Wrongful Death Attorney in Atlanta, Georgia
If you have lost a loved one due to the negligent, reckless, or intentional acts of another, then you should contact Atlanta wrongful death attorney Walter Gabriel to see if you are entitled to bring an action against the defendant to secure compensation for the harm caused for wrongful death. These damages may be significant, depending on the nature of your relationship with the deceased.
Wrongful death claims apply when a beloved family member died as the result of the fault of another person, company, or corporation. Civil claims for wrongful death apply regardless of whether a family member died due to the wrongdoer’s intentional killing or criminal negligence, or whether the death occurred as a result of purely ordinary civil negligence.
These claims occur in countless types of scenarios. A claim may occur when an offender attacks a person on the premises of any business that does not have adequate security. A claim can also occur when a manufacturer defectively or improperly inspected tires or other parts of a car.
In perhaps the most common context, wrongful death claims will arise from a fatal motor vehicle collision.
Attorney Walter Gabriel has experience getting results for clients in their claims for wrongful death. He is cognizant of the pressures that plaintiffs face and the importance of resolving matters quickly and successfully. This is especially true for wrongful death claimants.
Contact the Law Firm of Walter Gabriel, LLC for comprehensive assistance.
Understanding Wrongful Death Claims from An Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorney
In Georgia and Louisiana, as in every other state, the law gives specific family members the right to sue and recover damages for the wrongful death of their loved one.
Many people do not quite understand the concept behind these claims. Wrongful death damages do not compensate the deceased individual. They instead compensate the surviving family members for the losses they suffered due to the death of their loved one.
Losses suffered by surviving family members can vary significantly, but they may include:
Loss of financial support
Loss of love, affection, and emotional support
Pain and suffering
Loss of guidance
Loss of domestic services
These claims have no basis without underlying misconduct, either in the form of negligence, recklessness, or intentional harm. For example, if your spouse is killed by a drunk driver, then that gives rise to a claim. On the other hand, if your spouse dies in a solo car accident where nobody else appears to be at fault, then there may not be a defendant against whom such a claim can be pursued.
What Can be Recovered?
For wrongful death cases, the estate representative sues for the full value of the life of the decedent, as shown by the evidence. O.C.G.A. § 51-4-1.
The full value of life has economic and noneconomic components for jury consideration. The noneconomic includes the decedent’s relationships and connections, and overall quality of life, and the economy was explained by the Georgia Court of Appeals as follows: O.C.G.A. § 51-4-1(1) defines “full value of the life of the decedent, as shown by the evidence,” relevant to the measure of damages recoverable in a wrongful death case, as simply the full value of the life of the decedent without deducting for any of the necessary or personal expenses of the decedent had he lived. Brock v. Wedincamp, 253 Ga. App. 275.
When the death of a human being results from a crime or from criminal or other negligence, the personal representative of the deceased person shall be entitled to recover for the funeral, medical, and other necessary expenses resulting from the injury and death of the deceased person. O.C.G.A. § 51-4-5
Georgia Wrongful Death Claims/ Claims for Pain and Suffering
For wrongful death claims, there are two main categories of plaintiffs. (1) The individual who files the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased relative. (2) The administrator of the estate, who make a claim on behalf of the decedent’s pain and suffering.
The Georgia statutes and courts have made it clear that an individual’s claim for wrongful death and an estate’s claim for the decedent’s pain and suffering are distinct causes of action. See generally O.C.G.A. §§ 51-4-2 (a); 51-4-5 (b); Complete Auto Transit v. Floyd, 214 Ga. 232 (2) (104 S.E.2d 208) (1958). What is notable also is that the plaintiff in his individual capacity and in his capacity as administrator are legally different persons. Stiltjes v. Ridco Exterminating Co., 197 Ga. App. 852, 853 (399 S.E.2d 708) (1990), aff’d 261 Ga. 697 (409 S.E.2d 847) (1991).
Smith v. Memorial Medical Center Inc. et. al, illustrated the principles, where the plaintiff filed suit in both his capacity as an individual on the decedent’s wrongful death claim and as administrator of the decedent’s estate’s claim for pain and suffering. Smith v. Memorial Medical Ctr., Inc., 208 Ga. App. 26, 430 S.E.2d 57 (1993).
In this case, the plaintiff voluntarily withdrew his wrongful death claim once the court determined he was not the proper plaintiff for the decedent’s wrongful death claim. The defendant then moved to dismiss all claims in their entirety. This included the remaining estate claim for pain and suffering. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion and dismiss the estate’s claim for the decedent’s pain and suffering. The court of appeals determined that an individual’s claim for wrongful death and an estate’s claim for the decedent’s pain and suffering are distinct causes of action. Therefore, the court of appeals held that the plaintiff could dismiss the wrongful death claim and leave pending the estate’s claim for pain and suffering.
“Survival actions,” essentially apply to allow for claims to be made where the decedent could have brought for his/her own injuries had he/she survived.
O.C.G.A. § 9-2-41 provides that “[n]o action for a tort shall abate by the death of either party, where the wrongdoer received any benefit from the tort complained of; nor shall any action or cause of action for the recovery of damages for homicide, injury to the person, or injury to property abate by the death of either party.”
Who is Eligible to Recover?
For Georgia claims, O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2 provides the answer to most questions on this matter.
The surviving spouse or, if there is no surviving spouse, a child, or children, may recover for the homicide of the spouse or parent the full value of the life of the decedent, as shown by the evidence.
If an action for wrongful death is brought by a surviving spouse and the surviving spouse dies pending the action, the action shall survive to the child or children of the decedent.
If an action for wrongful death is brought by a child or children and one of the children dies pending the action, the action shall survive to the surviving child or children.
When no spouse or child is available to bring a claim on behalf of the decedent, O.C.G.A. § 51-4-5 applies. That is, “The administrator or executor of the decedent may bring an action for and may recover and hold the amount recovered for the benefit of the next of kin. In any such case, the amount of the recovery shall be the full value of the life of the decedent.”
In Louisiana, only certain eligible parties may file a wrongful death lawsuit to obtain compensation for such losses. Those eligible parties include:
Spouse and children
Parents (in the event that there is no living spouse or children)
Siblings (in the event that there is no living spouse, children, or parents)
Grandparents (in the event that there is no living spouse, children, parents, or siblings)
It is irrelevant whether the relation is by blood or adoption.
Contact an Experienced Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorney for a Free Consultation
The Law Firm of Walter Gabriel, LLC is a personal injury litigation firm with substantial experience handling a wide range of disputes, including those that center around an individual’s wrongful death.
Plaintiffs deserve legal representation that is comprehensive and compassionate. He understands that the impact of a loved one’s death may leave your family in a difficult position. It’s common for the loss of a loved one to have financial and emotional ramifications that last for several years. Such damages can help to smooth over the material challenges. For example, if your spouse paid for your living expenses, then a successful wrongful death lawsuit will cover that loss.
Ready to speak to an attorney about your claim? Call or send us a message online online to schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Atlanta wrongful death attorney at the Law Firm of Walter Gabriel, LLC.
Experienced Atlanta Wrongful Death Law Firm
If you have recently lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, you might be feeling a range of intense emotions. You might feel grief, anger, sadness, and confusion. It is normal to feel these things after such a tragedy.
In addition to the emotional pain you are likely feeling, you might also be dealing with financial burdens. If your loved one was the primary breadwinner in your family, you might be struggling to make ends meet. Or, if you must miss work to deal with funeral arrangements or other matters related to the death, you might be worried about how you will pay your bills.
The good news is that you might be entitled to financial compensation for your losses. If your loved one was killed due to someone else’s negligence, you might be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. A successful wrongful death claim can help you recover damages such as funeral and burial expenses, lost income, and more.
If you are thinking about filing a wrongful death lawsuit, it is important to seek experienced legal help. An experienced wrongful death attorney in Atlanta can review your case and help you understand your legal options.
Contact the Walter Gabriel Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta. He will fight for the compensation you and your family deserve.
If you lost a loved one because of an Atlanta car accident caused by a drunk or impaired driver, please be wary of accepting quick settlement offers from insurance companies and/or the impaired driver without first seeking the guidance of an Atlanta wrongful death lawyer.
While a settlement might seem like a good idea in your time of need, a lawyer may be able to properly protect your rights and obtain a greater amount of compensation based on the circumstances surrounding the accident.
Unfortunately, accepting an uninformed settlement offer is what insurance adjusters and the liable party hope you’ll do. By doing so, you could be giving up your right to seek punitive damages and other relief that might be available to you under the law.
At such a difficult time in your life, you shouldn’t have to worry about protecting your legal rights. That’s where our experienced team of Atlanta wrongful death lawyers comes in. The attorney at the firm will handle every aspect of your case so that you can focus on healing and moving forward.
Meet the Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyers from Walter Gabriel Law
If you’ve suffered the loss of a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, you need experienced and knowledgeable legal representation on your side. The Atlanta wrongful death lawyer from Walter Gabriel Law has been handling these types of cases for years, and he knows how difficult they can be for families.
Attorney Gabriel is here to make the claims process as easy as possible for you. He will work with you every step of the way to make sure that you get the compensation and justice that you deserve. He will also handle all the complicated legal matters so that you can focus on your healing.
If you’re ready to act, contact us today to schedule a free consultation. He will review your case and let you know what your next steps should be.
Seek Justice for Your Loved OneREACH OUT
What is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death occurs when a person dies because of another person’s or entity’s negligent, reckless or intentional actions. An individual, group, company, or government entity may potentially be held liable if there is evidence of the party intentionally or negligently causing injury or harm.
Wrongful deaths can happen because of negligent automobile drivers or truck drivers, faulty medical devices, unsafe work conditions, medical malpractice, and more. If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or wrongful actions, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
A wrongful death claim can help surviving family members recover compensation for damages such as medical expenses, funeral, and burial costs, lost income and benefits, loss of companionship, and more. If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or wrongful actions, contact a wrongful death attorney to discuss your legal options.
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Atlanta
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Atlanta can be a complicated and overwhelming process, especially if you are already grieving the loss of your loved one. However, pursuing a wrongful death claim can help ease some of the financial burden placed on you and your family, and it can also hold the negligent party responsible for their actions.
When a death is caused by the negligence of another person or entity, such as a drunk driver, the victim’s family may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Under the law, when a person or entity acts in a way that contributed to the victim’s death can be found liable for the victim’s death, whether those acts were intentional or unintentional.
Whatever damages are recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit (or claim) are for the benefit of the victim’s spouse, children, parents, siblings, or next of kin. The lawsuit can be brought forward by either a family member of the victim (state law determines which family members qualify), the executor of the victim’s estate, or someone appointed by the court. A personal injury lawyer in Atlanta can help you determine if you have a case and guide you through the process of filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
To win a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s negligence resulted in the death of the victim. The plaintiff must also show that the victim’s death resulted in damages, such as financial losses or emotional distress.
If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact a personal injury lawyer in Atlanta to discuss your case and learn more about your legal options.
Understanding Punitive Damages and Award Caps
When you lose a loved one to negligence, you may be entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are financial rewards granted to the plaintiff in a civil case to punish the defendant and deter them from committing such a gross act of negligence in the future.
While these damages are reserved for the worst types of offenses in civil proceedings, they are not as common as some Hollywood productions would have you believe. There are also limitations on just how much a victim can expect to receive in punitive damages.
In Atlanta, the maximum number of punitive damages that can be awarded is $250,000. This amount is set by state law and cannot be increased, no matter how severe the negligence or how great the loss is.
While $250,000 may seem like a lot of money, it is important to keep in mind that punitive damages are not meant to compensate the victim for their losses. They are simply a way to punish the offender and deter them from repeating their actions. If you have lost a loved one due to negligence, you will still need to seek other forms of compensation, such as damages for your pain and suffering or lost wages.
If you have any questions about punitive damages or how to seek compensation for your losses, an experienced Atlanta wrongful death lawyer can help. Schedule a consultation today to learn more.
When Are Such Damages Justified in Atlanta?
Punitive damages are not always easy to come by, which is why it’s important to have experienced legal representation if you believe you or a loved one may be owed such compensation. In Atlanta, for punitive damages to be awarded, the victim or their wrongful death lawyer must prove that the defendant acted with gross negligence or willful intent. This can be a difficult burden to meet, but with the right evidence and lawyers on your side, it may be possible to get the justice you deserve.
If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or criminal act, contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta today. They can help you understand your legal options and whether you may be owed punitive damages. Don’t try to take on such a complex legal case on your own, especially in the aftermath of a tragedy. Let an expert handle it for you so that you can focus on healing and moving forward.
What Are Judgment Caps?
As an Atlanta wrongful death lawyer might explain to you, many states place a cap on punitive damages. A judgment cap is a restriction put on financial awards to ensure constitutionality and prevent excessive punishment. While not every state agrees on these capped amounts or what their value should be, the supreme court has commented that awards that offer the plaintiff a higher ratio than single digits, like 10:1 or more, are likely to be unconstitutional and excessive.
Judgment caps vary from state to state, and often the amount of the cap is tied to the size of the underlying judgment. For example, in Alabama, the cap on punitive damages is set at three times the number of compensatory damages or $1.5 million, whichever is greater. In Florida, the cap is set at twice the number of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.
Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for particularly egregious behavior and to deter others from engaging in similar conduct. However, some states have found that setting a cap on punitive damages is necessary to ensure that the awards are not excessive.
If you have been harmed by another person’s negligence or intentional wrongdoing, it is important to speak with an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney who can help you understand your rights and options. Similarly, if you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or misconduct, an Atlanta wrongful death attorney can help you pursue the compensation you deserve.
What Compensation Is Available in Georgia for a Wrongful Death Case?
The “full value of the life” breaks down into two parts under Georgia wrongful death law. The first, and most important part, is called the “intangible” value of life. This includes the value of time that the deceased person (also known as the “decedent”) spent with family, with friends, or doing things that the decedent liked to do—such as playing sports, hiking, working on cars, sewing, or other hobbies. The intangible value of life includes the milestones that most of us get the opportunity to experience—such as forming lifelong friendships, falling in love, graduating from high school or college, getting married, having children, and retiring.
The second part of the “full value of the life” is the decedent’s “economic value.” This includes things like the decedent’s earnings power (what the decedent could have earned over his or her lifetime), as well as the value of services that the decedent provided to family members, such as childcare, transportation, home repairs, and yard work.
In Georgia, the courts will also consider the “conscious pain and suffering” of the decedent in determining the full value of the life. This includes the physical pain and suffering that the decedent experienced from the time of the accident or injury that led to his or her death, up until the time of death. It also includes any emotional pain and suffering that the decedent may have experienced during this period such as fear, anxiety, and mental anguish.
The courts will also consider the “loss of enjoyment of life” in determining the full value of the life. This includes the loss of the ability to do the things that the decedent enjoyed doing—such as playing sports, hiking, working on cars, sewing, or other hobbies. It also includes the loss of the ability to experience the milestones that most of us take for granted—such as forming lifelong friendships, falling in love, graduating from high school or college, getting married, having children, and retiring.
In addition to the “full value of the life,” the surviving family members may also be entitled to recover damages for their pain and suffering, as well as for their loss of enjoyment of life. These are called “loss of consortium” damages.
Finally, the surviving family members may also be entitled to recover damages for their economic losses—such as the loss of the decedent’s earnings power, as well as the value of services that the decedent provided to family members. These are called “economic damages.”
The number of damages that a family can recover in a wrongful death case will depend on many factors, including the age of the decedent, the relationship of the surviving family members to the decedent, the financial circumstances of the surviving family members, and the facts and circumstances surrounding the death.
If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or wrongful conduct, it is important to speak with an experienced Georgia wrongful death attorney to learn more about your legal rights and options.
How Long Do I Have to Bring a Wrongful Death Case?
Most of the time, the answer is two years. That is because the deadline established by the “statute of limitation” for personal injury usually applies to wrongful death cases. See O.C.G.A. $ 9-3-33.
However, the applicable deadline could be shorter or longer, depending on the facts. If the deceased died because of something that a government entity did wrong—for instance, if the deceased was killed in a car accident with an employee of the state of Georgia—then a special, additional, earlier deadline known as an “ante litem” deadline could apply.
The exact deadline depends on whether the government entity has waived its immunity from being sued, and if so when that waiver was filed. So, if you think you might have a wrongful death case against a government entity, you should consult with an experienced attorney right away to find out what deadlines might apply.
How Much Does It Cost to Bring a Wrongful Death Case?
The short answer to this question is “it depends.” While our firm does not charge any up-front costs for clients in wrongful death cases, there are still several potential expenses that may need to be covered. These can include investigation costs, filing fees, the costs of record requests, deposition costs, expert witness fees, travel, and (if necessary) trial preparation costs.
Wrongful death cases can be complex, and the costs associated with pursuing them can vary widely. Families should not hesitate to contact our firm for a free consultation to discuss the specific facts of their case and what they can expect in terms of costs. Our experienced legal team will work with you to ensure that you understand all your options and can make the best possible decisions for your family.
Who Pays the Judgment in a Georgia Wrongful Death Case?
In most Georgia cases, the people or entities who caused the death are responsible for paying the “damages”—i.e., the total money that the family is entitled to collect through the wrongful death and estate claims.
Georgia courts follow (in most contexts) an apportionment rule that was passed into law by the General Assembly in 2005. This apportionment rule is more complicated than it first appears, but basically, it means that where multiple people or entities are at fault for causing a wrongful death, each person or entity must pay for his or her percentage of “fault.”
So, for example, if two drivers are involved in a car accident and one driver is found to be 80% at fault and the other driver is found to be 20% at fault, the first driver would be responsible for paying 80% of the damages while the second driver would only be responsible for paying 20% of the damages.
It should be noted that this apportionment rule does not apply in every case—there are certain exceptions, such as when the person or entity at fault is found to be grossly negligent. But in most cases, the apportionment rule will apply.
If you have lost a loved one in a wrongful death accident, it is important to speak with an experienced Georgia wrongful death attorney who can help you understand your legal rights and options.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Case in Georgia?
In Georgia, the rules about who can bring a wrongful death claim are slightly different than the rules about who is entitled to share in the recovery of money received as a result of the claim.
O.C.G.A. $ 19-7-1(c)(1), (c)(3) state that if the person who died—known as the “decedent”—had a surviving spouse, that spouse is always authorized to bring the claim.
If there is no surviving spouse, then the claim can be brought by the decedent’s surviving children. If there are no surviving children, then the claim can be brought by the decedent’s surviving parents.
However, not everyone who is authorized to bring a wrongful death claim in Georgia will be entitled to share in the recovery. O.C.G.A. $ 51-4-2 sets forth the order of priority for distributing the recovered damages among the survivors.
First, the surviving spouse will receive the entire recovery if there are no surviving children. If there are surviving children, the spouse will receive one-third of the recovery.
Second, the surviving children will receive the entire recovery if there are no surviving parents. If there are surviving parents, the children will divide the recovery equally among themselves.
Finally, if there are no surviving spouses or children, the recovery will go to the decedent’s surviving parents equally.
If you have lost a loved one and believe that their death was caused by someone else’s negligence, it is important to speak with an experienced wrongful death attorney who can help you understand your legal rights and options.