wrongful death claim

You drove your teenage son to a birthday party in the early afternoon. You come back later in the evening to pick him up. 

He tells you about the party and how much fun he had.

You embark down a narrow road to take a shortcut home.  Another driver in the opposite lane drives erratically. Then, the car enters your lane without warning. 

You scream for your son as your car crashes head-on with the other car. You escape the wreckage. But your son cannot escape. 

You ignore the pain in your back and try to help him out. But the contorted metal keeps him inside. You call 911. Firefighters arrive and free your son with the Jaws of Life. 

They try to resuscitate him, but it’s too late. Your son died at the scene. Paramedics take the other driver to the hospital. A policeman informs you that the driver was over the legal drinking limit. 

The next day, you want to file a wrongful death claim.

But can you do so under Georgia law?

The answer is yes. You can hold drivers accountable for such offenses as negligence or reckless homicide. This article will show you the ins and outs of a wrongful death lawsuit. Let’s explore.

What Does Georgia Law Say?

What is a wrongful death lawsuit? According to Georgia law, a wrongful death stems from reckless, criminal, or negligible acts. And, any offender who commits an intentional act that results in death can face civil and criminal penalties. Wrongful death laws also pertain to entities

The law relegates wrongful death cases to the civil courts. These types of cases don’t take place in criminal courts, even if the death stemmed from criminal activity. Criminal and civil cases function in separate capacities

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Suing for wrongful death is only possible through immediate family members in Georgia. And, not all family members of the victim can invoke a claim.

The following parties can bring forth a lawsuit in the following order:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Estate executor or representative

The spouse of the victim is the first person that can bring forth a wrongful death claim. In the event of no spouse, the children can usher a claim. If there are no children, the parents of the decedent can file a suit. 

With no spouse, children, or parents involved, the estate representative has the right to file accordingly. Other family members, such as aunts and uncles or grandparents, cannot petition the court.

With that, parents of adopted children can proceed with a lawsuit. And, a child that perished in the womb gives the parents the right to compensation. Moreover, the death of an out-of-wedlock child qualifies the parents to sue.

What Type of Lawsuit Should I File?

You have two options when filing a claim: a wrongful death claim and a survivor’s claim. A wrongful death case is appropriate when family members need financial compensation as a result of the loss.

A survivor’s claim includes any damage suffered by the decedent. The suffering and damages can be in the form of medical bills, ambulance rides, or funeral expenses. 

The survival claim is also appropriate in the event of mental anguish and distress that the victim suffered before death.  

  • Example: A person that underwent multiple surgeries and slipped into a coma before dying had suffered a great deal. Therefore, you can commence a lawsuit for the cost of surgery and hospital care.

With that, a survival suit is most appropriate during estate matters. The executor can use the funds to pay off the decedent’s remaining debts before disbursing the leftover funds to beneficiaries.

  • Note: Survivor claims are subject to inheritance taxes. Wrongful death claims aren’t subject to the same taxation.

If there is no will, the probate court will settle the matter. 

If you need immediate financial compensation, a wrongful death claim is the best option. However, speak to an attorney for further guidance.  

What Type of Compensation Can I Get? 

First, you can get current and future wages that the deceased would have brought to the household. And, you can recover losses in benefits, such as insurance or retirement funds.

More importantly, you can get monies based on lost companionship and support. For any other type of compensation, talk to an attorney about your prospects.

Regardless, the courts will distribute the monies evenly among the surviving spouse and surviving children.

How Much Can I Get?

The amount depends on the case itself. However, the court can award compensation based on the full life of the deceased.

The amount isn’t based on the value from the viewpoint of surviving family members. Rather, the courts will assess the losses that the deceased would have contributed to the household, such as:

  • The loss of raising children
  • The loss of income
  • The loss of activities
  • The loss of daily life

When it comes to activities and daily life, the court can assess how active the person was in addition to hobbies and personal interactions with family members. For income, a jury could calculate the yearly salary of the deceased and multiply it by the remaining working years. 

However, the calculation will depend on the judge or jury. Also, an attorney can help you determine the damages that you suffered.

How Can I Prove My Case?

You must prove three factors to win your case:

  • Breach of Duty
  • Causation
  • Proof of Damages

A breach of duty occurs when the driver failed in his or her duties as a responsible driver. Then, the breach of duty must cause the death of your loved one. Finally, you must prove that the breach of duty and death of your family member brought you suffering and damages. 

Why Should I Hire an Attorney for my Wrongful Death Claim?

An attorney can paint a realistic picture of your wrongful death claim. Overall, you have two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit after a loved one has died. An attorney can help you file the necessary legal paperwork so you can start your case promptly.

A lawyer can also deal with the legal headaches while you focus on the healing process. 

Want to learn more? Click here for more information about legal damages and pain and suffering.

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Mark Wade

Mark Wade is a personal injury trial lawyer in Georgia. He has built a law firm that specializes in car, truck, and motorcycle accidents in order to provide his clients with the highest level of expertise for their auto accident cases.

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