Smyrna Wrongful Death Lawyer
Wrongful Death Attorney Assisting Smyrna, GA Surviving Family Members
Losing a loved one in an accident may be the ultimate tragedy. No price can ever be placed on the death of a parent, child, or sibling who died in a car accident. But if your loved one perished because of the negligent conduct of another person whose actions or failure to act led to the fatality, you and your family are entitled to be compensated for your loss. Seek justice and the compensation you are entitled to by reaching out to a compassionate Smyrna wrongful death lawyer at Tobin Injury Law today. Our caring and competent legal professionals are standing by to help you through this.
Georgia law allows for two kinds of wrongful death claims to be brought for the death of a family member. One is a claim brought by the surviving family members, and the other is by the decedent’s estate. Both claims can be brought, and the damages that can be asserted and collected are different. These actions are created by state law.
Wrongful death claims often involve complex and disputed claims of liability and the extent of damages. Having a knowledgeable Smyrna personal injury lawyer help can make a substantial difference in the outcome of a negligence suit.
Wrongful Death Claims by Survivors
Claims by Immediate Family Members
A wrongful death claim can be brought by these family members pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2(a):
- Surviving spouse. If there are no surviving minor or adult children, the spouse may receive the entirety of any funds collected in the claim. Should any children of the decedent have survived, the spouse collects one-third of the proceeds with the remainder divided among the surviving children. If there was only one child, the survivors each receive one-half. In no case does the spouse receive less than one-third. O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2(c):
- If only the children survived, the proceeds are divided among them.
- Should there be no spouse or children of the decedent, the parents may bring the claim.
- If there is no spouse, children, or surviving parents, the administrator of the decedent’s estate may bring the claim.
Damages in a Survivor’s Claim
The surviving spouse and/or children of the decedent are entitled to economic and non-economic losses due to the death of their loved family member. Georgia law defines these as tangible and non-tangible losses and they are intended to constitute the full value of the decedent’s life. O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2(a); Consolidated Freightways v. Futrell, 201 Ga.App. 233 (1991).
A tangible loss is an income that the deceased family member could have expected to have earned over their working lifetime. This includes the value of any employment benefits including the value of health coverage and matching funds for a pension or other retirement plan. If the decedent was a stay-at-home spouse or parent, a forensic economist can calculate the market value of the services provided, such as cleaning, cooking, child care, or caring for an elderly parent or other relatives. The decedent’s disability benefits can also be included as a monetary loss in determining the full value of that person’s life. The value of the income loss and loss of household services are discounted to present cash value. O.C.G.A. § 51-12-13.
There is no deduction for the value of any necessary or personal expenses of the decedent over a lifetime such as housing, clothing, gasoline, food, or insurance.
If the decedent was a student, their future earning capacity can be calculated as a provable damage. In the case of a toddler or baby, where the decedent’s future earning capacity may be too speculative, the court will still allow tangible damages without statistical evidence and will leave the full value of the death of the child to the “…enlightened conscience of an impartial jury…” Collins v. McPherson, 91 Ga.App. 347 (1954). In these cases, a Georgia jury will consider the child’s age, the circumstances of the parents, the benefits provided to the child, and the child’s precocious nature. An expert can still testify as to market trends and statistics that suggest the potential earning capacity of others similarly situated.
Intangible losses are the non-economic component of what constitutes the full value of the decedent’s life, or what is commonly referred to as the loss of the decedent’s love, companionship, and guidance. An experienced Smyrna wrongful death lawyer will introduce photographs or videos of the decedent on vacation with family at weddings or other family gatherings. Family members can testify as to their warm recollections of the decedent’s generosity, community service, devotion and love, sense of humor, hobbies, and passions. The amount to be awarded is also left to the “enlightened conscience of an impartial jury.” Chrysler Group, LLC v. Walden, 339 Ga.App. 733 (2016).
The estate claim is filed by the administrator for the decedent’s estate to recover for any expenses that the estate has incurred as a result of the death. These typically include:
- Medical expenses, if any, incurred by the decedent before succumbing to injuries
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Pain and suffering if the decedent consciously suffered before death
- Punitive damages
Compensation for pain and suffering by the decedent before death is only awarded if the decedent consciously suffered even for the briefest moment before dying. This may not be possible to demonstrate unless a witness can testify that the decedent was conscious for any amount of time before death. It can be gutting for family members to know that a loved one suffered and/or had a sense that death was imminent, but it should be brought to the attention of a jury with compassion and respect for the sensibilities of the family.
Punitive damages are only available in estate claims. They are awarded if your attorney can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s conduct warranted punitive damages. O.C.G.A § 51-12-5.1(b). This might include car accidents where the defendant was heavily intoxicated and driving at an excessive speed without regard for the safety or well-being of others.
Statute of Limitations
There is a time limit on bringing a wrongful death claim in Smyrna and the state of Georgia, which is generally two years from the date of the decedent’s death. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33. However, if there is a criminal case associated with the death claim (robbery, rape, motor vehicle accident), then the 2-year deadline is delayed, or “tolled,” until there is a disposition at which point the 2-years begins to run. In a motor vehicle accident, the statute runs from the date of the violation to the time when the criminal case is disposed of, or 6-years, whichever is shorter.
Contact a Smyrna Wrongful Death Attorney Today
If you have questions, talk with an experienced and knowledgeable Smyrna wrongful death lawyer about your options. Our skilled and compassionate legal team is standing by to help you seek justice for your loved one and secure the compensation you deserve. We are available to you 24/7 and our consultations are always free. Contact us at (404) 665-9665. You can also email us, or fill out our convenient online form.