Alpharetta Wrongful Death Lawyers
When a person loses their life due to an act of negligence, the Wrongful Death Act provides the surviving family an opportunity to seek justice. By filing a civil lawsuit, it could be possible to recover a monetary award due to this wrongful death.
Wrongful death cases can be difficult, as the surviving family has to balance their grief with the complexities of a civil lawsuit. Thankfully, you have the right to seek out legal counsel to take the lead on your case. By placing your personal injury claim in the hands of an Alpharetta wrongful death lawyer, you can focus on being with your loved ones and dealing with your grief rather than worrying about legal complications.
How Our Lawyers Can Help With Your Wrongful Death Claim
Losing a loved one is never easy, but not all deaths will result in a viable case for compensation. Under the law, there are different situations where a death qualifies as wrongful. These include deaths that occur as the result of:
- Medical malpractice
- Defective or dangerous products
- An act of negligence
Wrongful death claims usually result from acts that were careless or reckless. These cases often include many of the same circumstances as personal injury lawsuits, including slip and fall accidents and vehicle collisions.
There are countless situations where a wrongful death could occur. Wrongful deaths often stem from motor vehicle accidents, but they are also frequently a result of botched surgeries. Any time a careless or reckless act leads to the death of another person, a wrongful death lawsuit could be in order. An attorney from Atlanta Personal Injury Law Group can manage your wrongful death claim and pursue the compensation you deserve.
What Does a Wrongful Death Lawyer Cost?
Most people assume the cost of legal counsel is outside of their budget, leading families with viable wrongful death cases to avoid pursuing them. It's important to know that hiring an attorney for your wrongful death case is more affordable than you think. In fact, you could pursue your claim without paying anything directly to your attorney.
Atlanta Personal Injury Law Group takes wrongful death cases on a contingency fee basis, which means our fees are contingent on a successful outcome in your case. A contingency fee arrangement also means that our firm retains a percentage of any damages we secure on your behalf. This percentage is determined upfront and will not increase as your case moves forward.
If we cannot secure the damages you deserve, you will not owe us anything for our legal representation.
Who Can Pursue a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Each state has its own approach to wrongful death lawsuits. In many jurisdictions, the state will not allow family members to file a wrongful death lawsuit on their own. Instead, these jurisdictions limit the ability to file a wrongful death lawsuit to a personal estate representative. That's not the case in Georgia, where state law allows surviving relatives to pursue legal action independently.
However, not all relatives of a deceased person have the right to pursue a wrongful death case. Instead, the law provides a hierarchy of family members that have the right to file a lawsuit. When the person with the primary right to file a lawsuit cannot or will not move forward with the case, that right passes down to the next individual on the hierarchy. This family member hierarchy is as follows:
- The surviving spouse
- Any surviving children
- Any surviving parents
- The administrator of the decedent’s estate
Following the Hierarchy for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The surviving spouse always has priority when it comes to filing wrongful death lawsuits in Alpharetta. This right passes to any surviving children if there is no surviving spouse. If none of the family members listed above are capable of serving as a plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit, the administrator or executor of the estate has the power to pursue a case.
Other family members not on the list—like siblings or grandparents—do not have the right to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit unless they are appointed as the administrator of the estate.
Who Recovers Damages if the Wrongful Death Lawsuit Is Successful?
According to state law, the compensation secured through a successful wrongful death lawsuit will not necessarily belong exclusively to the person that filed it. In many cases, multiple parties are entitled to recover damages beyond the party that filed the suit. The law also sets out specifics on how the proceeds of a wrongful death case should be distributed.
How Wrongful Death Proceeds Are Legally Distributed
If the decedent is only survived by a spouse, it should come as no surprise that the spouse is entitled to recover everything from a wrongful death suit. However, these proceeds must be distributed if there are any surviving children as well. In cases where there are no more than two children, the spouse receives half of the settlement, while surviving children share the other half.
The distribution rules are different when there are more than two children. In that situation, the surviving spouse is guaranteed at least one-third of the compensation from the lawsuit. At that point, the remaining two-thirds must be distributed among the children.
The law is also complex when a child that would have been entitled to recover damages dies before the case is resolved. According to state law, the heirs of a decedent's child will only be entitled to recover in place of their parent if that person did not pass away prior to the initiation of the wrongful death lawsuit.
Juries Must Determine the Full Value of Losses
When an Alpharetta jury decides to award compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit, the damages they award must be based on what the decedent lost. This is different than other jurisdictions that calculate damages based on the losses of surviving family members.
According to Georgia law, wrongful death damages are based on the “full value” of the decedent's life. The court must determine this value from the point of view of a person that was killed. There are two components of the value of a person's life—economic and non-economic.
The economic component—also known as economic damages—covers the monetary losses that occur because of a person's death. This includes the income they would have earned had they survived as well as any benefits they would have been entitled to.
These damages also cover any investment income that a person might have accrued during the course of their life and any services the decedent would have provided to their loved ones, like housework or cooking meals.
Developing a case for economic damages can take a lot of work. The Alpharetta wrongful death attorneys at our firm can arrange for expert witnesses to confirm how much your loved one would have earned and accrued had they survived.
The non-economic component of a wrongful death claim compensates the family for the intangible losses their loved one sustained. Damages for these subjective losses are not tied to a specific financial value and can be impossible to measure without a lawyer's guidance.
Non-economic damages include the loss of what the decedent would have found meaningful or fulfilling, such as recreational sports, time with pets, or playing with grandchildren.
Again, there's no easy way to put a value on this type of loss. The jury must look at these lost opportunities from the eyes of the decedent when determining what compensation is fair. Our wrongful death lawyers can work with you to determine the non-economic component of your compensation.
Deadlines that Apply to Wrongful Death Actions
Surviving family members have a limited amount of time to file a wrongful death claim due to a legal concept known as the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations provides a firm deadline for any type of civil lawsuit, including wrongful death cases. If you file your lawsuit after the statute of limitations expires, you can expect the court to dismiss your case forever—regardless of how strong your case may be.
You generally have two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This two-year window begins to count down the day your loved one passes away. Outside of a few exceptions, the court will generally grant a motion to dismiss with prejudice when lawsuits are filed after the statute expires.
While the state's deadline to file a lawsuit is firm, there are situations when the amount of time you have could be extended. This is made possible by “tolling” the statute of limitations.
Tolling the Statute of Limitations
Tolling the statute of limitations involves pausing the limitation period. Essentially, the two-year clock temporarily stops counting down. There are two situations where tolling could be possible—1) when your loved one's death resulted from a criminal act and 2) when the estate has yet to be probated.
The most common reason for tolling the statute of limitations is when death occurs as the result of a crime. Pausing the limitation period allows the state to proceed with its criminal prosecution without putting your wrongful death case at risk. The statute of limitations is paused until the criminal case is completed. However, the maximum amount of time the statute can be tolled in this way is six years.
Another situation that could lead to tolling the statute of limitations is failure to probate the decedent's estate. The statute of limitations can be tolled until the estate is probated in court for up to five years. After five years, the statute will begin to expire again, even if the probate process has not yet begun.
Proving Fault in an Alpharetta Wrongful Death Case
Just like with personal injury cases, success in wrongful death cases requires proof that another party was at fault. There are different ways to approach establishing negligence in these cases, and our law firm is prepared to aggressively pursue the evidence needed in your case.
How we prove fault in a wrongful death lawsuit depends on the unique nature of the case. For example, proof of fault in a medical error case is very different from a motor vehicle collision. In some situations, like car accidents or slip and fall cases, there could be surveillance video of the accident as it occurred. Video footage can be powerful proof of fault should a case go to trial.
Sometimes, the testimony of a witness might be the strongest evidence available, especially if the witness can testify that they witnessed the accident that resulted in the death of your loved one. It's also common for plaintiffs to seek the guidance of expert witnesses to make their case. The testimony of an expert witness could be useful in explaining fault as well as determining the value of a wrongful death claim.
Records and Documents
Records and documents can also play an important role in a successful wrongful death lawsuit. This is especially true in medical malpractice cases. A review of your loved one's medical records could paint a clear picture of negligence. Police reports are also important tools in most motor vehicle collision cases.
Contact an Alpharetta Wrongful Death Lawyer From Our Firm Today
It's never easy to face the loss of a loved one. These circumstances can be especially challenging when you learn that the death was due to an act of negligence. If you're in this situation, navigating the process of filing a wrongful death lawsuit on your own will likely be difficult. Thankfully, you are under no obligation to take on this challenge alone.
An Alpharetta wrongful death attorney from Atlanta Personal Injury Law Group can assist you with every stage of your case. Our compassionate approach to legal service aims to provide you with the representation you need and the comfort you deserve.
When wrongful death and the loss of a loved one harm your family, Atlanta Personal Injury Law Group is here to help you fight for compensation. To learn more and get your free consultation, contact us today at (404) 609-1724.
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