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What Are Some Common Questions Regarding Wrongful Death?

Published in wrongful death on September 30, 2016.

After the preventable death of a loved one in a car accident, violent crime, or other incident, you may have several questions about your legal rights. A wrongful death claim is designed to provide surviving family members with fair compensation after a loved one dies prematurely at the hands of another individual. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions and answers regarding wrongful death claims in Georgia.


Q: Does someone have to die at the scene of an incident for a family to pursue a wrongful death claim?

A: No. In many cases, a victim may go to the hospital and receive care for days or weeks before succumbing to his or her injuries. To pursue a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff needs to prove the individual died as a result of the negligent or purposeful incident. If, for example, the individual died because of an underlying condition, the family may not have a legitimate wrongful death claim.


Q: Who is allowed to file a wrongful death claim in the state of Georgia?

A: A surviving spouse, children (including adopted children), the parents of the decedent, or the estate administrator may file a wrongful death claim. Other family members, including siblings, grandparents, and aunts/uncles, may not file a wrongful death claim.


Q: Can someone file a wrongful death claim after the death of an infant or an unborn fetus?

A: In our state, parents may file a wrongful death claim for the loss of an infant or unborn child. If, at the time of death, the fetus was responsive (i.e., not stillborn), the death may be considered wrongful.


Q: Can someone file a wrongful death claim after the death of an elderly person in hospice care?

A: Elder abuse is a very serious issue that can result in severe injuries or death. If an elderly individual dies as the result of caregiver neglect or abuse, family members may pursue a wrongful death claim.


Q: What happens if someone died at the hands of someone committing a crime?

A: Not all wrongful death claims contain a criminal element, but some do. If your loved one was murdered or accidentally killed during the commission of a crime, the state may pursue criminal prosecution. Criminal actions are separate from civil proceedings. One will not usually affect the other. However, the law generally makes the criminal case proceed before the civil action can be commenced.


Q: What acts constitute wrongful death?

A: Acts that may lead to wrongful death include reckless or drunk driving, negligent food contamination, homicide, caregiver-related neglect and abuse, medical malpractice, negligent actions, selling dangerous products, and providing dangerous medications or medical devices. Potential defendants in wrongful death claims may include criminals, caregivers, property owners, health care professionals, product manufacturers, and employers.


Q: Can a family recover damages if the decedent never worked?

A: Yes, work is only one factor considered in a wrongful death claim. For example, a stay-at-home parent may not work in the traditional sense, but he or she still provides a distinct and quantifiable value to the family. The courts will look at all losses including, but not limited to, those that are financial in nature.


Q: What damages are available in wrongful death claims?

A: The court may provide damages to cover the cost of the full economic and noneconomic value of the decedent’s life; funeral, medical, and other expenses associated with the death; and the pain and suffering as well as medical expenses the decedent endured between the time of injury and the time of death.


Q: Is there a time limit on filing a wrongful death claim?

A: In the state of Georgia, individuals typically have two years from the time of death to pursue a wrongful death claim. Some factors may “stop the clock,” allowing family members to pursue a claim after the two year period.


If your family member died at the hands of someone else, consider speaking to a Georgia personal injury lawyer about your right to pursue a wrongful death claim. The claim cannot bring your loved one back, but it may help you find closure during a difficult time.

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