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What is the Difference Between a Personal Injury Lawsuit and a Wrongful Death Claim?

Accidents that result in serious and life-threatening injuries are devastating, both to the victim and members of their family. When an injury results from an unintentional accident or another incident in which somebody else is at fault, it is important to start thinking about the possibility of filing a civil lawsuit in order to seek financial compensation for losses. Georgia law allows injury victims, and in some cases a family member, to file a lawsuit against another party if that party’s negligence or intentional wrongdoing led to the injury. Yet it can be difficult to understand how you should file your claim, especially when a family member’s serious injuries ultimately led to death.

Personal injury law and wrongful death law are closely related, but these types of lawsuits are filed in distinct circumstances. Our experienced Atlanta personal injury attorneys want to provide you with some of the information you need in order to begin thinking about a civil lawsuit against a liable party or parties.

Personal Injury Law and Wrongful Death Law Are Closely Related

Personal injury law is a broad area of the law that recognizes a person’s right to seek financial compensation for injuries by filing a lawsuit against the responsible party or parties. There are many different kinds of personal injury lawsuits, from premises liability lawsuits involving third-party actions or slips and falls to motor vehicle accident claims. An injury victim can also file a personal injury lawsuit when harm resulted from an act of intentional wrongdoing, such as a sexual assault. Similarly, wrongful death lawsuits can also be filed when such circumstances result in another person’s injury. However, the first difference concerns who is filing the lawsuit.

With a personal injury lawsuit, the injured party is the one who files the civil lawsuit against the at-fault party in order to seek damages. With a wrongful death lawsuit, the injured person is not alive any longer to file a civil lawsuit and thus cannot file a personal injury lawsuit himself or herself. Instead, wrongful death law recognizes the right of a surviving family member to step into the shoes, metaphorically speaking, of the deceased in order to file a lawsuit against the responsible party. Under Georgia’s wrongful death law, a surviving spouse, surviving children, or a surviving parent may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Wrongful Death Cases Can Include Additional Damages

Both personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death lawsuits allow the plaintiff to seek compensatory damages for losses, which may include payment for hospital bills incurred, lost wages, and pain and suffering—all related to the injured person’s losses. In a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff may be able to seek additional damages for the surviving family member’s losses, such as funeral expenses, lost benefits and services of the deceased, and loss of companionship.

Difference in the Statute of Limitations

For both personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits in Georgia, the statute of limitations—the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit—is two years. However, the “clock” on the claim begins ticking at different points for personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death cases.

The clock for filing a personal injury lawsuit starts ticking on the date of the injury. Differently, the clock for a wrongful death lawsuit begins ticking on the date of death. Sometimes the date of injury and death are the same, but sometimes the injury victim will survive for several weeks or even months after the initial injury before succumbing to the injury. In such situations, a surviving spouse, for example, will have two years from the (later) date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Contact Our Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyers Today

If you have questions about filing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, an Atlanta personal injury attorney at our firm can assist you. We have years of experience handling a wide variety of personal injury and wrongful death claims in Georgia. Contact Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys today.