The wrongful death of a person has devastating effects on surviving family members. Attorneys for the plaintiff must exercise a great deal of diligence, professionalism, and compassion to successfully prove the full extent of their clients’ damages.What are the Wrongful Death Laws in Georgia?
Most states currently provide that surviving family members in wrongful death actions can recover damages for loss of income, services, protection, care, assistance, society, companionship, comfort, guidance, counsel, and advice of the decedent in a wrongful death action. Many states also provide for recovery of punitive damages where defendants have acted intentionally or recklessly. With so many different types of damages available, lawyers can often prove damages using a large number of witnesses and with a great quantity of evidence. Managing and developing this evidence can therefore require a great deal of skill and experience. Our lawyers in Atlanta, Georgia have the experience and background to vehemently pursue your claim on your behalf.
In addition to wrongful death actions, most states also provide for “survival actions”. Survival actions are often brought in conjunction with wrongful death claims to recover money for the fatal injuries, conscious pain and suffering, and medical expenses leading to an individual’s death. Damages in these cases are normally proven with medical evidence and through the testimony of witnesses to an accident or to the suffering of the decedent.
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In every wrongful death or survival action, the plaintiff (usually an immediate family member) has the burden of proving both liability and damages. To prove liability, it is often necessary to force disclosure of information from recalcitrant defendants or reluctant witnesses. Proving damages, on the other hand, can usually be done through cooperative witnesses, such as family members, friends, employers, medical doctors and other experts. The plaintiff’s attorney must spend a great deal of time with family members learning about their losses and about the history of the family, the individual clients, and of the decedent. Other witnesses who knew the decedent and can describe what losses the family members have experienced must be located and interviewed. Photographs and videotapes that can clearly illustrate the life of the decedent and the losses suffered by family members must be located or developed. Economists, occupational experts, and medical experts are often utilized and provided with the information they need to assess the plaintiff’s losses. By investing the time and working hard, the plaintiff’s attorney will be able to prepare a strong case for damages.How Does the Loss of Income in a Wrongful Death Case Work in Georgia?
In most wrongful death cases, the loss of the decedent’s income which supported the spouse and children is a major component of damages. This includes future earnings, wages, salary, benefits, and other compensation of the decedent. Increasingly, the loss of fringe benefits is becoming an important element of damages. The value of retirement plans, medical and dental benefits, and other common fringe benefits previously provided by the decedent often can be recovered by survivors.
In assessing damages involving loss of income, evidence of the deceased’s actual earnings, as well as the ability to earn money in the future, are important factors which the jury must consider. A wide range of factors may be relevant to determining what the future earning capacity of the deceased would have been, including life expectancy, health, occupation, age, work habits, and business skills. The calculation of these damages is sometimes performed by an economist, often with the assistance of an occupational expert.
Finally, an award for loss of income must be adjusted to reflect the present value of the damages. Depending on the interest rate which is assumed, the present value can vary greatly. It is the job of the plaintiff’s Atlanta lawyer to persuade the jury to adopt reasonable assumptions concerning future interest rates so that the survivors are able to realize the actual present value of their income losses.Can There be Punitive Damages for a Wrongful Death Case in Georgia?
Punitive damages are available in wrongful death cases in twenty seven states to punish defendants who have engaged in malicious, intentional, or reckless behavior. In cases where these damages are available, they provide the plaintiff’s attorney with a powerful weapon if the attorney gathers the appropriate evidence. Key factors governing punitive damages include: the reprehensibility of the defendant’s conduct, whether the defendant has engaged in such conduct on other occasions, the defendant’s wealth (often referred to as the defendant’s “worldly circumstances”), and the statutory or constitutional limits on the maximum amount of a punitive damages award.
Slappey & Sadd, LLC is an Atlanta-based personal injury law firm that focuses on Wrongful Death Cases.
Please fill out the contact form or call 404-255-6677 for an evaluation of your wrongful death case at no charge.Wrongful Death Claims Attorney Atlanta
A wrongful death is typically a death that has occurred needlessly and is caused by the recklessness or negligent behavior of another person.Common Situations for a Wrongful Death
There are far too many situations to list when a wrongful death takes place but some common situations include the following:
- car accidents;
- truck accidents;
- train accidents;
- pedestrian accidents;
- elevator accidents;
- construction site accidents;
- product defects;
- medical malpractice;
- nursing home negligence.
A death of this kind occurs when someone has behaved negligently and caused the death of another person who could have done nothing to prevent it from occurring. For example, if a car driver is intoxicated and runs off the road and kills a pedestrian. It is highly unlikely that the pedestrian could have done anything about it. Once the family has recovered from the death they may decide to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the car driver.
The first person who is eligible to benefit from a claim for wrongful death is normally the spouse of the deceased but parents and siblings may be beneficiaries too. At first when a person loses his life in this way the emotional toll is great and this is followed by financial hardship, especially if the person was a significant breadwinner. This financial loss can be included in a wrongful death claim. If the person who is the subject of the wrongful death was a spouse, a father/mother, loss of consortium has a financial value too.
Medical expenses leading up to the death and funeral expenses can make up a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death claims are not just about money but also about bringing closure to a sad, unplanned event and the feeling that the family has taken part in helping to seek justice by asking the person at fault to compensate them.Statute of Limitations
Most states set a time limit from the date of the event to the latest time allowed to file a wrongful death claim and this is usually 2 or 3 years. Once that date has passed, no claim can normally be made.Hire a Wrongful Death Attorney
Because claims for wrongful death are complex, a vast amount of evidence has to be collected before the claim can be reached. Hiring an experienced wrongful death attorney is essential as it makes the whole event far less painful. It is not unusual for some victims to be afraid to file wrongful death lawsuits as they think the attorney’s fees will be too high but most attorneys offer a free consultation to assess eligibility to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Once the case has been accepted by the attorney no upfront fees are necessary as cases are usually based on a contingency fee basis, meaning that the legal fees are paid out of the settlement. Attorneys usually try to settle out of court too which means the claimant doesn’t have to face the intimidating experience of a court experience. Typically though, attorneys will take the matter to the courts if it is necessary to win the claim.