Negligence is a scary thing. Not making the right choices to keep others safe can lead to injuries or even death. Negligence can be obvious, like when a shop owner fails to clean up a spill and someone slips, but it may also be more discreet, like if there’s a faulty part in a car that a recall doesn’t go out for.
Regardless of the specifics of the negligent act, if the negligence leads to a death, the survivors may have the ability to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
If you think you’re in this situation, here’s what you need to know.
What is wrongful death?
When a person’s death is the legal fault of another person or entity, like a corporation, it’s considered a wrongful death. A wrongful death lawsuit allows survivors, as well as the deceased’s estate, to seek damages for a variety of causes.
The definition of wrongful death includes situations from fatal car accidents to product liability issues to medical malpractice. Even an intentional act, occuring during a crime, that leads to a death fits into this particular category.
Georgia law specifically cites a wrongful death as one that occurs as the result of a crime, of negligence, or from defective property.
A wide array of people, companies, and government agencies may see themselves at the other end of a wrongful death lawsuit based on the nature of the case. Defendants may include:
- Both the driver and employer in an at-fault car accident, if the driver was using a company vehicle.
- The owner, bartender, and waitstaff who served alcohol to an impaired driver. Even if the owner of the bar didn’t serve the individual, because the negligent act happened in their bar, they may be liable as well.
- The designer and builder of a faulty road where an accident occurs.
- The specific government agent or agency who didn’t set up proper warnings around a road hazard that then led to an accident.
- The manufacturer, distributor, or installer of a faulty part or product.
Each of these individuals/entities may get linked back to a single act of negligence, one that leads to the wrongful death of a loved one, and a situation you don’t have to live with without being able to ask for damages.
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit
There are actually two different types of cases when filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Both the estate and the survivor can make a claim, and both have two years in which to do so.
The deceased’s estate claim must be brought by the legal representative of the estate.
The survivor’s claim is brought by a spouse, the deceased’s children, or even the deceased’s parents. These individuals suffer directly as a result of their lost family member.
While many times the estate representative and survivor are the same person, the claims are legally distinct and the damages are different.
The damages you can recover
The first category of damages is those suffered by others due to the loss of the deceased. Survivors may ask for compensation to cover:
- Lost wages, including what the deceased may have earned over the course of their lifetime.
- Lost benefits, if the deceased provided health insurance for the entire family.
- Lost companionship, and with that the loss of the deceased’s advice, support, and care of others.
The second category focuses on damages the estate can ask for on behalf of the deceased. This includes compensation for:
- Pre-death pain and suffering and the other general damages
- Pre-death medical expenses
- Funeral and burial expenses
Distributing the settlement from a wrongful death case
The average wrongful death settlement can range from thousands to millions of dollars, mostly depending on who caused the death and their ability to pay compensation. However, the specifics depend on the circumstances of your case alone. While it’s challenging to put a price tag on the loss of a loved one, especially by an act of negligence, certain elements come together beyond the expenses you incur and the financial loss you’ll experience.
This means things like the age and health of the deceased and the needs of survivors can play a role in the overall settlement total.
Once damages are awarded, if the case was brought by survivors, the money goes directly to them, after attorney fees are deducted. Any damages recovered by the estate are held for the benefit of the estate and beneficiaries.
Finding the right legal help after a wrongful death
The grief of losing a loved one for any reason is staggering, but when it’s the result of negligence, the shock is always worse. You weren’t expecting to live without this member of your family, and it’s your right to recover some of what was taken with their life.
The attorneys at Nicholson, SIlverbach, & Watson understand your pain because we’ve been there before, and we want to walk alongside you. Our goal is to take the strain of filing a wrongful death lawsuit off your plate so you can begin to heal as we work to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to set up a free consultation.