Wrongful death refers to situations where the negligence of a person, a business, or another entity causes an individual to die. If you believe that your loved one has died due to another party’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation through a wrongful death claim. To help you decide what to do next, here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about wrongful death.
Who Is Liable for Wrongful Death?
Generally, for someone to be held liable for wrongful death, they must have had a duty of care for the person who died, they must have breached that duty, and their actions must have caused the death or the injuries that lead to the death.
For instance, if a manufacturer sells a product, they have a duty of care to their client to ensure that the product doesn’t cause unexpected injuries when used as directed. Similarly, a shop owner has a duty of care to ensure their facility is reasonably safe, just as drivers have a duty to be careful on the road.
Depending on your situation, the liable entity may be an individual who drove a personal or commercial vehicle, the employer of a commercial driver, a healthcare provider, a nursing home, a shop owner, a bar owner who sold alcohol to an impaired driver, a product manufacturer, or another entity.
Under federal law, you may not be able to hold certain entities such as railroad companies or generic drug manufacturers liable, but when the situation is unclear, your lawyer can help you identify the liable party in your case.
Who Can Make a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
Every state has specific rules about who can bring forward a wrongful death claim. In Georgia, the spouse of the deceased can bring forward a wrongful death claim. If the spouse and the deceased have minor children, the children are also considered plaintiffs on the claim. In the absence of a spouse, the deceased’s parents or the personal representative from their estate can bring forward the case.
What Are Damages in a Wrongful Death Case?
Georgia state law splits wrongful death claims into two distinct categories. The first category includes the “full value of the life of the deceased.” Although assigning a numerical value to someone’s life is impossible, this claim includes wages the deceased would have earned if they had not died and intangible costs related to the loss of companionship.
The second type of wrongful death claim in Georgia is related to financial damages associated with the deceased. These damages include final medical expenses as well as funeral, cremation, and burial costs, but they can also include amounts for pain and suffering that the deceased felt before dying.
Does a Statute of Limitations Exist on Wrongful Death Cases?
Generally, the statute of limitations on wrongful death claims in Georgia is two years from the date of death to bring forward a claim. However, in some cases, the clock may be temporarily paused if the deceased’s estate doesn’t go through probate right away or if a criminal case exists because of the wrongful death. To be on the safe side, contact an attorney as soon as possible.
Who Receives the Settlement in a Wrongful Death Claim?
Generally, the settlement goes to the individual who brought forward the case. If a spouse with minor children brings forward the case, the minor children receive a share of the settlement, but regardless of how many children there are, the parent must also receive at least a third of the settlement.
Additionally, most wrongful death cases are handled on a contingency basis, which means that you don’t pay anything beyond certain expenses during the case, but then, a portion of the settlement goes to the attorney.
If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another party, you may want to bring forward a wrongful death claim. Have questions? We can help. To talk about your situation, contact us at Wells and McElwee, P.C., to set up a no-obligation case evaluation.