When a loved one dies from someone’s negligence…
Get justice and compensation for your loss of financial support, funeral expenses, or medical bills.
Losing a husband or a wife, or a mother or father, is difficult under any circumstances. But when the death is caused by the wrongful or negligent conduct of another, the emotional devastation can be particularly devastating.
Each state has its own wrongful death laws and not every state follows the same guidelines, principles or rules. In Georgia, the law allows for a legal action to seek compensation when such conduct occurs.
At the law firm of Westmoreland, Patterson, Moseley & Hinson in Macon, we can help you pursue the compensation allowed by law after the wrongful death of a close family member. We can advise you on whether you have a valid wrongful death claim and help pursue that claim against those responsible.
What is wrongful death?
The deceased person’s surviving relatives, dependents or beneficiaries may bring suit against the responsible party (or parties), seeking monetary damages for their losses.
These damages may include:
- Medical bills
- Funeral expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of companionship
Under Georgia statute (O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2):
The surviving spouse or, if there is no surviving spouse, a child or children, either minor or sui juris, may recover for the homicide of the spouse or parent the full value of the life of the decedent, as shown by the evidence.
“Full value of the life of the decedent, as shown by the evidence” means the full value of the life of the decedent without deducting for any of the necessary or personal expenses of the decedent had he lived.
What caused your loved one’s wrongful death?
Deaths caused by the negligent or wrongful conduct of another can occur in many different ways. Some of the most common types include:
- Car accidents caused by drunk driving, distracted driving or other negligence
- Construction site and other workplace accidents, often involving fatal falls from scaffolding or occupational diseases caused by toxic exposure
- Trucking accidents resulting from fatigued driving, overloaded trucks, chemical dependency or other causes
- Dangerous or defective products such as defective vehicles, dangerous drugs or unsafe consumer products
- Medical malpractice due to medication errors, hospital infections or other errors by medical professionals and staff
Wrongful death can also occur in many other ways, of course, from bar fights to criminal assaults to boating accidents.No matter what type of accident or deliberate injury claimed the life of your loved one, our goal is to secure the compensation you and your family are entitled to under the law.
Georgia wrongful death laws and statute of limitations
Wrongful death laws vary from state to state. Some states have “true” wrongful death acts in which the deceased person’s survivors or next of kin are entitled to bring a cause of action for their damages resulting from a family member’s death. Other states have acts that are more properly called “survival actions.” In general, survival actions are brought on behalf of the deceased person for the deceased person’s pain, suffering and other damages resulting from the injuries that caused his or her death.
In many jurisdictions, it’s not necessary that the defendant’s conduct be the sole cause of death. Even when the defendant’s negligence contributes only in part or in tandem with other circumstances to a person’s death, liability may still apply.
This time limit is known as the “statute of limitations,” and there are only a few exceptions. One of the rare exceptions is if there’s an ongoing criminal case that relates to the same events as the wrongful death claim. In such cases, the wrongful death deadline is “suspended” until the criminal case is completed.
In Georgia, the statute of limitations may also be suspended for up to 5 years for wrongful death cases if the person’s estate isn’t probated. In this case, a person would have up to 7 years after the date of death to file a claim.
It’s important to realize that while there are general rules and restrictions on filing a wrongful death claim in Georgia, every case is different. If you have questions about your claim, you should contact an experienced Georgia wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to learn about your rights.
Who can file a wrongful death claim in Georgia?
The individuals who are entitled to bring a wrongful death claim also varies by jurisdiction. Generally, the “primary beneficiaries” of the person who has died are eligible to bring a claim. Depending on the state, most often the spouse, children and parents are considered primary beneficiaries. If the deceased person isn’t survived by one of these primary beneficiaries, most states won’t allow a wrongful death claim. A long-term, unmarried partner, for example, generally wouldn’t be able to file a wrongful death suit.
Georgia’s wrongful death law is based on statute and centered on compensation for a surviving spouse of someone whose life was lost due to the negligent or wrongful conduct of another. But if there is no surviving spouse, that doesn’t necessarily mean the party responsible for the death gets off scot-free.
If there is no surviving spouse, a child or children may be able to bring a claim. Even if there is no spouse or child, Georgia law allows for the executor of the deceased person’s estate to pursue a wrongful death action in some circumstances.
How to calculate wrongful death damages
For example, the plaintiffs in a wrongful death case may be able to recover the deceased person’s medical expenses, funeral and burial expenses, lost earnings, and lost benefits (such as pension benefits or medical and health insurance coverage).
Additionally, in a few states, the plaintiffs may be able to recover damages for pain and suffering or mental anguish that they experienced as a result of the death as well as punitive damages. The method and manner of calculating damages in a wrongful death action can be complicated. This potential complexity is especially true when trying to calculate the monetary loss to which the plaintiffs are entitled.
Monetary loss, sometimes called “pecuniary loss,” generally includes the survivor’s lost support, contributions and services of the deceased person. The computations for these damages are typically based on the deceased person’s overall life expectancy and work life expectancy as well as the life expectancies of the beneficiaries and, where necessary, the remaining period of minority of any beneficiaries.
In cases where there is more than one beneficiary, the damages will be distributed among those beneficiaries. Most states allocate the damages among the beneficiaries in accordance with their losses. However, in some states the recovery is divided as spelled out in its wrongful death or intestacy laws.
Defenses to liability in wrongful death cases
In general, a defendant is entitled to raise any defenses in a wrongful death action that could have been raised in an action brought directly by the decedent had he or she not died. For example, if the individual who dies is considered partially negligent or at fault in causing his or her own death, the defendant may assert that defense in the wrongful death action.
Also, in most states, if the decedent had already recovered damages for the defendant’s negligence, such as in a case where the death wasn’t immediate and the decedent was able to bring his own successful personal injury claim, the survivors may not then successfully bring a wrongful death action and recover for the same injury.
There are limitations to this prohibition, however, and in some situations the survivors may still be entitled to bring a wrongful death action in their own names.
The resources needed to win
Unlike some personal injury attorneys who settle all of their cases, we are not afraid to go to court if needed. Our firm has the resources needed to thoroughly prepare, try and win complicated cases.
We are dedicated to doing everything legally and ethically possible to obtain the best results for our injured clients. Hard work and dedication have allowed us to recover millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for people in personal injury and wrongful death claims.
Find out how our Macon wrongful death attorneys can help
When your claim involves the loss of the family breadwinner, we know just how vitally important this is for you. The complexities of a legal claim against the wrongdoer can be overwhelming. At this already stressful and emotion-laden time, it’s invaluable to have the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney at the law firm of Westmoreland, Patterson, Moseley & Hinson in Macon, GA. We can guide surviving family members through the complex legal maze and help secure compensation for their devastating losses.
The recognition our attorneys have earned includes holding leadership positions in the Georgia State Bar and conducting continuing-education seminars for other lawyers. You can rely on our experience to make sure your wrongful death claim gets treated with the respect it justly deserves.
We have the skills to aggressively assert your legal rights at trial or deal successfully with opponents in settlement negotiations. Our firm has been getting results in personal injury cases for clients throughout Georgia for more than 50 years. We handle most personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. This means you don’t have to pay us any attorneys’ fees unless we recover compensation for you. We also offer free consultations. That’s our No Fee Guarantee.