When asked about the top causes of death, most people would cite things like old age, heart disease, cancer, or even activities like smoking.
But one of the top killers in Georgia and throughout the United States is something that most people are intimately familiar with: driving.
In fact, the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety reports that in a single year, there were more than 1,550 deaths as a result of motor vehicle accidents on Georgia roads – that’s more than four fatalities per day.
When a car accident leads to the death of an individual, the repercussions for surviving family members are no doubt tragic.
While there is nothing that can be done to truly remedy what has happened, the lawyers at Blasingame, Burch, Garrard & Ashley, P.C. believe filing a wrongful death car accident claim can be a stepping stone on a family’s path to justice and recovery.
If you have lost a loved one in a car accident in Georgia, please do not hesitate to reach out to our wrongful death lawyers for a free consultation about pursuing damages.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action that functions much like a personal injury claim. One way to describe a wrongful death suit is that it is an action the deceased would have been able to pursue as a traditional personal injury claim had their injuries not resulted in death.
This type of action can be brought when the death of an individual is the result of the wrongful act, neglect, an intentional act, or criminal acts of another party.
What Do I Have to Prove in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The format of a wrongful death lawsuit is similar to that of a standard personal injury claim, and as such, a plaintiff must prove the defendant owed the decedent a duty of care, breached the duty of care (as a result of negligence, wrongful act, intentional act, or criminal act), and that the death of the decedent would not have occurred except for the breach of the duty of care. Plaintiff’s in the wrongful death suit will also need to prove that damages have been suffered – more on this to follow.
Proving the Wrongful Act of the Defendant
The crux of a wrongful death claim is proving the wrongful act of the defendant. When a wrongful death is the result of a car crash, it’s important that a thorough investigation is opened to identify what the precise cause of the accident was. Examples of negligence or “wrongful acts” of a defendant that may result in a fatal car accident include:
- Driving too fast for conditions
- Illegally changing lanes
- Cutting off another driver
- Driving while intoxicated or impaired
- Driving while overly-fatigued
- Driving while using a cellphone
- Driving while distracted
- Driving aggressively
Keep in mind that you do not need to prove the defendant violated a traffic code or other law (although evidence of this can be helpful in establishing fault); rather, you only need to prove that the defendant acted in a manner that was not consistent with that which a person of ordinary prudence would have done in the same situation.
Damages Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Action
The state of Georgia is unique in that it recognizes two distinct and separate types of wrongful death claims; a plaintiff will need to file both to recover their full wrongful death compensation award.
The two types of wrongful death actions are:
- Claim to establish the full value of the deceased’s life
- Claim to recover for financial losses suffered because of death
Each type of claim seeks to recover two different damage types: non-economic and economic. Non-economic damages are those damages which are intangible, such as loss of care and companionship, and the pain and suffering of the decedent prior to death. Economic damages are actual financial losses, such as the value of the deceased’s lost earnings, loss of inheritance, funeral and burial expenses, and medical expenses incurred prior to death.
Can Anyone File a Wrongful Death Action?
The persons who are entitled to bring forth a wrongful death action following the death of a spouse or a parent including deceased’s surviving spouse, a child or children if there is no surviving spouse, then surviving parents. If none of the above parties exist, then the claim may be filed by the personal representative of the deceased.
Who Pays for Wrongful Death Damages?
When a wrongful death claim is filed against a negligent driver whose actions led to a fatal accident, it is not (typically) the driver themselves who will pay out a claim; instead, it is their liability insurance policy. This means that reaching a settlement for a wrongful death claim will require back-and-forth with an insurance company, who will likely try to argue that:
- There is no causation (i.e. it cannot be proved that the death would not have occurred but for their policyholder’s actions)
- The decedent caused or contributed to the accident
- No negligence or wrongful act occurred
- The value of damages being requested is not valid
Our wrongful death car accident lawyers are all-too-familiar with these claims and know how to fight back and win even the most difficult of negotiations.
Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims
You must act quickly to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Car accident claims that result in death must be filed within two years of the date of death (not the date of the car accident). If you wait longer than two years to file your claim, it is very unlikely that a court will hear your case unless extenuating circumstances apply.
Reach Out to Our Law Firm Today
A car accident resulting in death is tragic for any family. If your loved one has died, our lawyers empathize with your situation and want to offer you the aggressive legal support you need and deserve.
Please reach out to our Georgia wrongful death attorneys at Blasingame, Burch, Garrard & Ashley to schedule your free consultation and learn more about how we can help you.