Wrongful Death Lawyer
Georgia Wrongful Death Attorney
In Georgia, a “wrongful death” is the death of a person caused by “negligent, reckless, intentional, or criminal” due to the actions of another person, governmental body, business, or other entities. Georgia defines negligence as failing to take proper care in an instance in which an individual or entity has a duty to do so, resulting in the injury of a person. Wrongful death claims require significant experience, time, and resources. Make sure that the wrongful death attorney you choose has these traits.
Often, wrongful death cases are considered to be similar to other personal injury claims. Similar to personal injury cases negligence must be proven in wrongful death cases. The marked difference between wrongful death cases and other personal injury claims is that the individual who suffered the injury is no longer able to bring their claim to court. In a wrongful death case, particularly one involving a child the case must be brought to the court by the child’s parents or executor of the descendant.
The Value of a Georgia Wrongful Death Case
Currently, Georgia has two different types of damages that can be recovered in a wrongful death claim.
The first is the “full value of the life of the deceased.” This claim must be brought in accordance with the Georgia code referenced above. This type of recovery includes both tangible financial values and intangible values of the deceased child’s life:
- Loss of future wages and benefits as to what the child could have made had they survived.
- Loss of companionship, and any intangible benefits the deceased child brought to loved ones.
These types of damages are very subjective. The jury may elect to award these damages depending on the age of the child and to what degree can be shown to his or her future earnings.
The second is specifically for financial losses as a direct result of the deceased child’s death, such as, medical expenses and funeral costs. As above this type of claim must be brought in accordance with Georgia Code. Damages that can be recovered in this type of claim include:
- Medical expenses related to the child’s last illness or injury.
- Funeral and burial costs.
- Conscious pain and suffering endured by the child before death.
Time Limits on Georgia Wrongful Death Claims
In Georgia, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death case is two years. However, there are some cases in which this time may be paused or elongated. At Sessions & Fleischman, we encourage you to meet with us when you feel you are prepared. However, we do encourage you and your family not to wait too long to decide to file a wrongful death claim for the loss of your child, because after the two-year limit the right to bring a claim is vitally gone.
Under current Georgia law, the clock concerning your claims may be paused until any criminal cases concerning your loved one has been completed. During the time the criminal case is taking place the statute of limitations clock will stop running but it will continue to run again the day any criminal case is completed.
Additionally, Georgia allows the statute of limitations concerning wrongful death cases up to five years if the deceased’s estate is not probated. When an estate is not probated it means that there is no will provided for the deceased estate. In most wrongful death cases involving children, their estates (if they have one) are rarely probated. This means that in a wrongful death case involving a child it is possible that the statute of limitations can be extended up to seven years. If you have any questions concerning the wrongful death of a child, do not hesitate to contact Sessions & Fleischman. We will fight hard to recover the damages you and your family so desperately deserve.
It is critical that your wrongful death attorney in Georgia understands the law regarding the necessary levels of proof of cause of the death and has both the time and resources necessary to full prosecute the case on behalf of your family.
Plaintiffs argue that they are not required to produce expert testimony on the causes of a decedent’s death in a case of ordinary negligence. See Self v. Executive Committee of the Ga. Baptist Convention, etc., 245 Ga. 548, 549, 266 S.E.2d 168 (1980). But when medical questions are raised in such a case, expert evidence is required because the proximate cause of a decedent’s death is “not one of those matters which jurors [can] be credited with knowing by reason of common knowledge.” (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Cherokee County Hosp. Auth. v. Beaver, 179 Ga.App. 200, 205(3), 345 S.E.2d 904 (1986); see also Gilbert v. R.J. Taylor Mem. Hosp., 265 Ga. 580, 581, n. 4, 458 S.E.2d 341 (1995); Allstate Ins. Co. v. Sutton, 290 Ga.App. 154, 160(3)(b), 658 S.E.2d 909 (2008).
Plaintiffs attempt to fulfill their obligation to produce medical evidence showing that Widener’s delay in obtaining treatment was the proximate cause of Cowart’s death by repeated citation to Dr. *715 Schade’s affidavit. Even construed in plaintiffs’ favor, however, Dr. Schade’s statement asserts only that a delay in obtaining treatment was a possible cause of Cowart’s death. “When a party is relying on inferences to prove a point, not only must those inferences tend in some proximate degree to establish the conclusion sought, but must also render less probable all inconsistent conclusions.” Page v. Atlanta Center, 219 Ga.App. 422, 424, 465 S.E.2d 456 (1995). “If [circumstantial evidence] raises only a mere conjecture as to how [a decedent] died, there can be no recovery.” Berry v. Hamilton, 246 Ga.App. 608, 610, 541 S.E.2d 428 (2000). A jury is authorized only to resolve conflicts in the evidence, and cannot supply evidence where none exists. Because plaintiffs have failed to raise a reasonable inference that Widener’s delay in obtaining treatment was the proximate cause of Cowart’s death, we affirm the grant of summary judgment to Widener. See Berry, 246 Ga.App. at 610, 541 S.E.2d 428 (affirming grant of summary judgment in the absence of evidence that defendant had proximately caused the decedent’s death).
Cowart v. Widener, 296 Ga. App. 712, 714–15, 675 S.E.2d 591, 593 (2009), aff’d, 287 Ga. 622, 697 S.E.2d 779 (2010).
Wrongful Death of a Child in Georgia
Current Georgia Law stipulates different avenues through which parents or family members may receive the compensation they deserve for the wrongful death of their child or relative.
O.C.G.A. § 19-7-1 lays out who may file a wrongful death claim for a child in Georgia:
- If the child does not have a spouse or any children the right to recovery of damages shall be left to the child’s parents.
- The parents will jointly share the ability to recover damages from the loss of their child if they live together and are not divorced.
- If either parent is deceased the right to recovery is solely the surviving parent’s.
- If the parents are divorced or separated each parent has the right shall be in both parents.
Too often attorneys accept cases with horrific injuries and fatalities but do not commit the necessary time and resources needed to retain experts needed for the case. Your wrongful death attorney must have the ability to retain the necessary experts for the case.