Wrongful Death Attorney Atlanta
Wrongful Death Lawyers in Atlanta Who Can Help
When someone dies or is killed due to the negligence or misconduct of another, the victim’s family can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit seeking financial justice and reparations for their loss.
If your loved one has passed after an injury or accident in Atlanta, Georgia, brought on by the negligence or misconduct of another person, company or entity, you may need the services of a wrongful death attorney in Atlanta to make your claim against those responsible.
Choosing the Right Wrongful Death Attorney
Author: J. Blake Ledbetter, Partner, Conoscienti & Ledbetter
Mr. Ledbetter is an experienced wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta. Mr. Ledbetter was recognized as a SuperLawyers Rising Star in 2018 and 2019 in the area of Civil Litigation in Atlanta. Published on July 25, 2018, last updated on November 14, 2019.
Wrongful death lawsuits involve a very specific area of personal injury law. That’s why you need experienced Atlanta lawyers who have deep knowledge and experience preparing your wrongful death case. Your wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta will act as an advocate on your behalf as you navigate the often confusing civil court system.
Each state like Georgia has a civil “wrongful death statute,” or collection of statutes, which establish the procedures for bringing wrongful death lawsuits.
Wrongful death in Georgia is a cause of action created by statute, which means that it is governed by a law passed by the legislature. A claim for wrongful death in Atlanta may be brought if there’s a death arising from the negligent, reckless, deliberate, or criminal activities by a different individual, medical care provider, business, or company.
The office of Conoscienti and Ledbetter is exactly the kind of legal team you want on your side when you’re filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Atlanta. They are considered experts in the field, and wrongful death is one of their primary practice areas.
The wrongful death attorneys in our firm are Joseph A. Conoscienti and J. Blake Ledbetter, who are supported by a skilled, compassionate team of legal and medical professionals here in Atlanta.
What Is Wrongful Death? An Atlanta Lawyer Explains
A death can qualify as wrongful death when the person dies due to accident, negligence, or malpractice. Here are some common instances that, if they result in death, could lead to legal consequences such as a wrongful death lawsuit:
Common Causes of Wrongful Death Cases
- Traffic accidents including accidents involving rideshare services, drunk driving cases, and more
- Medical malpractice (operations gone wrong)
- Defective products
- Supervised activities in a daycare, adult care, or field trip environment
- Nursing home or assisted living negligence or abuse
- Criminal activities
- Fire and premises liability
- Occupational accidents
It is important to know that wrongful death cases are handled in civil court, not a criminal court, so a wrongful death case will not send the defendant to prison. The civil statutes regarding wrongful death are determined at the state level, which is why you should choose an experienced wrongful death attorney in Atlanta to prepare your case.
In light of time deadlines for filing lawsuits in Atlanta, you need to contact a lawyer as soon as you can, for a free initial case review!
An Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorney Explains
The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to compensate families who are left without their loved one due to someone’s carelessness or a willful act. Though of course a lawsuit cannot bring back your loved one or make up for their death, the intention of a wrongful death suit is to ensure the family receives monetary compensation for their loss.
A wrongful death case is brought on behalf of the victim’s estate and litigated by an attorney; any compensation awarded goes to the victim’s family. Your wrongful death attorney in Atlanta will evaluate the circumstances surrounding the death to determine if you have a valid legal case.
If a person is killed during a crime, such as during a robbery or assault, or if a person, company, or entity caused an accident or permitted conditions that resulted in someone’s death such as a bad medical device, it can potentially result in wrongful death compensation.
Another case where death can be considered legally wrongful is if a medical professional failed to follow widely accepted medical practices or take necessary precautions, acted negligently, or abused a medical patient in such a way that it resulted in their death.
Parties in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The person bringing civil litigation is known as the “Plaintiff.”
When a person has passed who do not possess a will in Georgia, a court like the Dekalb Probate Court or Fulton County Probate Court will appoint an executor or personal representative of property. In that case, the Plaintiff in the suit is ordinarily the estate’s executor or personal representative.
In this case, the executor or personal representative brings litigation on behalf of the deceased’s heirs to the court in the Atlanta metropolitan area where the deceased lived.
The individual or entity against whom the suit is brought is the “Defendant.” The suit will make the claim that the Defendant acted in an intentional or negligent manner and has been responsible for the untimely death of the deceased individual.
Although the plaintiff in such cases is technically the estate of the deceased, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by surviving parents, spouses, or on behalf of minor children.
Factors Involved in Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawsuits
In order for a person or another entity (like a medical professional) to be held legally accountable for the death, four factors must be present:
- Negligence: The Plaintiff must show the court that the Defendant in question was negligent and that it was the Defendant’s clear negligence that caused the deceased’s death. Plaintiff is entitled to any damages. Your wrongful death attorney must show that the defendant was negligent and that their negligence resulted in a death.
- Duty of care: Your lawyer must prove that the defendant had a duty of care, such as a doctor to a patient, a caregiver to someone in their charge, or the driver of a vehicle. The Plaintiff must show to the court that the Defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased individual. As an example, in the case of a car crash, the Plaintiff must show that the Defendant had a duty to comply with the Rules of the Road and drive carefully while operating an automobile.
- Breach of duty: You must prove to the court that the defendant failed to live up to that duty, whether intentionally or through negligence. The Plaintiff has to prove that the Defendant violated the duty of care owed to the Plaintiff.
- Causation: Finally, your wrongful death attorney in Atlanta must demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the specific actions, or inaction, on the part of the defendant are what caused the death to occur. It isn’t enough that the Plaintiff only demonstrates the Defendant broke the law in a certain fashion or violated a duty in another manner. The Plaintiff must also demonstrate that Defendant’s specific actions proximately caused the wrongful death.
The Burden of Proof in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The plaintiff’s estate, through their wrongful death attorney in Atlanta, is required to meet the legal standard of burden of proof before the court.
In Georgia, like in most states, you have to prove your case with a preponderance of the evidence. That means the facts and evidence presented to the court in Atlanta must support the four criteria listed above, meeting the legal definition of responsibility for a wrongful death action. Though regulations in each State may explain the Burden of Proof otherwise, every state normally requires the Plaintiff to show the elements of negligence by a “preponderance of the evidence.” A skilled, experienced wrongful death litigator in Atlanta will work with you and the facts of your case to make this happen.
All of these elements have to line up for the case to be proven by a preponderance of the evidence. State laws vary and it’s important to speak with a qualified wrongful death attorney in Atlanta, Georgia.
While lots of wrongful death lawsuits in Atlanta are solved by pre-trial settlement arrangements, some can only be solved by going into trial. Based on the state in which the case has been heard, a judge or a jury can decide whether the Plaintiff has fulfilled the Burden of Proof on the evidentiary requirements.
The Georgia Wrongful Death Statute
The State of Georgia has specific guidelines (which are the same as in Atlanta) regarding cases of wrongful death occurring in their jurisdiction. These guidelines are enumerated in Georgia Code Title 51 – Torts Chapter 4. Your wrongful death attorney in Atlanta will explain the law as it relates to your particular circumstances, but here is an overview of what Georgia law has to say about wrongful death.
What Is a Wrongful Death in Georgia?
Under Georgia state law, wrongful death is defined as any death caused by negligent, reckless, intentional, or criminal acts. Negligence is defined as a failure to use reasonable medical care when that person or entity would normally be required to do so.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Case?
Wrongful death litigants are decided in order of legal relation to the deceased. The spouse is first in line and must represent the interests of any minor children. If there is no surviving spouse or children, the case may be brought by the parent or parents of the lost person. With no living immediate family member, the case can be brought by a personal representative of the deceased’s estate.
What Damages Can Be Awarded in a Georgia Wrongful Death Action?
There are two different awards available in Atlanta, Georgia wrongful death cases. The first is based on the perceived monetary value of the deceased’s life. That is determined by the number of lost wages and benefits, including the potential future earnings had the person lived, and the value of the loss of care, companionship, and other intangible elements. The second type of compensation is to reimburse expenses directly related to death.
Is There a Time Limit for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The Statute of Limitations for filing wrongful death lawsuits in the State of Georgia is two years after the date on which the victim passed away. This two-year deadline can be paused and restarted under certain circumstances like a medical condition that was diagnosed later. Your wrongful death attorney in Atlanta will be able to determine if those circumstances apply in your case.
Relevant Sections of the Georgia Code Title 51 – Torts Chapter 4 – Wrongful Death
There are five sections of the chapter of the Georgia Code that deals with wrongful death. The first chapter is simply definitions used within the chapter. The other sections speak to specific circumstances, such as who can file for wrongful death in the case of a lost child, mother, or spouse, and who receives what portion of the monetary proceedings. For example, here is what Georgia Code Title 51 – Torts Chapter 4 – 2 says about the wrongful death of a spouse or parent:
51-4-2. Persons entitled to bring action for wrongful death of spouse or parent; survival of action; release of wrongdoer; disposition of recovery; exemption of recovery from liability for decedent’s debts; recovery not barred by child’s being born out of wedlock…
Read the Full Statute: 2017 Georgia Code, Title 51 – Torts, Chapter 4
The call is always free and it never hurts to hear your options. Speak now with a dedicate Atlanta lawyer who has your best interests at heart.
An Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorney on Damages
Damages in a Georgia Wrongful Death Lawsuit
In a wrongful death law case in Georgia, pecuniary (financial) damages are awarded based on loss of service, the anticipation of inheritance, and medical and funeral expenses. When determining financial loss, it’s pertinent to take into account the age, character, and condition of the deceased, their earning ability, life expectancy, health, and intelligence, in addition to the conditions of the recipients.
Determining Financial Loss in Georgia
This determination might appear straightforward, but it often becomes a complicated inquiry, keeping in mind that the amount of damages is an actual financial loss. Normally, the primary consideration in awarding damages is that the deceased’s situation at the time of passing. By way of instance, when an adult wage earner with children dies, the significant areas of the retrieval are 1) loss of earnings and 2) loss of parental guidance.
The jury may consider the decedent’s earnings at the time of departure, the last known earnings if unemployed, and potential future earnings.
Adjustments in the Atlanta Jury’s Award
Your wrongful death law team in Atlanta can file for an adjustment of the compensatory award if circumstances change in the future.
In a wrongful death action, the jury determines the magnitude of the damages award after hearing the evidence. The jury’s decision isn’t the last word, however, as the size of this award can be adjusted upward or downward by the court for many different factors.
If the plaintiffs fail to present such proof of the deceased’s average earnings, the court can set aside the jury’s damage award and order a new trial.
Using Experts to Determine Financial Loss
The plaintiffs can present expert testimony from financial professionals to establish the value of the deceased to his loved ones. Until recently, this testimony wasn’t admissible when a housewife died, but that rule has changed.
In Georgia’s wrongful death cases, there are two different types of claims. The first is the actual wrongful death claim, which is the value of the lost life as described above. The second kind of law claim is an estate claim. Your wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta can help you figure out the specifics of what to ask for in your claim.
Punitive Damages for an Atlanta Wrongful Death Claim
Punitive damages are awarded in cases of serious or malicious wrongdoing in Atlanta to punish the wrongdoer or deter others from behaving similarly. In many states, a plaintiff may not recover punitive damages in a wrongful death law case. There are a number of states, however, that have specific statutes or a law that permit the recovery of punitive damages.
Survival Actions in Georgia
A survival action, on the other hand, centers around the anguish of the deceased individual (who attorneys and law judges frequently refer to as the “decedent”) instead of the despair and financial losses of their household. In a survival action, the decedent’s estate can recover compensation concerning the pain and anguish of the victim along with the decedent’s medical bills and lost earnings–comparable to what the individual might have recovered (but lost) in personal injury law if they had endured.
More on Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Atlanta
You may have heard of some high profile wrongful death lawsuits in Atlanta on the news or online. Below are some local examples of wrongful death to better illustrate how wrongful death lawsuits work.
Diane McIver Estate vs. Tex McIver and Dani Jo Carter
This case was brought by the estate of Diane McIver, a murder victim, against her husband and her best friend. The victim’s husband Tex McIver was sent to prison for life during the criminal law trial, but the wrongful death suit against McIver and Carter argues that the victim’s death was an accident.
Cobb County and Wellstar Hospital
This suit involved a health system, a county jail, and a prisoner, Mr. Justin Graham. Mr. Graham was arrested for DUI and detained in the Cobb County jail in 2006. After a few weeks in jail, he was transferred to Wellstar Hospital where he died from cirrhosis of the liver. Graham’s family filed a wrongful death suit against the jail and hospital.
Bobbi Kristina Judgment
This law case gained global attention due to the fact that the decedent, Bobbi Kristina Brown, was the only child and heir of international superstars Bobby Brown and the late Whitney Houston. Ms. Brown’s estate filed a claim after her boyfriend, Nick Gordon, was found legally responsible for her death.
Wrongful Death Suit against Andrea Sneiderman
Andrea Sneiderman served just one year short of a five-year sentence after being convicted of obstruction and lying to investigators after the murder of her husband. Her late husband’s parents and brother then filed a wrongful death claim against Mrs. Sneiderman, claiming she knew that her former supervisor, with whom she was having an affair, intended to murder her husband.
Estate claim of Willie Allen Sargent Jr. vs. Gwinnett County
The widow of Willie Allen Sargent Jr. filed a wrongful death claim against Gwinnett county after her husband was killed by a speeding Gwinnett County police officer. In this case, the officer was responding to a call, however, he did not have his flashing lights or siren on, and he was driving about 80 mph when he slammed into Mr. Sargent’s vehicle.
George Houser & Forum Group: Nursing Home Neglect
This wrongful death case resulted in a nursing home operator, George D. Houser, and his company, Forum Group, being ordered to pay out $43.5 million to the estate of a man who allegedly died from neglect in the facility. This payout is believed to be the highest in state history from a nursing home.
South Fulton Day Camp Drowning Claim
In July 2017, a 5-year-old boy tragically drowned while attending a day camp located in south Fulton County. His parents have filed a punitive wrongful death claim against the nature center, center employees, the owner of the property, and the city of Chattahoochee Hills.
Atlanta Wrongful Death FAQ
What if an individual dies before bringing a personal injury lawsuit?
It depends upon if the individual dies as a consequence of the injuries or from unrelated causes. Each state like Georgia has a law permitting a claim when someone causes the wrongful death of another. If an individual in Atlanta dies from unrelated causes, the claim survives in most instances and may be brought by the executor or personal representative of the deceased individual’s estate.
Whenever someone dies, what’s the distinction between the criminal and civil cases which may be brought regarding death?
A criminal case arises when the government seeks to punish a person for an act that’s been classified as a crime. A civil case, on the other hand, generally has to do with a dispute over the rights and duties in Atlanta that individuals and organizations legally owe to one another. The burden of proof is much higher in a criminal case, and penalties are imposed in a criminal action and may result in imprisonment, compensation, and other forms of punishment.
Are punitive damages recoverable in wrongful death actions?
In most states like Georgia, a plaintiff may not recover punitive compensation in a wrongful death case. There are a number of states, however, that do have specific statues that permit the recovery of punitive compensation.
Are all state laws the same regarding wrongful deaths?
No, there are various differences among distinct state wrongful death laws. Determining the state in which you can (and should) bring a wrongful death action is an essential element of your claim because some states do not allow certain types of damage awards or may have different statutes of limitation that establish the timeframe in which you may file a lawsuit in Atlanta.
Can I bring a wrongful death action if the deceased never held a job?
Yes, even if the decedent never held a job, he/she may have contributed in another way. A fantastic illustration of such a situation is the action for the wrongful death of a stay-at-home husband or wife in Atlanta who contributes services, guidance and nurturing of the family. These contributions are quantifiable as “pecuniary losses” in wrongful death cases in Atlanta.
Can someone sue for the pain and suffering of a decedent?
Yes, along with damages for the wrongful death, a decedent’s family or executor in Atlanta may recover compensation for the pain and suffering that the decedent endured before death.
Can I bring a wrongful death action based on the death of a child or an elderly person?
Yes, you may recover compensation in a wrongful death cause of action in Atlanta for the death of a child or an elder individual.