The death of a loved one is one of the most tragic events that we must face in our lives. The grieving process is hard enough when death is due to natural causes. However, it may be even more difficult to cope when our loved one died unexpectedly as a result of someone else’s negligence. This is called Wrongful Death.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
Fatal injuries happen to people of all ages. Children lose their parents, and parents lose their children. Deadly accidents occur anywhere from hospitals and highways to amusement parks and grocery stores.
Georgia defines “wrongful death” as the death of one person caused by the negligent, reckless, intentional or criminal acts of another person or entity (such as a business). Negligence is defined as the failure to use reasonable care when there is a duty to do so, thereby resulting in harm to another.
What Are Some of the Causes of Wrongful Death?
The following are just a few examples of the types of underlying causes giving rise to wrongful death lawsuits:
- Auto and Trucking Accidents: In the United States, one person dies in a car accident every 12 minutes. Fatigued, intoxicated and reckless drivers cause many of these accidents.
- Medical Malpractice: Johns Hopkins University estimates that 250,000 Americans die due to medical errors each year. This makes malpractice the third leading cause of medically-related deaths after heart disease and cancer.
- Nursing Home Negligence: Family members sue nursing homes when their elderly relatives residing in the homes suffer fatal injuries that could have been avoided. These deaths often occur as a result of falls and medication errors.
- Premise Liability: Slip and fall injuries are occasionally fatal. Faulty construction of premises can also result in death. Individuals and companies are responsible when they fail to maintain their properties in good working condition or ignore dangerous conditions that could cause injuries.
Who has the Right to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In Georgia, the spouse of the deceased has the right to file a wrongful death claim. If there is no spouse, then the children of the deceased have that right. If there is no spouse or children, the parents of the decedent would be entitled to pursue the claim. If there is no spouse, children or living parents, then the administrator of the decedent’s estate has the right to pursue a wrongful death claim.
What Damages May be Recovered?
Recovery in a wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia is based on two separate and distinct claims as follows:
The surviving family members’ right to recover for the full value of the decedent’s life:
- This claim includes both the financial and intangible value of the deceased person’s life by factoring in things like lost wages and benefits to the decedent and loss of care and companionship to the family members.
The Estate’s claim for all expenses associated with the injury and death of the deceased:
- Damages that may be recovered include medical expenses related to the decedent’s injury, conscious pain and suffering that the deceased endured just before death, and funeral and burial expenses.
When Must a Wrongful Death Lawsuit be Filed?
In most cases, the wrongful death claim must be filed within two years of the date of death. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule that may cause the two year limitation period to be extended.
Time is of the Essence
Wrongful death actions require a great deal of investigation into what happened, why death occurred, and whether it was a result of another person’s negligence. As such, it is important to consult with a wrongful death lawyer as soon as you believe that your loved one’s death could have been avoided.
If you believe that your loved one died as a result of someone else’s negligence, contact us today for a free consultation.