A 34-year-old man by the name of Timothy Collier was crossing US-19 South in Lee County, Georgia on the morning of April 8th when he was hit and killed by a car. Chief Deputy Lewis Harris from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office told the WALB 10 news team the driver hit the pedestrian and stopped the car around 6:30 a.m.
Both lanes traveling northbound were closed for an hour before reopening. The Georgia State Patrol is still investigating the case.
Losing a close family member because of someone else’s negligence is devastating. When you’re grieving, it’s important to know your rights in order to take the proper steps.
Who can file a wrongful death claim?
In the state of Georgia, only certain people can file a claim for the loss of a loved one. The deceased’s parents, spouse, or child are all eligible dependents who can file a claim. If the defendant was living with their significant other but never married, they can’t file a wrongful death claim.
A divorced spouse also can’t file a claim. If the deceased person isn’t survived by one of these primary beneficiaries, most states won’t allow a wrongful death claim. In some circumstances, Georgia will allow the executor of the deceased’s estate to file.
How long do you have to file?
Most states place a time limit for the plaintiff to file a wrongful death claim called the statute of limitations.
In Georgia, the deadline in which to file a wrongful death claim is 2 years in most cases.
How to prove negligence for a pedestrian accident
The 4 key elements of a wrongful death claim are:
The defendant must owe the deceased due care. The term “due care” is usually defined as the obligation to refrain from causing harm. It can also mean keeping the deceased safe and secure by avoiding reckless driving.
For example, in the case of this fatal pedestrian accident in Lee County, the driver likely owed Mr. Collier a duty to yield the right of way, as all drivers owe pedestrians in the state of Georgia. If the defendant (driver) was speeding or texting while driving, that’s considered reckless behavior, the defendant might be liable.
Pedestrians, too, have a duty of care to follow road crossing laws and not causing an accident by darting into the street.
2. Breach of duty
If the plaintiff can prove the defendant had a duty to the deceased, the plaintiff must then prove that this basic duty was breached. There might be evidence showing the defendant drove through a red light or failed to yield.
Because this is a civil trial, the plaintiff must prove beyond a range of 50 percent (or a “preponderance of the evidence”) that this recklessness happened and was a breach of the driver’s duty.
3. Proving causation
The next step is when the plaintiff must provide evidence that the breach of duty was the reason for the death. In the case of a pedestrian accident, it must be proven that the defendant was driving the vehicle that killed the deceased. If another vehicle hit the pedestrian, then it wouldn’t matter in this case if the defendant drove recklessly.
Finally, a jury won’t award damages unless the plaintiff can prove that the deceased suffered real and measurable financial costs (known as “damages”). The wrongful death suit must prove breach of duty and tangible damages. This can include medical bills, funeral expenses, and financial losses to the family.
For example, if the deceased provided financial support to their dependents, this is considered a financial loss to the family. Additionally, the court may place a value on the deceased’s life by considering their potential earnings.
What to expect if you want to file a wrongful death claim
Our experienced Georgia attorneys can help you outline the process during your free initial consultation. Every case is different, but generally, filing a wrongful death claim looks something like this:
Step 1: Building a case
If there’s sufficient cause, your attorney will gather evidence to support your claim. An experienced lawyer can help negotiate a settlement offer with the other party (defendant) or their insurance company. Having a skilled attorney on your side can make the difference between a satisfactory and unsatisfactory offer.
A majority of wrongful death cases can reach a fair settlement without the need for a trial.
But if your attorney can’t reach a fair settlement with the defendant, your case may have to go to trial.
Step 2: Preparing for trial
Formal litigation is when your attorney prepares a complaint to be served on the responsible party. First, evidence is shared between parties, also known as “discovery.”
Then, the judge will often meet with both sides before the trial to determine if a possibility still exists to settle. If not, the judge decides which evidence is acceptable and which charges are supported by the evidence before starting the trial.
Records related to the incident will be reviewed by both parties. This includes accident reports, medical records, insurance papers, and photos of the scene. Witnesses may also be brought in and questioned under oath about what they saw.
Step 3: Arguing your case
Both attorneys will ask questions and paint a picture of incidents leading to the loss of life in front of a jury or judge.
Do you need a wrongful death attorney?
Our attorneys at Westmoreland Law will fight to show how your loss was invaluable, and that you deserve the highest financial award allowed by Georgia law for the spouse or parent that you’ve lost.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Contact our firm to discuss the merits of your potential wrongful death suit today. With offices located in Macon, Albany, and Warner Robins, we’ll help you take the first steps towards fair compensation.