It is a fact of life that accidents happen every day – at our jobs, on the roadways, and even when we’re on vacation. Thankfully, most of these accidents result in only minor injuries that require minimal medical attention. While we know that some accidents can result in very serious injuries, we don’t like to think about the fact the worst accidents can tragically result in death. If the accident was due to someone else’s negligence, we refer to these as “wrongful death” claims. In addition to being very serious, these cases are more complicated than your typical accident case. We hope to shed some light on this topic in this post.
Wrongful Death Defined
Under Georgia law, wrongful death cases are when someone’s “negligent, reckless, intentional, or criminal” actions cause an accident that results in the victim’s death. After giving this definition consideration, here are some details of note:
- The at-fault party could be another person or a corporate entity, such as a business or company.
- The at-fault party did not need to intend for the victim to die, even if his conduct was intentional or criminal.
- The at-fault party may be prosecuted for his or her criminal actions that caused the victim’s death, but they may still be sued by the victim’s family on a wrongful death claim.
- Example: Bill gets drunk and gets into a car accident, resulting in the death of the other driver. Bill is prosecuted for DUI and manslaughter, but the other family also sues Bill for wrongful death.
The Nature of Wrongful Death Claims
In a wrongful death case, the victim’s family is suing the at-fault party for “damages” which is a judgment for money. Under Georgia law, the family can sue for the “full value of the life of the decedent.” This includes both an objective financial valuation, but also the intangible value of the victim’s life. For example, the family suing for wrongful death could claim damages based on the following components:
- Lost income for the victim’s entire life – both current and expected income
- Lost retirement or other benefits
- Lost companionship
- Lost care of other loved ones
Wrongful death claims can be complicated, and so it’s important to at least consult with an attorney if you think you have a claim.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim
Georgia law specifies who may sue on a wrongful death claim, depending on who died:
- If the deceased is a spouse or parent, the claim may be brought by the surviving spouse or child or children.
- If the deceased is a child, the claim may be brought by the parent or parents as directed by Georgia law.
How Long Do I Have to File My Claim?
Generally speaking, a lawsuit for a wrongful death claim must be filed within two years of the victim’s death. There are exceptions to this rule, but it’s very important to understand that you may lose your right to any recovery if you fail to file your claim within two years.
Contact an Atlanta Area Wrongful Death Attorney
If one of your loved ones has died in an accident as a result of someone’s negligence, we strongly encourage you to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Wrongful death claims can be very complicated, and failing to handle them correctly can gravely jeopardize your family’s future. The lawyers at Slappey & Sadd are here to help – contact us at 404-255-6677 or email us via our online contact form in order to schedule a free consultation today.