Last Updated on November 24, 2020 by Theodore Spaulding
If a negligent driver is responsible for the wrongful death of your immediate family member, does your family have legal recourse? The answer is yes.
More than 1,500 people died in traffic accidents on Georgia’s streets and highways in 2016, so the risk is genuine.
A fatal auto collision will have a lasting impact on the victim’s family, but insurance companies will tend to focus on the short-term needs, usually offering compensation only for funeral costs, final medical bills, and related immediate expenses. This is where an Atlanta wrongful death attorney can help.
What Are the Real Costs of a Wrongful Death?
That compensation helps, but it will not be sufficient to cover the real costs of a wrongful death. If your spouse died young, your family will be without that income permanently. Some families face serious financial hardships – some even lose their homes – after a wrongful death.
When a family faces the emotional challenge of a loved one’s unexpected death, they don’t need a financial crisis too.
When an insurance company offers a settlement that’s too low – or denies your family’s wrongful death claim entirely, or even argues that your loved one was at-fault for his or her own death – you’ll need an attorney’s help, and you will need it immediately.
After a Wrongful Death What Recourse Do Survivors Have?
In fact, if your family is victimized by a wrongful death in the Metro Atlanta region or anywhere in the state, take your case at once to an experienced Atlanta wrongful death attorney who will negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.
A wrongful death action can provide compensation for your loved one’s final medical bills and funeral costs, your family’s loss of income, pain, suffering, loss of companionship, loss of consortium, and more.
A good wrongful death lawyer will fight aggressively for every dollar of compensation that your family deserves.
If a member of your family is a victim of wrongful death, you must be advised and represented by an attorney who will fight for – and who knows how to win – the compensation your family will need.
What Are the Survivors of a Wrongful Death Entitled to?
A wrongful death claim in Georgia is a claim for the “full value of the life of the decedent.” A jury may be asked to consider both the economic value of the decedent’s life and also the non-economic value.
“Economic value” boils down to the earnings the decedent would have earned if he or she had lived a natural lifespan.
When determining the “non-economic” value of someone’s life, that person’s relationships, companionship, marriage, children, and accomplishments in life must be considered.
Who Qualifies to Bring a Wrongful Death Action?
The law in Georgia spells out strict rules for wrongful death claims. If the decedent has a surviving spouse, that spouse and that spouse alone may bring a wrongful death claim.
If there are surviving children, the surviving spouse acts as their representative and shares any compensation.
The surviving spouse must share any award with the children, but under Georgia law, the spouse is personally entitled to at least one-third of that compensation, without regard to the number of children.
If the decedent was widowed or divorced, his or her surviving children must file their claim jointly.
If the decedent was widowed or divorced and has children, but one of his or her children passed away previously, the heir or heirs of that child – that is, the decedent’s grandchildren – cannot in most cases receive their parent’s share of the compensation.
Only if a decedent’s child is alive to become one of the heirs bringing a wrongful death action, and then if that decedent’s child passes away while the claim is pending, will that claimant’s own child or children be entitled to a share of the compensation.
When no spouse and no children survive a decedent, the executor or the administrator of the decedent’s estate can bring a wrongful death action, and any damages recovered will be held for the next of kin.
What Damages Are Available to Surviving Family Members?
Plaintiffs seeking compensation for a wrongful death will need to explain who the decedent was and what that person’s life was about. Photos and personal stories can help.
The amount that jurors award to surviving family members, according to the Georgia courts, is to be determined by the “enlightened conscience of the jury.”
If a family member dies unexpectedly in traffic because another driver was negligent, as difficult as it may be, it is imperative for surviving family members to secure an attorney’s advice and representation as swiftly as possible.
Is There a Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Cases?
In most cases, the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases in Georgia is two years from the date of the fatality.
However, when criminal charges are brought against the at-fault driver, the statute of limitations is “tolled” (that is, paused or put on hold) pending the conclusion of the criminal prosecution.
Your family can’t wait two years to speak with an attorney. You need to put a wrongful death lawyer on the case as early as possible.
What Will It Cost You to Take Legal Action?
How can you afford an attorney if you’ve just lost a loved one and your family faces potential hardship? Surviving family members shouldn’t – and don’t – have to worry about attorney fees.
Most wrongful death attorneys provide a first consultation at no cost and no obligation, so it will not cost your family anything to learn more.
When an attorney agrees to handle your family’s wrongful death claim, you pay nothing unless and until that attorney wins a settlement or verdict on your family’s behalf.
If you lose a family member because another person was negligent, you will be forced to face emotional and legal challenges at the same time. There is no doubt – that’s difficult for anyone.
How Soon After a Wrongful Death Should Survivors Take Action?
However, you and your family must file a wrongful death claim as quickly as possible after a wrongful death.
If you are in the Metro Atlanta area or anywhere in Georgia, and if your family suffers or has suffered a tragic wrongful death, contact an experienced Atlanta wrongful death attorney right away to discuss your legal rights and options.
No amount of money can replace a loved one, but your family may need compensation to move positively and constructively into the future. If you’ve lost a family member, a good wrongful death lawyer can help.
For close to 15 years, Mr. Spaulding has helped victims of negligence across the state of Georgia resolve personal injury disputes, and he’s received a remarkable number of awards and honors from the legal community recognizing his commitment to clients and to the metro-Atlanta area.
As an undergraduate, Mr. Spaulding belonged to the Phi Beta Kappa honors fraternity at the University of Georgia, and he obtained his legal training at the Georgia State College of Law, where he clerked for the Honorable Judge Rowland Barnes of the Fulton County Superior Court. Mr. Spaulding has also worked for the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Atlanta Enforcement Division. Since 2005, he has dedicated his career to helping the injured victims of negligence and their loved ones win justice in Georgia’s personal injury courts.