You Have Legal Rights When You Lose a Loved OneWhen you bring a lawsuit for wrongful death, you need to know that there are many different people or entities who could potentially be responsible for your loved one’s passing. It could be someone individually, a company, or an entity such as a government. If one or more of these people acted in a way that was either careless, negligent, or both, then they can and will be held responsible for the death of your loved one. Legally, there are only certain people who are permitted to bring this wrongful death claim and receive compensation. Typically speaking, it will either be the spouse, the minor child, or the parents of the deceased who are permitted to bring a claim. Rarely are there exceptions to this. The compensation for these claims involve all of the medical expenses that were billed for life-saving treatment, funeral and burial costs, any wages that your loved one would have reasonably made in their lifetime, and lastly you will receive compensation for the loss of companionship. It is quite difficult to figure out how much compensation should be given for a wrongful death claim because a lot of the damages are considered to be non-economic such as the loss of companionship and in some cases pain and suffering your loved one endured before passing. Many times, there has to be an expert come in to evaluate the case to determine the economic damages. It is a very mathematic process that involved calculating the approximate life expectancy for your loved one had they been unharmed by the accident, multiplied by how much they would have made at their profession in their lifetime to get a dollar amount which you will be compensated. Our Atlanta wrongful death attorney will be here to guide you through this process as it is complex and should not be a burden on your shoulders in this time of intense grief.
Types of Georgia Wrongful Death CasesWrongful death is defined by the fatal injury of a person in the event of negligence of another individual or entity. That may mean that someone has breached their duty to protect your loved one’s safety or it may mean that individual or entity did something wrong that directly contributed to the loss of your loved one. The most common types of wrongful death cases that we have seen include:
- Auto accidents (including car, trucks, buses, and motorcycles)
- Slip and falls
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home abuse
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Construction accidents
- Terrible dog attack
- Defective products
- Acts of violence
- Negligent security
- Premises liability
Frequently Asked Wrongful Death Questions
What mistakes should I avoid when filing a wrongful death claim?
We often have people seek our help to pursue a wrongful death claim and, unknowingly, they’ve already harmed their case before it’s even gotten started. We want to make sure that you don’t fall into this trap and do the same. One thing that we frequently see that can be very detrimental to a wrongful death claim is having the client delay too long and not pursue the case quickly enough. When a wrongful death claim is involved, generally the person who would bring the claim is grieving. That person has lost a significant loved one, and that person is having a lot of other things to deal with and just doesn’t feel the mental energy is there to bring forward a wrongful death claim. They also may have concerns about going through the process because they know that nothing that can be done in the court system that will bring their loved one back.It’s important to remember that there’s more to a wrongful death case than trying to seek compensation for what has been taken. There is a factor of accountability in making sure this doesn’t happen to other people. When people who have suffered the death of a loved one refuse to pursue these claims, then the responsible party doesn’t get held accountable. It’s up to us to make sure our community is as safe as possible, and when we have these instances we need to make sure that there are consequences to the people involved. If there are no consequences, then actions don’t change. Another thing we see people frequently do is hire the wrong attorney or not hiring an attorney soon enough, and that will create a very big problem in their case because things are not being done right. It’s an important part of the case to preserve evidence and make sure things are being done in the right order. If you hire an attorney who’s not experienced handling this type of case, it’s your case that’s going to suffer. Immediately hire an experienced wrongful death attorney, an attorney who can take your case all the way through trial, if necessary. Don’t delay and don’t hire the wrong attorney, or you might see this case vanish. Finally, we often have clients who are not willing to do what’s required to preserve or present their case in the most effective fashion. This is extremely important in wrongful death cases because the way you assign value in a death case is to be able to paint the picture of what the deceased person’s life was like and what they are missing out on in not being able to live out the rest of it. That can only be developed through people who knew the person, not just through the attorney. It’s important to make sure that you interact, to the extent your attorney needs, to be able to paint this picture.
What should I look for when choosing a wrongful death attorney?
One of the most difficult types of claims that we encounter are wrongful death cases. A wrongful death claim is one that arises when someone has lost their life due to the negligence or carelessness of another. It is exceedingly important to make sure that you find a personal injury attorney that is experienced in handling wrongful death cases. Wrongful death cases involve very specialized knowledge, and you need to make sure that you have someone that knows how to work them through to conclusion. At The Gunnels Law Firm, we have handled many wrongful death cases successfully, and we know what to do in these cases to present them in the best possible light.It’s also important for you to know that your attorney has knowledge about how the insurance industry works. These types of claims involve insurance money as compensation, and it’s important to know that your attorney can get you through that system as efficiently as possible. I spent many years of my career representing insurance companies and defendants in these wrongful death cases before I decided I was on the wrong side, and that I should be helping people that deserve compensation. I can take that experience that I learned in working for insurance companies and put it to use for my clients in helping them navigate the insurance process. I know what gets their attention, I know what works, and I can put that to work for you. Finally, it’s important to know that you have an attorney that will take a case all the way through trial, if necessary. Insurance companies know that there are a lot of attorneys who will not take a case to trial. Those attorneys do not get the best offers and the best resolutions for their cases because the insurance companies don’t fear them. Insurance companies know that at The Gunnels Law Firm we will take cases to trial, and that helps us get the best possible resolutions for our clients. We spend much of our time in the courtroom, and we know how to present a case to a jury effectively in order to get the best possible result.
Who can file a wrongful death claim in Georgia?
One interesting question related to wrongful death claims is who can file those types of claims. We were asked recently if a person could file a wrongful death claim on behalf of a sibling. In some situations, that is possible. The first person that usually has priority when it comes to filing a wrongful death claim is the surviving spouse. The surviving spouse can file on behalf of themselves or on behalf of the children, if there are any to the marriage. If there are surviving children and not a surviving spouse, then the children have that first right to the claim. If they are minors, someone can file it on their behalf. If there are no surviving spouses or children, then the claims fall to the parents of the person who tragically and wrongfully lost their life.The other option is that a person who is in charge of the estate of the deceased person is able to file that claim, and that can often be a sibling or even a friend. In those situations, once the deceased person’s will is put into probate, someone is assigned to be in charge of that estate. That person then has the ability to bring those types of claims. It’s important when setting up those claims to make sure that you have the proper parties identified or you can severely hurt your claim. If you feel like you have a wrongful death case that needs to be evaluated, please give us a call as early in the process as possible so we can evaluate all of the different circumstances and make sure that your case is positioned in the best possible light.
Should I speak to an insurance company about a wrongful death lawsuit?
One issue that commonly occurs in wrongful death cases is that the potentially at-fault insurance company wants to speak to a representative of the family of the person who has passed away. If you’re reading this, chances are that you have been involved in a matter in which someone close to you has passed away. We are very sorry that you are in that situation. If you are in this situation, it’s important to make sure that you have proper representation because wrongful death cases can be very complicated and complex.We always advise our clients not to speak to insurance companies in these situations because, for one, they don’t have to. What’s more, nothing good can come from speaking with the insurance company. The insurance company will deploy trained investigators or trained adjusters who will attempt to get information that would benefit their side of the case, not the side of the case from the family of the person who has unfortunately passed away. If you are in a situation where you believe you may have a potential wrongful death case, please contact us as soon as possible so we can begin investigating and walk you through your options.
How long will a wrongful death settlement take?
When we have clients come to see us about wrongful death claims, one of the first things they always ask is how long it will take to resolve their case. The answer to that is it greatly depends on the circumstances. When you have a wrongful death case and the liability of the at-fault party is clear, oftentimes those cases can be resolved relatively quickly. It’s dependent on the amount of insurance coverage that’s available.For instance, if the at-fault party has $50,000 worth of coverage, the insurance company is not going to be able to give you that $50,000 quick enough. Those cases can resolve much more quickly. If you have a commercial truck that’s caused the death and has commercial insurance policy, generally worth millions of dollars, it’s very important to see those cases through as far as they can go, and those are the ones that the insurance companies will often fight about. It really comes back to the amount of insurance coverage available. If the parties cannot agree and work out the claim, then a lawsuit has to be filed. Lawsuits for personal injuries in Georgia have a two-year statute of limitations. They have to be filed within two years of the date of the incident. From the time that the lawsuit is filed, a pretty fair estimation of how long it would take would be somewhere around one to three years to get it resolved.
What damages are available in a wrongful death case in Georgia?
There are multiple different types of benefits that are available for compensation in a wrongful death claim. If you’re reading this, you’re probably in the unfortunate position of feeling like you have a wrongful death claim regarding the passing of someone who’s close to you. We’re sorry that you find yourself in that position, but we’d like to help you navigate the legal circumstances of your claim.Benefits that are applicable in these types of claims involve, first, various monetary values associated with the life of the person. A person whose life has been wrongfully taken from them has lost a great deal, and their estate is entitled to compensation for what that person missed out on in terms of experiences that they would have had in their life. Another type of damages is lost earnings that the person might have had in terms of future salary or future income. A third type involves the companionship that they would’ve brought to a partner or family member and that the person has now been deprived of as a result of the wrongful death. It’s important to, in a situation such as this, hire an attorney who has experience with wrongful death claims because they can be very different than general personal injury harm cases. If you find yourself in a circumstance where you feel like you may have a wrongful death case related to the death of a loved one, please give us a call as soon as you can in the process so we can begin helping your work through the process and preserve your claim so it can be presented in the most effective way possible.
How much is a wrongful death claim worth?
When we have clients come in who have lost a family member and are thinking of pursuing a wrongful death claim, one of the things that they want to know is the value of their claim. Under Georgia Law, the family or estate of a person who was wrongfully deceased is entitled to what is called the full value of the life of that person. It really comes down to what a jury thinks the value of that life is, and cannot be determined early on. You can’t determine those things until you’ve had an attorney build that case to try to show what the value of that life was. In a lot of ways, it is built on showing how much that person meant to other people in his or her life. That takes a lot of time and effort to work up, to be able to show that evidence to a jury. There’s really not a good way to calculate that, other than building it up and having an experienced attorney.