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Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorney

Most accidental deaths are not “accidents” at all – they are the outcome of someone’s negligence or wrongful act. Someone contributed to or directly caused the fatal event. Be it a drunk driver, defective product manufacturer, careless employer, or criminal, there may be an individual liable for the death of your loved one. If you recently experienced a tragic loss in the family, we first want to extend our deepest condolences. Then, we want to help you fight for justice. Our legal team at Butler Wooten & Peak LLP has the resources you need during this difficult time. Come to our offices in Atlanta to explore your legal options.

Common Causes of Wrongful Death in Georgia

While almost any personal injury accident could result in wrongful death, there are some circumstances that place victims at higher risk of fatal injury. Learning about some possible wrongful death scenarios can help you develop a deeper understanding of the factors surrounding your loved one’s untimely death. In our years in practice throughout Georgia, we’ve helped surviving family members file claims for wrongful death after a number of different incidents, including:

  • Car accidents. Car accidents are one of the most common causes of wrongful death in Georgia and around the world. Most car accidents stem from driver error or another form of negligence, such as defective vehicle parts or roadway hazards. When someone dies from car accident-related injuries, surviving family members may have the chance to sue on a number of grounds.
  • Pedestrian collisions. When a vehicle strikes a pedestrian or bicyclist, the results can be deadly. Common injuries that result in death in these collisions are damages to the head and brain, as well as crush and rollover injuries in the event the individual falls beneath the vehicle. In metropolitan Atlanta, pedestrian accidents are unfortunately more common than in other cities.
  • Medical malpractice. If your loved one passed away during an operation, while in the hospital or nursing home, or in an ambulance on the way to the hospital, consider a wrongful death claim on the grounds of medical malpractice. It’s possible that a doctor, nurse, surgeon, or other party did not perform duties according to the accepted standards of care in the medical industry, resulting in your loved one’s unnecessary death.
  • Workplace accidents. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 4,836 workers in the U.S. died on the job in a single year. One in five fatal accidents occurred in the construction industry. Workplace fatal injuries can stem from negligent employers, lack of proper safety equipment, poor training, defective and dangerous equipment, harmful chemicals, or careless co-workers.
  • Intent to harm. Criminal acts can lead to fatal stabbings, gunshot wounds, blunt force trauma, and other violence-related injuries. These injuries can occur anywhere, at any time. Surviving family members may be able to bring civil and criminal claims against the offender. The case might also involve third-party liability – for instance, if negligent security at a gas station contributed to the victimization of your loved one.
  • Accidental drowning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that an average of 10 people die every day from unintentional drowning. Drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury death in America. This tragedy can occur when a property owner fails to make a pool safe, a careless supervisor leaves children alone in the water, or in the event of a boating accident.
  • Defective and dangerous products. Manufacturing errors, design flaws, and lack of warning labels can cause fatal injuries to unsuspecting users. Defective drugs, medical devices, and vehicle parts are common in this category. In these cases, surviving family members do not need to prove negligence to receive compensation. They must only show the product in question had a defect and this issue caused the loved one’s death.
  • Premises liability accidents. Unsafe premises or property features can easily lead to fatal accidents. Examples include swimming pools with no barriers, staircases with faulty railings, loose dogs on the property, and hazardous chemicals. Property owners may be liable for wrongful death if they knew, or reasonably should have known, about the hazard and did nothing to prevent injury/death.

Anytime someone sustains fatal injuries in an accident, the legal concept of “wrongful death” may apply. If someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or unlawful act contributed to the accident that took your loved one’s life, speak to an attorney. At Butler Wooten & Peak LLP, we have decades of experience handling these types of claims in Georgia. We’ve won multi-million dollar settlements for family members left behind. We want to help you pursue justice and compensation for a death the defendant could have prevented.

Wrongful Death Laws in Georgia

Not all untimely deaths are “wrongful.” A death may be devastating to those left behind, but sometimes no one is truly at fault for what happened. An act of God may be at the heart of the incident. In other cases, it is possible to identify one or more parties responsible for a loved one’s death. In these instances, surviving family members must follow the proper legal processes to pursue recovery through the state. Here are four wrongful death laws in Georgia you should know:

  1. Definition of wrongful death. Georgia Code Title 51, Chapter 4 defines wrongful death as a death the criminal, reckless, negligent, or intentional acts of one person or entity cause. Certain people can bring a wrongful death claim if the circumstances leading up to the death were suspect – meaning there is reason to believe the death is a specific party’s fault. Wrongful death claims center on the same grounds as personal injury claims, except that the party did not survive his or her injuries.
  2. Rules for who may file. You cannot file a wrongful death claim if the decedent was simply your best friend. In Georgia, you must be the deceased person’s spouse, adult child, parent, or personal representative of the estate. Personal representatives must transfer any damages recovered n a wrongful death case to the deceased person’s next of kin.
  3. Deadlines for filing. The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims in Georgia is two years from the date of the death, in most cases. There are some exceptions, so you may want to speak to an attorney. After the deadline passes, the courts will likely refuse to hear the case. If there is a criminal case involving the loved one’s death, the timeline for the civil claim pauses until the criminal case comes to completion.
  4. Types of damages recoverable. Available damages aim to cover tangible and intangible damages the family and the decedent suffered. These include medical expenses, the decedent’s lost wages (including what he/she would have earned were it not for the untimely death), loss of care and companionship, burial/funeral costs, and the decedent’s pain and suffering up until the date of death.

Wrongful death claims in Georgia are complex, highly involved lawsuits. They almost always require expertise from a personal injury firm. Families may not understand the systems, processes, and paperwork necessary to file this type of claim in Atlanta. A lawyer can make the claim considerably easier for surviving family members. Let Butler Wooten & Peak LLP take this burden off your shoulders so you can focus on grieving and healing instead of legal matters.

Wrongful Death Claim vs. Estate Claim

There are two distinct types of claims a party can file after a wrongful death in Georgia. The first type, a wrongful death claim, aims to compensate for the “full value of the life of the deceased.” Surviving family members bring this type of action on behalf of the deceased person. The purpose of these claims is to establish monetary damages relating to the decedent’s life, such as lost wages, lost work-related benefits, loss of consortium, and loss of intangible benefits the loved one provided. “Intangible benefits” may include care, love, companionship, parental guidance, and household duties.

The second type of lawsuit is an estate claim. The goal of an estate claim is to make up for financial losses the family suffered due to the loved one’s death. The decedent’s estate is the plaintiff in these claims, which seek to reimburse losses related to an untimely death. These damages may include funeral and burial costs, medical expenses relating to the person’s last injury/illness, and pain and suffering the decedent underwent prior to death. It is possible to file both types of claims simultaneously after wrongful death in Georgia.

How to Start Your Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Georgia

After the traumatic death of a loved one, speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Butler Wooten & Peak LLP only takes a limited number of clients at a time, so that our team can tackle a case with unwavering focus and attention to detail. When you come to us with a potential wrongful death claim, we’ll first help you set up an estate. Your loved one may or may not have a will that names someone to be the representative of the estate. If not, you may need someone to step forward to fill this job. You can also file a claim without having a representative.

Next, we’ll investigate what happened to your loved one. We’ll determine if your case has merit under Georgia’s wrongful death guidelines. We may also be able to name a likely defendant in the case. If you choose to retain our attorneys for the job, we’ll file the correct documents to get the ball rolling as quickly as possible. Legal processes take time. We can help you expedite the process so your family can receive compensation for losses and expenses without unnecessary delay. Our team works on a contingency fee arrangement for wrongful death and estate claims, meaning we don’t charge for our services unless we win.

If you have a bad feeling about a loved one’s recent passing, contact us. We’ll meet with you during a free consultation or discuss your situation over the phone. After our conversation, we’ll give you a professional opinion about how you may want to proceed. We can help you navigate complicated insurance coverage issues, workers’ compensation claims, and a wrongful death lawsuit if applicable. Don’t settle for less after a devastating event like a loved one’s death. Call us in Atlanta at (404) 321-1700, in Columbus at (706) 322-1990 or toll-free at (800) 242-2962 to schedule your case evaluation with Butler Wooten & Peak LLP today!