A Tifton Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help Your Family If You’ve Lost a Loved One in an Accident
Accidents happen every day, and unfortunately, some are fatal. Families of accident victims face numerous challenges; not only are they grieving the loss of a loved one, but they also have to worry about the loss of income and funeral expenses. If you recently lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. A Tifton wrongful death lawyer can help you navigate the process and build a case so you can get the compensation your family needs.
Georgia law allows families to pursue wrongful death claims to recover these losses. However, wrongful death cases are complex. You need to know who can pursue a claim and what losses you are entitled to recover.
Wrongful Death Cases in Georgia
Georgia law allows people to pursue wrongful death claims when the accident is the cause of another party’s negligence or recklessness or due to intentional or criminal acts. Wrongful death cases commonly arise from the following:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Deaths caused by medical malpractice
- Construction site and workplace accidents
- Deaths caused by dangerous or defective products
Wrongful death claims can include cases where the victim died in the accident or died weeks, months, or sometimes years later. If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s actions, a Tifton wrongful death lawyer can discuss whether or not you can pursue a claim.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits After Criminal Activity
If you have lost a loved one due to a criminal act, it is important to understand how the perpetrator’s criminal case impacts (and doesn’t impact) your family’s legal rights. First and foremost, a criminal conviction will not result in payment of just compensation. To recover just compensation, your family must pursue a wrongful death claim in civil court. This is an entirely separate process from the state’s prosecution of the perpetrator for his or her criminal act.
While proof that the perpetrator committed a crime can be helpful for pursuing a wrongful death claim, it is not necessary. Your family can pursue a claim regardless of whether the perpetrator ends up getting convicted in criminal court. This is because successfully pursuing a civil claim only requires proof “by a preponderance of the evidence,” while proving guilt in criminal court requires proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
With this in mind, if you have lost a loved one to a drunk driver, an assault or battery, or any other act of violence, you should not hesitate to contact a Tifton wrongful death lawyer. Taking action promptly is crucial for protecting your family’s legal rights. If you need to know more about pursuing a claim, we encourage you to contact us immediately for a free consultation.
Understanding Your Options Following a Fatal Car Accident
Fundamentally, seeking financial compensation for a fatal car accident is no different from seeking monetary compensation when you suffer non-life-threatening injuries in a car crash. The first step is to prove who (or what company) is liable, and the next step is to prove how much you and your family are entitled to recover.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Auto insurance companies, vehicle manufacturers and other businesses will often vigorously dispute fatal accident claims due to the high stakes involved. If you have lost a loved one in a fatal car accident, you should promptly speak with an experienced Tifton wrongful death lawyer. This will help give you and your family the best chance of recovering just compensation, and it will allow you to avoid mistakes that could jeopardize your family’s claim.
When pursuing a wrongful death claim for a fatal car accident, it is important to work with your lawyer to calculate the value of your family’s claim accurately. Georgia law allows for the recovery of both financial and non-financial losses. This includes losses the victim suffered before death (i.e., pain and suffering) as well as losses eligible family members incur as a result of their loved one’s untimely passing.
Many different factors can lead to fatal car accidents. From distracted and drunk driving to defective brakes and faulty repairs, determining the precise cause of a fatal accident requires a thorough investigation. Determining the cause is essential for identifying the party liable for the crash. You will need to work with an experienced Tifton wrongful death lawyer who can collect the necessary evidence to establish your family’s claim.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
Under Georgia law, your relationship with the victim will determine whether you can pursue a wrongful death claim:
- If the victim had a spouse, only the surviving spouse can pursue a wrongful death claim. If the victim had no children, then the spouse would receive 100% of any compensation recovered. However, if the victim had surviving minor children, the surviving spouse must also represent their interests, and a portion of any compensation would be distributed to the children.
- If the victim did not have a spouse or their spouse did not survive, only the surviving children may pursue the claim. If the surviving children are minors, the case would need to be brought by a court-appointed guardian who would also handle the compensation on their behalf.
- If there is no surviving spouse or children, the victim’s surviving parents can pursue the claim. If you have suffered the death of a child, then only you and your spouse can pursue a wrongful death claim.
- If there is no surviving spouse, children, or parents, the claim may be brought by the victim’s estate. These cases can be complicated, especially if the victim died without a will. If they died with a will, the wrongful death claim’s compensation would be distributed according to the terms of the will. Otherwise, the compensation will pass according to the laws of intestate succession.
Georgia law generally does not permit other relatives, friends, or other loved ones to seek compensation through a wrongful death suit.
Can Your Tifton Wrongful Death Lawyer Help You File an Estate Claim?
In the event of a wrongful death, the estate of the person who died can also file a claim. This claim is called an estate claim. It’s a different type of claim than a wrongful death claim, and one is not exclusive of the other, so both claims – an estate claim and a wrongful death claim – can be filed for the same wrongful death.
A wrongful death claim seeks compensation for damages associated with the “full value of the life of the decedent”, including future lost income and benefits and the value of their care or companionship. An estate claim, on the other hand, seeks compensation specifically for any of the costs or expenses incurred because of the event and the victim’s resulting death, such as:
- Medical expenses incurred before death
- Ambulance or emergency transportation fees
- Funeral or burial costs
An estate claim can also seek compensation for the pain or suffering of the victim between the time of the accident and the time of death. Cases where the victim survived for hours or weeks after being injured are usually more straightforward to establish. If the victim might have survived for seconds or even minutes after the injury, however, the case becomes more complicated, because it needs to be established that the victim didn’t die immediately and that they experienced pain and suffering during those seconds or minutes before death.
If the victim had a will, the administrator named in the will is eligible to bring the estate claim. If the victim died without a will, the estate claim can be brought by the person appointed administrator under Georgia’s intestacy laws.
Compensation Your Tifton Wrongful Death Lawyer Will Pursue
Wrongful death claims entitle you to seek damages beyond what is available in a personal injury case. As part of your claim, you can seek compensation for the following:
- Any medical expenses incurred prior to the victim’s death
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Any pain and suffering experienced by the victim prior to death
However, Georgia also allows the family to seek compensation for the “full value of the life of the decedent.” This clause includes the following:
- Future lost employment income
- Future investment income or retirement benefits
- The value of the care they provided to their family
- The value of their lost companionship
It is important to note that the “full value” of the victim’s life is determined without deducting any of the expenses they may have incurred. Determining the value of wrongful death cases involves a complex calculation, as some elements are not easy to determine. An experienced Tifton wrongful death lawyer can provide an accurate estimate of the compensation you may be entitled to seek.
Can You Obtain Punitive Damages for a Wrongful Death in Georgia?
As its name suggests, punitive damages are damages that are awarded to punish or penalize a wrongdoer. Punitive damages are more difficult to obtain because Georgia law requires “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant willingly took part in misconduct or acted with such hatred or a lack of care that raises a presumption that they didn’t care about the consequences of their actions.
Unfortunately, you cannot claim punitive damages in a wrongful death claim. However, punitive damages are available in estate claims, so an estate claim must be filed if punitive damages are being sought.
There is no limit to the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded in the following situations:
- The case is a product liability case
- There is a finding that the defendant acted, or failed to act, with an intent to cause harm
- There is a finding that the defendant acted or failed to act while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, to the extent their judgment is substantially impaired
In all other cases, however, the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded is limited to $250,000. The decision to pursue punitive damages can be a complex one because a punitive damages claim must meet a higher evidentiary standard. An experienced Tifton wrongful death lawyer can assess your case to determine if you have a claim for punitive damages.
Deadlines Required to File a Wrongful Death Claim
There is a two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death lawsuits in Georgia. You must file a suit within two years of the death of the victim. If you fail to file your lawsuit within this period, you will lose all of your rights, no matter how strong your case may be.
Two years may seem like a long time, but it passes by more quickly than you think. Your case will become more challenging to prove the longer you wait, as it may become more difficult to gather the evidence you need to verify your claim. In cases where the victim suffers a severe injury and death is likely, many families will meet with a Tifton wrongful death attorney to help them prepare and better ensure their rights are fully protected.
There are exceptions to the statute of limitations, but you should not assume they apply to your case. For example, if there is a criminal prosecution involving the other party related to your claim, the statute of limitations will be paused pending the outcome of the case. The statute of limitations may be similarly paused if the claim involves the victim’s estate. In any event, you should discuss your claim with a lawyer before deciding whether or not to proceed.
Speak with a Tifton Wrongful Death Lawyer at Hudson Injury Firm
Wrongful death cases can help families secure their future after the death of a loved one. Unfortunately, these claims are very complex and a simple mistake could jeopardize your claim. At Hudson Injury Firm, we provide dedicated, compassionate legal representation to families struggling to put their lives back together. If you have suffered the loss of a loved one, we can help, call us today at 229-396-5845 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.