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Rome, GA Wrongful Death Attorney
Matt Wetherington with Wetherington Law Firm,P.C. is the hardest working attorney I have ever worked with. He went above and beyond our expectations. Calls and emails are returned promptly and by Mr. Wetherington himself.
5 Stars is nowhere near enough to rate how awesome Matt and his colleagues were. They took my case even when I didn’t think there was anything we could do. I was in a bad situation at the time and Matt, Robert, and Sarah were there for me every step of the way.
I’m so grateful to Ben Levy and everything he did for me. He was truly dedicated to helping my case. Throughout the process, Ben was very thoughtful, responsive, organized, and made sure I was fully informed along the way.
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Wrongful death happens when someone dies because another person or company was careless or did something wrong. This can happen in car accidents, at work, or even because a doctor made a big mistake. When someone dies like this, their family can miss them a lot and also have a hard time paying bills without them.
Georgia law (O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2) says that the family can ask for money to help with things like funeral costs, lost money the person could have earned, and for the sadness of losing them.
The law also says who can ask for this money, like the person’s husband or wife or their kids. If they didn’t have a family, sometimes other people close to them can ask. There’s a time limit, though. You have to start asking for this within two years after the person dies. It’s really important to talk to someone who knows all about these rules to make sure you do everything right.
At Wetherington Law Firm in Rome, GA, we know how hard it is to lose someone you love because someone else was not careful. We’re here to help you through this tough time by talking to the insurance companies and making sure they listen to you. We’ll work hard to get you the money you need to cover funeral costs and help your family. If you’re dealing with a loss like this, give us a call. We want to help you make things as right as they can be.
Understanding Wrongful Death Claims in Rome, GA
If you’re dealing with a wrongful death case in Rome, Georgia, it means you’ve lost someone because someone else did something wrong or didn’t do something they should have. It’s a tough time, and the law tries to help by letting certain family members ask for money from the person or company that’s at fault.
This money isn’t to make up for your loss because nothing can do that, but it can help take care of things like medical bills, funeral costs, and the money the person who passed away would have made if they had lived.
In Georgia, there are specific rules about who can make a wrongful death claim and how it works (O.C.G.A. § 51-4-1). Here’s a quick guide:
Who Can File a Claim?
- First up, it’s usually the spouse who can file, and if there are kids, the spouse must represent their interests too.
- If there’s no spouse, the kids can file the claim.
- If the person who passed didn’t have a spouse or kids, their mom or dad can file.
- And if none of those folks are around, the executor of the estate (like the person in charge of the will) can file a claim to benefit the next of kin.
What Can You Claim?
- Economic Value: This is the money the deceased would have earned, including wages and benefits, if they hadn’t died. It’s about their expected lifetime earnings which can help support the family.
- Non-Economic Value: This covers the “intangible” stuff like the care, love, companionship, and guidance the person would have given to their family.
- Medical and Funeral Expenses: This includes the bills for any medical care related to what caused the death and the costs of funeral services.
- Punitive Damages: Sometimes, if the person or company who caused the death was super careless or did something really bad, you can ask for extra money to punish them and make sure it doesn’t happen to someone else.
Time Limits (Statute of Limitations)
- In Georgia, you usually have two years from the date of the death to start a wrongful death lawsuit. If you wait too long, you might not be able to make a claim.
Process of Making a Claim
- Investigation: Looking into what happened and figuring out who’s responsible.
- Filing the Claim: Officially starting the claim by filing paperwork in court.
- Evidence Gathering: Getting all the information you need to show what the lost person’s life was worth and how their death has impacted you.
- Negotiation: Trying to agree with the other side on how much money they’ll pay without going to trial.
- Trial: If you can’t agree, then you’ll have to go to court, and a judge or jury will decide.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
Wrongful death occurs when a person dies due to the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions of another individual or entity. It’s a terrible event that leaves families searching for answers and justice. Here are some common causes of wrongful death:
- Vehicle Accidents: Car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian accidents caused by distracted driving, drunk driving, reckless driving, or failing to obey traffic laws can lead to wrongful death claims.
- Medical Malpractice: When doctors, nurses, hospitals, or other healthcare providers fail to provide the standard level of care expected and it results in a patient’s death, it may be considered medical malpractice.
- Workplace Accidents: Deaths that occur in the workplace, especially in high-risk industries like construction, manufacturing, or mining, may be due to unsafe working conditions, lack of safety equipment, or improper training.
- Product Liability: Manufacturing defects, design faults, or the failure to warn about a product’s potential risks can lead to fatal accidents, prompting wrongful death suits against manufacturers and distributors.
- Premises Liability: If someone dies due to unsafe conditions on another’s property (such as slip and falls, inadequate security leading to assault, or structural failures), the property owner might be liable.
- Criminal Acts: If a person dies as a result of criminal acts like homicide, the offender can be held liable in a civil court in addition to facing criminal charges.
- Pharmaceutical Drugs: Wrongful death can occur from adverse reactions to drugs, whether due to side effects not being properly disclosed, incorrect prescriptions, or drug interactions.
- Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect: The elderly are vulnerable to abuse and neglect in nursing homes. Wrongful death may result from inadequate care, physical abuse, or medical errors.
- Anesthesia Errors: Mistakes during the administration of anesthesia can lead to fatal outcomes, especially if it results in a lack of oxygen to the brain.
- Commercial Truck Accidents: Due to the size and weight of commercial trucks, accidents involving them can be catastrophic, causing wrongful deaths from factors like driver fatigue, improper loading, and inadequate vehicle maintenance.
- Birth Injuries: If a newborn’s death is a result of medical negligence before, during, or after childbirth, the healthcare providers may be held liable for wrongful death.
Types of Compensation in Wrongful Death Cases
In wrongful death cases, the survivors or the estate of the person who has passed away may be entitled to various types of compensation. These damages are meant to provide financial support due to the loss of the deceased and may include:
- Economic Damages: These are tangible losses that have a specific monetary value associated with them. They typically include:
- Medical and Funeral Costs: Expenses related to medical care received as a result of the injury before death, as well as funeral and burial services.
- Loss of Future Earnings and Benefits: The amount of money the deceased would likely have earned if they had lived, factoring in their salary, wage growth, promotions, and retirement benefits.
- Loss of Inheritance: The estimated value of the assets the deceased would have saved and left to heirs if they had lived a full lifespan.
- Non-Economic Damages: These are more subjective and not easily quantifiable in monetary terms. They might include:
- Pain and Suffering: Compensation for the pain and suffering the deceased may have experienced prior to death.
- Loss of Companionship and Consortium: The emotional and relational loss suffered by the spouse, children, or other close family members due to the death.
- Loss of Care, Guidance, and Nurturing: The value of the parental guidance, care, and nurturing that the deceased would have provided to their children.
- Punitive Damages: In some cases, if the wrongful death was caused by egregious or intentional actions, punitive damages may be awarded. These are intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar actions in the future. Not all jurisdictions allow for punitive damages in wrongful death cases, so this is dependent on state laws.
- Loss of Services: The reasonable value of the services that the deceased provided, such as household chores, repairs, and other contributions to the maintenance of the home.
The Process of Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
Filing a wrongful death claim can be a complicated process, especially during a time of grief. Here’s a general step-by-step guide on how the process typically works, bearing in mind that specific procedures can vary depending on jurisdiction and the details of the case:
1. Determine Eligibility: Identify who is eligible to file the claim. Under most state laws, this is usually the immediate family members, such as the spouse, children, or parents of the deceased. If there are no immediate family members, the estate’s executor or administrator may be eligible to file the claim.
2. Consult With an Attorney: Reach out to our personal injury attorney for help to navigate the legal process, provide advice on the merits of the case, calculate potential compensation, and prepare necessary court filings.
3. Investigation: Your attorney will conduct a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding the death. This will include collecting evidence such as witness statements, police reports, medical records, and any other pertinent documentation.
4. Establish Proof: To proceed with a wrongful death claim, you must be able to prove that the death was caused by another party’s negligent, reckless, or intentional actions. You and your attorney will work to establish duty of care, breach of that duty, causation, and damages as the components of negligence.
5. Evaluate Damages: Assess and calculate all the damages that may be claimed, including medical and funeral expenses, lost wages and future earnings, loss of companionship, pain and suffering endured by the deceased before death, and perhaps punitive damages.
6. Filing the Claim: Our attorney will draft and file a wrongful death lawsuit in the appropriate court. The claim must be filed within the statute of limitations, which varies by state but typically ranges from one to three years from the date of death.
7. Notification of Defendants: The party or parties being sued must be formally notified of the lawsuit.
What constitutes a wrongful death under Georgia law?
Under Georgia law, a wrongful death is considered to occur when a death results from a criminal act, negligently performed lawful act, or from an act that is itself illegal. Essentially, wrongful death arises when someone’s negligence, recklessness, intention, or criminal actions result in another person’s death.
Here are key elements that would constitute wrongful death under Georgia law:
- Negligence: A wrongful death may be the result of negligent actions such as careless driving, medical malpractice, or failure to maintain safe premises.
- Recklessness: This includes deaths that occur due to someone’s disregard for the safety of others, like reckless driving or dangerous conduct that leads to fatal accidents.
- Intentional Acts: This involves cases where someone intentionally causes the death of another person, which could also be addressed under criminal law.
- Criminal Acts: If a death occurs as a result of criminal actions like homicide, manslaughter, or other criminal offenses, it can lead to a wrongful death claim under civil law along with criminal prosecution.
- Defective Products: If a death is caused by a defective or dangerously designed product, it could give rise to a wrongful death claim.
- Work-Related Deaths: If an employee’s death is caused by an employer’s failure to provide a safe working environment or adhere to safety regulations, it can be considered a wrongful death.
The right to sue for wrongful death in Georgia is generally limited to specific relations of the deceased:
- The spouse of the deceased (and if there are also children, the spouse shall represent the interests of the children as well).
- If there is no spouse, the children may bring the action.
- If there is no spouse or children, the parents of the deceased can file the claim.
- If no spouse, children, or living parents, the executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate may pursue the claim.
Georgia law also allows for the recovery of the “full value of the life of the deceased,” which includes both economic factors such as lost wages and benefits, as well as intangible elements such as loss of companionship and the enjoyment of life. Additionally, the estate can recover expenses for medical treatment of the deceased’s final illness or injury, funeral costs, and pain and suffering endured prior to death.
What is the difference between a wrongful death claim and an estate claim?
In the context of legal proceedings following someone’s death, a “wrongful death claim” and an “estate claim” are related but distinct concepts that serve different purposes and address different harms resulting from the death. Here is the difference between the two:
Wrongful Death Claim
A wrongful death claim is brought to court by the survivors of the deceased to seek compensation for their own losses due to the untimely death of their family member. This type of claim focuses on the value of the life of the deceased to the survivors, which includes:
- The loss of the deceased person’s expected earnings over a lifetime.
- The loss of companionship, care, advice, guidance, and counsel the deceased would have provided to their family members.
- Other aspects of the loss experienced by the survivors, such as loss of consortium for a spouse.
The claim is meant to place a monetary value on the life of the deceased as it pertains to the family members left behind. It’s essentially about what the deceased would have contributed in terms of emotional and financial support had they lived.
An estate claim, also known as a “survival action,” is brought by the executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate to recover the losses that the estate itself incurred as a result of the death. These losses can include:
- Medical expenses incurred as a result of the final injury or illness.
- Funeral and burial expenses.
- Conscious pain and suffering that the deceased may have experienced before death.
- The potential value of the deceased’s estate that was lost due to the untimely death.
The aim here is to address the harms and losses suffered by the deceased from the time of the negligent or wrongful act up until the time of death. Any compensation recovered through an estate claim goes directly into the estate and is distributed according to the will of the deceased or according to the state’s inheritance laws if there is no will.
- Who is compensated: Wrongful death claims compensate the survivors of the deceased for their own personal losses, while estate claims compensate the deceased person’s estate, effectively paying for the deceased’s individual losses up until the time of death.
- How damages are allocated: Any money received from a wrongful death claim is distributed to surviving family members according to state law and does not typically pass through the estate (and hence is not subject to the deceased’s debts or liabilities), whereas an estate claim’s compensation becomes part of the estate’s assets and is distributed accordingly, after debts and liabilities are settled.
- Nature of damages: Wrongful death claims focus on the projected future contributions and the emotional loss to the family; estate claims focus on actual financial expenditures and damages incurred up to the death.
What steps should I take if I suspect my loved one died due to negligence?
If you suspect that your loved one’s death was due to negligence, it’s important to take certain steps to protect your rights and potentially build a case for a wrongful death claim. Here’s a generalized list of steps you should consider:
- Seek Legal Advice Immediately:
- Consult with an attorney who specializes in wrongful death or personal injury cases to discuss your suspicions and understand your rights.
- Obtain the Death Certificate:
- Ensure you get a copy of the deceased’s official death certificate, which will indicate the cause of death as determined by the medical examiner or attending physician.
- Gather and Preserve Evidence:
- Collect medical records, accident reports, witness statements, photographs, and any other evidence related to the circumstances of your loved one’s death.
- Keep records of any communications you’ve had with doctors, employers, insurance companies, or anyone else involved in the matter.
- Document Expenses and Financial Losses:
- Keep a detailed account of all expenses related to your loved one’s death, including medical bills, funeral costs, and any other relevant financial impacts.
- Refrain from Signing Documents or Settling:
- Avoid signing any documents from insurance companies or other parties involved without your attorney’s advice.
- Do not accept any settlement offers before consulting with your attorney, as this could significantly affect your right to further compensation.
- Identify Witnesses:
- Compile a list of potential witnesses who may be able to provide testimony regarding the incident or the effects the loss has had on the family.
- Obtain an Autopsy Report:
- If an autopsy was performed, obtain a copy of the report. It may provide crucial details about the cause of death.
- Understand the Statute of Limitations:
- Be aware of the time frame in which you are allowed to bring forth a wrongful death suit. This varies by state and case type, and missing the deadline can prevent you from being able to file your claim.
- Engage Expert Witnesses if Needed:
- Depending on the complexity of your case, it might be necessary to hire expert witnesses to substantiate the claim of negligence, such as medical experts, accident reconstruction experts, or financial experts to project the lost income.
- Keep Personal Records:
- Make a journal or timeline of events leading up to and following your loved one’s death. This can help organize your thoughts and account for details that may be relevant to your case.
- Maintain Emotional Support:
- Supporting your emotional health during this challenging time is crucial. Consider consulting with a therapist or counselor who can provide professional support.
Contact Our Rome, GA Wrongful Death Attorney
If you suspect that the loss of your loved one was due to someone else’s negligence, don’t face this challenge alone. Take action now to seek justice and the compensation you deserve. Reach out to our experienced wrongful death attorney to discuss your case, understand your rights, and take the first critical steps towards healing and closure.
Remember, time is of the essence—the sooner you act, the better the chance of preserving essential evidence and honoring the memory of your loved one with the justice they deserve. Call us today to schedule a confidential consultation and start your journey towards resolution and peace of mind.