Marietta Wrongful Death Lawyers
Thousands of Americans die each year in accidents and events caused by someone else. Many are traffic accidents; many involve other causes of death, from medical malpractice to electrocution to falling down the stairs. Some victims die immediately, while others die after a sometimes lengthy period of suffering.
Although the person is dead, the right to recover from the person who caused the death lives on. Georgia, like other states, provides a way for the deceased’s family and the deceased’s estate to obtain compensation for their respective losses. Discussing these actions can be confusing because they have different names, are usually brought by different people, and they allow recovery of very different damages. The Marietta Wrongful Death Lawyers of Clay | Starrett Injury Lawyers, LLC are experienced and compassionate in these extremely emotional cases. We can help you and your family get the money they need after losing a loved one in a wrongful death.
Survival Actions versus Wrongful Death Actions
Actions for wrongful death are brought by the surviving members of the deceased’s family, to recover primarily for their own losses, most of which have yet to occur. Survival actions, despite the name, are brought by the deceased’s estate, not the surviving relatives, to recover for losses of the deceased that primarily occurred between the time of the accident and the time of the death.
If that’s not confusing enough, consider that the survival action, although brought to recover what the deceased would have been entitled to recover had he lived, usually ends up benefiting the deceased’s family, just as a wrongful death claim does. That’s because the damages recovered in a survival action get added to the estate, and the estate eventually gets distributed among the deceased’s heirs.
The Type of Accident Doesn’t Matter
Wrongful death and survival actions depend only on the death of someone wrongfully caused by someone else. Whether the death was because of medical malpractice, a defective consumer product, or a flaming car crash, the victim’s death triggers the rights to bring wrongful death and survival actions.
Likewise, wrongful death and survival actions are appropriate, regardless of the specific legal theory for holding the wrongdoer liable: negligence, strict liability, direct liability, or indirect (“vicarious”) liability, like that of an employer for the actions of its employee.
Liability Needs to be Established
Recovery in either wrongful death and survival actions, does, however, requires that the claimants legally establish the liability of the person who caused the death. That means proving that the wrongdoer owed a duty to the deceased, that he acted in breach of that duty (usually by being negligent), and that the breach of duty brought about the deceased’s death. Hiring a skilled wrongful death attorney is essential in this situation.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
The Georgia wrongful death statute specifies in detail who is entitled to bring the action. The first priority is the deceased’s spouse. If there are also children, the spouse brings the action on their behalf as well, with damages apportioned equally between the spouse and children, provided that the spouse receives at least one third.
In the absence of a spouse, the children are entitled to bring the action and split the recovery evenly.
Next in line are parents. If there are none, the deceased’s estate may bring the action. When the estate brings the action, the recovery is on behalf of whomever the state’s probate law designates as the next of kin.
Damages in Wrongful Death Claims
Georgia’s statute specifically provides for recovery of “the full value” of the victim’s life, leaving that computation to be “shown by the evidence.” Damages recoverable include the financial benefits the deceased would have provided had he lived, including a necessarily subjective determination of what the deceased would have earned had he lived. They also include the intangible and even more subjective value of the care, companionship, etc. the deceased would have provided had he lived.
Damages in Survival Actions
Survival action damages typically include:
- Medical costs from the time of the accident to the time of death
- Any lost wages during the same period
- Any pain and suffering of the deceased during the same period
- Funeral expenses
If the wrongful death attorney handling the survival action can show that the defendant not only caused the death but did so in one of the few ways that Georgia recognizes as justifying punitive damages, they may also be recovered.
Get Help when You’ve Lost a Loved One | Marietta Wrongful Death Attorneys
Handling wrongful death cases requires a thorough knowledge of Georgia’s wrongful death law, and experience in establishing that the defendant was negligent in whatever scenario gave rise to the death. Numerous other complications can arise. For example, does the statute of limitations start to run from the day the accident occurred, or the day the victim died? In survival actions by the estate, what’s the effect of delays in probating the estate? These can be serious issues when the victim survives for a considerable time before succumbing to the injuries, or the probate gets hung up with disputes over administration.
The top-rated Marietta, Georgia, firm Clay | Starrett Injury Lawyers, LLC has the experience to successfully handle both wrongful death and survival actions based on the full range of negligence and strict liability claims. Give us a call today.