Wrongful death cases in Atlanta are among the most difficult for family members since they must occur so soon after the preventable death of a loved one. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), in 2020 alone, there were nearly 201,000 preventable deaths in the U.S. that largely resulted from careless and reckless behavior.
When a loved one is killed in an accident or after being the target of an intentional act of violence, it is critical to seek advice from an Atlanta wrongful death attorney about the possibility of filing a wrongful death lawsuit. What is a wrongful death claim and how does it work? The following are five key things that you should know about the Georgia Wrongful Death Act and its applicability to claims arising out of preventable deaths in the Atlanta area.
1. Wrongful Death Claims Can Arise Out of Negligence or Intentional Wrongdoing
Under Georgia’s wrongful death law, a wrongful death lawsuit can arise out of negligence or intentional wrongdoing. It may be possible to file a wrongful death lawsuit following a car accident, a truck accident, medical negligence, a slip and fall, a deadly attack involving negligent security, harm caused by a product defect, and more.
All of these are examples of wrongful deaths that may have resulted from negligence, or from another party’s careless or reckless behavior. At the same time, wrongful death lawsuits can also arise from circumstances in which another party intentionally causes harm and ultimately causes the death of a person, such as in situations where an assault with a deadly weapon proves to be fatal.
2. Survival Actions May Be Possible
Wrongful death claims are often paired with survival actions, and it is important to know that it may be possible to file a survival action in conjunction with a wrongful death claim under Georgia law.
What is a Survival Action?
A survival action is a specific type of claim that allows a plaintiff to seek compensation for the deceased’s losses after the injury and prior to death. In some wrongful death cases, the deceased will sustain a life-threatening injury and will survive for a limited period of time before succumbing to those injuries. Survival actions allow a plaintiff to seek compensation for losses during that intervening time — e.g., hospital bills incurred by the deceased, the deceased’s lost wages, and the deceased’s pain and suffering.
3. Multiple Surviving Family Members May Be Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Under Georgia law, multiple surviving family members can be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit based on the circumstances of the case. Although some states only permit the executor of the deceased’s estate to file a wrongful death claim, Georgia law permits certain surviving immediate family members to move forward with a claim. The order in which surviving family members can be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit is as follows:
- Deceased’s surviving spouse;
- The deceased’s surviving child or surviving children if there is no surviving spouse;
- Deceased’s surviving parent or surviving parents if there is no surviving spouse or surviving child; or
- Deceased’s executor if none of the above parties exist.
When an executor of the deceased’s estate is the party who files a wrongful death lawsuit, any damages will be for surviving family members of the deceased.
4. Various Types of Damages Can Be Awarded in a Wrongful Death Claim
In a wrongful death claim, a plaintiff can seek both economic and non-economic damages, which are both types of compensatory damages. Examples of those types of damages include:
- Value of the deceased’s lost wages, including future lost wages if the deceased had not suffered a fatal injury;
- Value of the lost benefits and services provided by the deceased;
- Value of the loss of the deceased’s companionship or care; and
- Funeral expenses for the deceased.
5. Statute of Limitations Can Affect a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Georgia
The statute of limitations can get a bit complicated in a Georgia wrongful death lawsuit. Generally speaking, wrongful death lawsuits in Georgia have a two-year statute of limitations, and the clock starts to tick on the date of the deceased’s death. However, there are some exceptions to that rule.
In cases where the deceased’s death resulted from the criminal act of another party — an intentional act of violence — then the statute of limitations may be paused, or “tolled.” In these cases, the clock will not start to tick until a criminal case against the defendant has concluded. Then, from the date that the criminal case concludes, the plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit will have two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
The claim nonetheless must be filed within six years from the date of the deceased’s death. The statute of limitations can also be tolled for a period of up to five years when there is a delay with the probate process for the deceased’s estate.
Contact Our Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyers
Wrongful death lawsuits in Atlanta can be complicated, and it is essential to work with an experienced Atlanta wrongful death lawyer who can assist you with your case. We can provide you with more information about the steps in a wrongful death lawsuit and can give you a clear idea of what to expect. Contact Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys online or call our firm today at (404) 529-3476.