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What Are the Elements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Georgia?

Render illustration of Wrongful Death title on Legal Documents

Surviving loved ones may be entitled to compensation for their pain and losses.

A wrongful death is a tragic occurrence that happens when a person's death is caused by the negligence, willful act, or indifference of another party. In some cases, victims pass away immediately after the incident. Other cases can be prolonged over months or years before the victim succumbs to the injury or illness.

Despite the tragedy of the situation, insurance companies are often more focused on saving money and minimizing the amount of compensation they pay out to the victim's family. To achieve this, they may minimize the economic losses associated with the wrongful death or claim that the deceased was responsible for the fatal accident.

When tragedy strikes and a loved one is lost, it can be hard to know what to do next. At the Law Offices of Gary Martin Hays & Associates, P.C., we help Georgia families seek justice. To learn more about how a Georgia wrongful death lawyer can help you, contact us today for a free case evaluation. The sooner you review your legal rights and options, the better. That's because wrongful death claims must typically be filed within two years of the person's death, though this time frame may be shorter in some cases.

How do I know if I have a case?

The elements of a wrongful death lawsuit typically include:

  • Duty: The defendant (person or organization that caused the death) had a legal obligation to exercise reasonable care to prevent harm to the deceased.
  • Breach: The defendant breached this duty by acting negligently or intentionally causing harm.
  • Cause: The breach was the direct and proximate cause of the deceased's death.
  • Damages: The surviving family members suffered measurable losses as a result of the death, such as funeral expenses, loss of income and companionship, and pain and suffering.
  • Standing: The surviving family members have legal standing to bring the lawsuit on behalf of the deceased.

Common examples of accidents/incidents that give rise to wrongful death lawsuits include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Workplace accidents
  • Defective products
  • Premises liability (slip and fall)
  • Aviation accidents
  • Boating accidents
  • Construction accidents
  • Nursing home abuse or neglect
  • Criminal behavior, such as murder or assault, often due to negligent security on the premises.

Wrongful death cases may arise from the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions of individuals, companies, or entities that cause harm and result in a fatal injury.

Who can file a wrongful death claim in Georgia?

According to Georgia law, a wrongful death claim may be filed by a surviving spouse, children, parents, or any other next of kin if there are no other living relatives. In many cases, the grieving spouse of a deceased individual may be able to file a lawsuit to recover damages from the responsible parties. In households with minor children, these beneficiaries will also be included in any settlement reached.

If there is no surviving spouse, the legal right to file a wrongful death lawsuit passes to the deceased's children, who can be represented by a court-appointed guardian if necessary. If there are neither children nor spouses, the victim's parent(s) become eligible to take action against those responsible.

Finally, if none of the previously mentioned parties exists, whoever serves as administrator of the deceased's estate has the authority to file on behalf of any other next of kin.

What damages may be awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit?

In the wake of a fatal accident or injury, family members may be eligible to receive various types of wrongful death benefits, depending on the nature of the incident. In cases involving gross negligence, punitive damages may be ordered as a punishment for those responsible. Otherwise, survivors may seek to recoup compensation for:

  • Medical bills (surgery, medicine, autopsy, etc.)
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Lost earnings
  • Lost future earnings
  • Pain and suffering endured by the deceased (if applicable)
  • Emotional suffering
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Loss of consortium (Loss of consortium refers to the loss of benefits, including emotional and physical companionship, that a spouse or close family member experiences due to injury or death of the other family member. This may include the loss of intimacy, support, affection, and the enjoyment of life.)

Every situation is different, and every case is unique. An experienced wrongful death lawyer will be able to help you by calculating all the damages suffered, investigating the circumstances of the death to determine liability, reviewing insurance policies and other sources of compensation, evaluating comparable settlements or court awards in similar cases, negotiating with the insurance company, and if necessary, representing you in court.

How to determine liability in a wrongful death claim

When determining liability in a wrongful death case, it is essential to demonstrate that negligence was involved and that the deceased had taken reasonable steps to avert the accident or seek medical help afterward.

To build a compelling case, a wrongful death attorney will often seek out photographs of the accident site, reports on the accident itself, medical accounts of what transpired, and remnants of any faulty safety devices or products connected with the death.

In some cases, an attorney may immediately file a lawsuit to ensure that the responsible parties do not lose or destroy important evidence.

Talk to a Georgia wrongful death attorney about your options.

Dealing with a wrongful death claim is an emotional and challenging experience, but you don't have to go through this difficult process alone.

At the Law Offices of Gary Martin Hays & Associates, we literally wrote the book on wrongful death claims: "The Authority on Wrongful Death Claims in Georgia: The Definitive Guide for Surviving Family Members & Practicing Attorneys in Wrongful Death Cases."

The Authority on Wrongful Death Claims book

Gary Martin Hays and co-author Sarah R. Jett explore how the legal system works when dealing with wrongful death claims. Hays is particularly well-suited to author this book given his prior experience working as an insurance company lawyer, providing readers with an invaluable insider's perspective on these cases.

Founded in 1993, our law firm has successfully recovered more than $1 billion in settlements and jury verdicts for injury victims and their families in Georgia. To learn more about how we can help with your potential legal case, contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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