If someone dies in an accident that should have been avoided, such as a car crash, his or her death may be considered wrongful in the eyes of the civil courts. This can permit surviving family members to file what is known as a wrongful death lawsuit in the Georgia civil courts. If you recently lost someone dear to you in an unexpected accident, learn more about this type of claim to understand your rights.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Georgia’s definition of wrongful death, found in Georgia Code Section 51-4-1, is the death of a human being due to the criminal acts or negligence of another party. State law also allows for the pursuit of a wrongful death claim in the absence of negligence in a case involving a product that has been defectively manufactured. Some of the most common accidents that lead to wrongful death lawsuits are:
- Car crashes
- Truck accidents
- Slip and falls
- Workplace accidents
- Dangerous premises
- Medical malpractice
Negligence in personal injury law refers to the failure to act in a way that a reasonable and prudent party would in the same circumstances. If the fatal injury would not have happened but for the defendant’s careless or wrongful act, the defendant may be held liable (financially responsible) for wrongful death in Georgia.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a claim filed in the civil courts in pursuit of financial compensation from the person or party allegedly at fault for causing a fatal injury. The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to make surviving family members or the deceased person’s estate whole again by obtaining financial compensation from the accountable party. A successful wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia can result in payment for funeral and burial costs, loss of consortium, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and more.
Criminal vs. Civil Lawsuit After a Death in Georgia
A wrongful death lawsuit is not the same as a criminal case against a defendant for intentionally causing the death of your loved one. These are two separate legal systems with different rules, procedures and requirements. The goal of a wrongful death lawsuit is to reimburse those who were impacted by a preventable loss of life. A criminal case against a defendant, on the other hand, seeks to punish the defendant with a conviction for committing a crime, such as murder.
One key difference is that in a wrongful death lawsuit, it is up to surviving family members to bring a claim, while it is a District Attorney’s office that files criminal charges for homicide or manslaughter. Another difference is the burden of proof. In a criminal case, the charges alleged must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to find the defendant guilty of a crime. In a wrongful death lawsuit, the evidentiary standard is lower (clear and convincing evidence).
How Do You File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Georgia?
If you wish to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia, you must be the deceased person’s surviving spouse, child, parent, or executor of the decedent’s estate. These individuals (in this order) are the only parties who have the right to file a lawsuit under state law. You must also be within your deadline. The statute of limitations (legal deadline) on a wrongful death claim in Georgia is two years from the date of the death, in most cases.
If you check both of these boxes, consult with an Atlanta wrongful death attorney about filing a claim. An attorney can help you with the legal process, such as filling out confusing claims paperwork and submitting copies to the courts on your behalf. From there, your attorney can negotiate with an insurance company for maximum financial compensation or represent you at trial, if this is what it takes to obtain a fair case outcome.
For more information about filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia, contact BMW Law Group today to ask for a free consultation.