of another. Those who work at a nursing home are expected to show due care when taking care of patients. Failure to do so would make the nursing home liable for negligence.
A wrongful death lawsuit may be brought by family members within 2 years of the loved one passing away.
In most cases, a personal representative of the deceased’s estate may file a claim for pain and suffering, medical bills and other losses. This claim is separate from the wrongful death claim brought by family members.
Types of wrongful death claims
Georgia allows a plaintiff to bring 2 types of wrongful death claims. The first values the full life of the deceased. This includes any lost wages or benefits resulting from the loss of the deceased as well as the loss of care, companionship and other benefits that came from the loved one.
The second type of claim accounts for all medical expenses you have suffered as a result of the deceased’s death. This is brought on behalf of the estate of the deceased and recovers losses that the estate has suffered as a result of the wrongful death. This will include medical expenses related to the last illness that the deceased suffered from, funeral and burial expenses, and any pain and suffering that the deceased endured.
In almost every case, you will have 2 years after the death to file a wrongful death claim. However, if there is a criminal case related to the wrongful death claim, the clock will stop ticking until the courts have resolved the criminal case. If the state has not been probated, your time limit may be extended all the way to 7 years.
Who can sue after a nursing home wrongful death?
Georgia statute explicitly states who is eligible to file a wrongful death claim. If the deceased has a surviving spouse, they have the right to file a wrongful death claim. If there is no surviving spouse, then any offspring can bring a lawsuit. If there are no children either, the administrator of the estate may sue.
The distribution of wrongful death benefits can be complicated. For example, if a spouse and 4 children are involved in the wrongful death lawsuit, the spouse receives at least one-third of the settlement. The courts distribute the rest of the settlement evenly across the children.
If one of the children was already deceased, the heirs of the child (the grandchildren), would not be entitled to wrongful death benefits under Georgia law, unless the deceased child was alive when the lawsuit began and was an original claimant.
Untangling a wrongful death case
Complex wrongful death cases require assistance from a Georgia nursing home abuse lawyer. You can then focus on grieving while your attorney focuses on your case.
If you choose to settle the wrongful death case out of court, you will likely be offered a much lower settlement than what your case is really worth without the help of an experienced attorney. It’s in your best interest to hire a knowledgeable and trusted lawyer to get the benefits you deserve.