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Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyer

The loss of a family member is excruciating pain for anyone to endure. When the death is by wrongful means, the damage such a tragedy causes can be truly devastating. Along with the emotional and mental anguish the sudden loss of a loved one can cause, it can also place a severe financial burden on families due to the loss of income and support that the deceased can no longer provide.

A compassionate Atlanta wrongful death lawyer can ensure you and your family receive adequate compensation for your losses and hold any at-fault parties accountable. With the guidance and support of a dedicated Atlanta personal injury attorney on your side, you can focus on being with those you love at a time when familial closeness means the most.

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Hazards in Atlanta

In larger cities, more accidents and injuries occur because of the volume of people, vehicles, and day-to-day activity. In Atlanta, one recent year saw 193 fatal occupational injuries, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and a 51 percent increase in bicycle collisions in a recent 10-year span. With over three million car owners, Atlanta has seen increased motor vehicle accidents in recent years.

Additionally, Atlanta has been reportedly above the national crime median since the middle of the 20th century. More than 1,200 violent crimes took place in Atlanta in one recent year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts these dangers in perspective:

  • The costs for auto accidents and wrongful death claims in Georgia totaled around $1.5 billion in 2005
  • $41 million is lost every year throughout the United States for personal injury and wrongful death claims
  • Georgia ranked among the highest in the United States for the highest total costs and damages from medical expenses and lost wages in preventable accidents.
  • Accidental deaths are the fifth-highest cause of death in the United States.
  • Over 120,000 accident-caused deaths occur in Georgia every year.
  • 26,000 deaths from falls occur every year in the United States
  • 33,000 deaths from auto accidents occur every year in the United States.

Common Causes of Wrongful Death Accidents in Atlanta

Negligence is the number one factor in all wrongful death accidents, but that negligence can take the form of a:

Wrongful Death Laws in Atlanta

Wrongful death refers to an unnatural or premature death resulting from the negligent or illicit acts of another. Family members can bring wrongful death claims under the Georgia Wrongful Death Act. A skilled wrongful death attorney could help families determine who may bring a claim for the decedent to recover damages under state laws.

Examples of wrongful death can include:

Under the Georgia Wrongful Death Act, the spouse or offspring of the deceased can bring a wrongful death claim. In cases of the wrongful death of a child, the child’s parents will have the right to recover in the absence of a living spouse or child of the decedent. In some cases, the personal representative of the deceased may bring a wrongful death claim, but any amount recovered must be held for the decedent’s next of kin.

Wrongful Death vs. Criminal Homicide

In wrongful death cases, the defendant’s liability is expressed in financial compensation (or damages) that the court orders them to pay to the deceased’s survivors. This is different than a criminal homicide case which results in jail or prison time, state fines, and probation.

In criminal cases, the government must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, meaning that it must be more likely than not that the defendant was responsible for a person’s death. However, this does not mean you cannot sue a defendant cannot for wrongful death while they face criminal charges for the same death.

How Do You Prove Wrongful Death?

To file a wrongful death action in Georgia, you must:

Proving Duty of Care

Duty to the deceased means a person was their caretaker or under their care at the time of their death, making the defendant negligent. “Due care” is typically defined as refraining from causing another person harm, which interprets as the defendant having an obligation to have kept the deceased safe and secure from harm.

For instance, if a wrongful death occurs during a car accident where the defendant had a legal duty to drive the deceased, their reckless driving would cause their death. Had the defendant driven safely, the deceased might have lived.

Proving A Breach of Duty of Care

Once you prove that the defendant had a duty to the deceased, you must prove a breach of that duty. Using the same example as before, evidence that the defendant was driving recklessly, such as failing to stop at a red light or speeding, can be considered a breach of their duty.

Proving Causation

The next claim would be proving that running a red light or speeding caused the deceased’s death. Since every case is different, this is the time when the plaintiff must find the right evidence to sway a jury. You need extremely detailed and exact evidence.

Examples of Damages

The last step in proving wrongful death is proving that the deceased suffered damages; otherwise, a jury will not see a reason to reward the victim’s family with a financial settlement. After proving that a breach of legal duty caused the wrongful death, you need to prove tangible damages.

Unpaid medical bills, funeral costs, and other unexpected financial losses are all considered tangible. If the deceased financially supported the family, you can bring this information before the court, which will also consider the value of their life and their pain and suffering.

Georgia’s Negligence Laws

Negligence is the legal basis for wrongful death cases and most other personal injury cases. It is a failure to take a certain reasonable degree of care to minimize the chance that you injure others. For example, when a building owner fails to fix a broken staircase or an unstable walkway, they may face negligence liability if someone falls on their property and sustains an injury.

Negligence is a kind of tort under Georgia law, which is the unlawful violation of a private legal right. A negligence tort arises when a person fails to exercise their duty of care and injures another person or, in wrongful death claims, kills them.

Determining Liability in a Wrongful Death Case

Proving liability in a wrongful death suit involves establishing that negligence was the contributing factor to the death and the deceased had taken precautions to prevent the accident or sought care after the accident.

To help build a strong case, your attorney might want to obtain:

  • Photos of the accident scene
  • The accident report filled out by the police/insurance companies
  • Medical reports and documentation
  • Remnants of defective equipment involved in the accident

Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death in Georgia

Wrongful death actions are subject to the statute of limitations. Georgia sets this deadline at two years from the time of death. This time constraint can be affected by separate statutes, such as personal injury and medical malpractice cases, but two years is generally the time limit for most wrongful death cases.

If you do not file a claim within this two-year time limit, you lose the right to bring it forth, with few exceptions. For instance, the clock effectively stops in some cases and may allow for longer statute times than two years.

While you have two years to present the case, you will want to act as soon as possible in the following cases.

Statute of Limitations for Trucking Cases

Federal law requires interstate motorist carriers to maintain records of their operations for at least six months. They may destroy any older records. If they don’t preserve these documents, you cannot easily prove Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration violations.

If a loved one dies due to a negligent trucker, hire a lawyer immediately to prevent the trucking company from destroying crash records. If you wait longer than the time it takes the company to go through their routine record purge, vital evidence may be lost. In trucking accidents, you should act as soon as possible so you can obtain their operation records in time.

Statute of Limitations for Claims Against State or Local Government

Those filing claims against the state government must present a pre-suit notice of claim in writing under the State Tort Claims Act. You must send notice to each state agency involved and the Risk Management Division of the Department of Administrative Services within 12 months of the death. The suit can also not be filed less than 90 days after presenting the pre-suit notice of claim.

For the county government, a pre-suit notice of claim must be submitted to the county commission within 12 months of wrongful death before actually filing the suit. You must send a municipal government the claim within six months of the death, and you must wait at least 30 days before you can file a suit.

Statute of Limitations for Common Disasters

You must file a suit within 12 months of death to maintain a priority over your case when there will likely be many others filing claims for the same reason. Failure to do so may result in inadequate funds to compensate all parties affected.

Life Insurance Contracts

The statute of limitations for insurance policy suits is generally about six years. However, many insurance policies will include a suit limitation clause that can limit your time to file down to as little as one year. Our attorney can review your insurance policy closely to go over its details and determine if a contractual suit limitation is in place. If there is, your statute of limitations will follow that deadline, and you must act soon.

If the Death Is a Result of a Crime

If a wrongful death case involves a criminal case, the statute of limitations for the wrongful death claim pauses until the criminal case concludes. This can last up to six years. After the case ends, or if six years of an ongoing criminal case have passed, the two-year statute of limitations deadline begins to run.

Scope of Recovery for Wrongful Death Claim

Recovery of the full value of life includes damages to the economic and non-economic value of the decedent’s life. Recoverable damages for the economic value of life may consist of the decedent’s current wages and future income lost.

Damages for the non-economic value of life may include compensation for emotional distress such as pain and suffering and, in cases of the wrongful death of a spouse, loss of consortium.

Other compensation may include:

  • Medical expenses related to the deceased’s illness or an injury after the accident
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Lost counsel, companionship, counsel, or advice

What Is the Average Settlement for a Wrongful Death Suit in Atlanta?

Every wrongful death case is different, so each settlement amount will vary. You should not expect to recover the same amount as another wrongful death suit. The number and varying factors will affect the amount you recover.

Factors that can affect the settlement include:

  • The victim’s age: The younger a victim, the more their potential earning capacity loses, and the more the family suffers.
  • Earnings, education, and training: All contribute to how much the deceased might have collected had they not died, which includes future employment, promotion, and so on.
  • Economic damages: In some cases, the decedent may have lived for days, weeks, or months with their injuries before dying, incurring expensive medical expenses. Compensation for their medical expenses and other related costs so that the family may pay them off. Additionally, when a spouse dies and leaves their partner with children, the loss of their partner affects their financial situation.

The above factors can have a huge impact on your case, but so can the available insurance. If a defendant does not have insurance, you face huge barriers to recovering a settlement.

The best way to determine how much your case is worth is to talk with a wrongful death lawyer at the Atlanta Personal Injury Law Group. Our attorneys can look at similar cases and look at the evidence to provide you with an estimate.

Get Your Free Consultation With Our Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyers as Soon as Possible

Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert, Personal Injury Accident Attorney

Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert, Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyer

While the life of a family member is truly invaluable, their untimely and unexpected death can cause immense hardship to those they have left behind. In addition to the emotional trauma of such a sudden loss, the financial struggle a family may face without the support of the deceased can be overwhelming.

If your loved one died due to another person’s negligent or unlawful acts, the only way you may receive sufficient compensation for losses incurred is by taking legal action. An Atlanta wrongful death lawyer could file a lawsuit to give you and your family the best chance of recovering from your loss.

Call today at (404) 609-1724 to get started on your claim, or visit our contact page for your free claim consultation.

Atlanta Personal Injury Law Group – Atlanta Office

1900 Century Pl NE
Suite 222
Atlanta,  GA  30345
*By Appointment Only
(404) 609-1724

 

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