Regardless of the circumstances, the death of a loved one is always difficult. However, this type of loss is even more devastating when you lose your loved one because of someone else's actions. Although winning a lawsuit won't take away the pain you have experienced, it can help you get the justice you deserve. Below are some basic facts about these cases to help you understand your options and make an informed decision.
Defining Wrongful Death
Wrongful death occurs when a person, company or government agency is legally responsible for an individual's death. When this occurs, state law allows the deceased individual's loved ones to file a lawsuit against the responsible party. These cases arise most frequently following fatal accidents, such as car crashes, assaults, medical errors, shootings, or incidents involving defective products.
Wrongful death cases sometimes settle outside of court. When cases do not settle outside of court, a trial will be held. If the plaintiff is successful, the court will award damages based on the estimated value of the deceased person's life. To arrive at this figure, the court calculates damages for both economic losses, such as lost earnings, and non-economic losses, such as the victim's inability to enjoy the rest of his or her natural life.
What Types of Defendants can be Sued for Wrongful Death
In order to be sued for wrongful death, an individual or entity must have either exhibited negligence or performed an intentional action that led to the victim's death. For example, in the case of a fatal car accident, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the driver who caused the crash, a government agency that failed to properly maintain the roadway or the manufacturer of a vehicle that malfunctioned during the crash. In the case of a fatal medical error, you may file a lawsuit against the nurse, doctor or facility that was responsible for the error.
Who Can File a Lawsuit for Wrongful Death
Not every individual who had a relationship with a wrongful death victim is legally able to file a lawsuit. In order to file a claim, you must have suffered damage because of the individual's death. In the state of Georgia, individuals who can file a wrongful death spouse include:
The deceased person's spouse - Under Georgia law, the victim's surviving spouse is the first person who has a right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If the couple had minor children at the time of the victim's death, the spouse must also represent the interests of these children in the lawsuit. If the spouse's case is successful, a portion of the damages will be awarded to the children.
The deceased person's children - If the deceased individual does not have a surviving spouse, the individual's children have the right to file a lawsuit. If the lawsuit is successful, the damages will be divided evenly among the children.
Surviving parents of the deceased - If the deceased person does not have a surviving spouse or children who are able to file a lawsuit, a surviving parent can file a claim.
Estate representative - If no surviving spouse, children or surviving parents exist, or if surviving parents have the right to file a claim but elect not to, the personal representative of the deceased person's estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit. In such cases, damages awarded become the property of the estate and will be passed to the deceased person's beneficiaries.
Filing a Claim
If your loved one died because of another party's negligence or wrongful action, you may be able to file a claim. To learn more, please contact Brogdon Champion.