Wrongful Death Attorney in Georgia

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As wrongful death attorneys practicing in the State of Georgia, we at Sawan & Sawan understand that losing someone you love is a devastating tragedy. It is incredibly difficult to comprehend how someone else’s carelessness could take what is so dear to you. While we know legal remedies never seem to make the pain subside, we still feel that you should obtain every bit of compensation you deserve for your loss. Georgia law provides certain people a right of action when the death of a loved one was caused by another’s negligence. This compensation will never bring your loved one back – but we still fight each and every day to make sure our clients’ rights are defended. If a loved one has died, we strongly encourage you to speak with a wrongful death attorney to evaluate your case.

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When a loved one dies as the result of another person’s negligent or intentional act,  the family or estate may file a wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia. Georgia, like most states, has its own laws which govern wrongful death claims. Due to the complexities of Georgia wrongful death laws, we strongly advise the deceased’s family members to speak with a Georgia wrongful death attorney. One must carefully review Georgia state laws to make sure that every option is explored to protect the family.

Georgia's Wrongful Death Statute

Under Georgia law if a person dies by the wrongful act of another person including a company, the heirs of the decedent may bring a wrongful death claim. The “the full value of the life of the descent” is available as a claim under the wrongful death statute found at O.C.G.A. 51-4-2. The wrongful death claim is taken from the point of view of the decedent as described in more detail in Brock v. Wedincamp, 253 Ga. App.275, 281-82 (2002). To assist the factfinder, evidence is produced for both the intangible and the tangible aspects of the claim. Intangibles include the decedent’s relationships, family,and the reasons for living. The tangibles include but are not limited to the income the decedent would have earned and any household jobs that the decedent routinely performed. Generally, the claim must be filed within two years of the death, however, it can be modified under certain exceptions. The spouse of the decedent usually has the right to bring the claim. If no spouse, then the surviving children would be able to proceed. If there is no immediate family available, then the parents or a guardian can bring the claim. In addition, claims on behalf of the estate could include the pain and suffering felt by the decedent. A wrongful death occurs in Georgia when a crime or negligent act results in death. These acts include:

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Case in Georgia?

Only certain damages are available for the deceased’s family to recover under Georgia law. The compensation in this type of claim results in financial remuneration paid to the decedent’s survivors or the estate. The claim filed as a civil lawsuit, requires the family to prove “by a preponderance of the evidence” that the negligent person caused the decedent’s death. This burden only requires evidence that it is”more likely than not”that the conduct caused the death. Due to the wrongful death, the Georgia statute allows the following order of people to bring the lawsuit:

As previously mentioned, there are two potential claims the surviving family may pursue: a wrongful death claim and an estate claim. The statutory wrongful death claim asks the jury to determine what the decedent’s life meant to the family. They will hear evidence on family relations, employment, awards, accomplishments, exercising, sports, daily activities, and volunteering. They will also hear evidence on the income loss as well as everyday household responsibilities performed by the decedent. The second claim brought by the estate allows the family to recover medical bills, funeral expenses, pain and suffering of the decedent, and punitive damages. If there is a will, the administrator brings the claim but if none, then Georgia intestacy law will determine who can administer the estate claim.

Damages for Wrongful Death in Georgia

Under O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2, the eligible Plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit can seek to recover damages that amount to “the full value of the life of the decedent, as shown by the evidence.” These include the following:
As to damages, the jury will look at the case from the perspective of the decedent. They will learn about who the decedent was. Understanding what made life to her special and important, will allow the jury to award compensation. Using videos such as “a day in life of” the decedent or testimony of personal stories help to assist the jury in its fact finding role. In addition, the jury can return a verdict that includes medical and funeral bills as well as pain and suffering before the death. They can also award compensation for the suffering the decedent felt right before death.

Statute of Limitations for Georgia Wrongful Death Case

As previously mentioned, the statute of limitations is usually two years from the date of the decedent’s death. O.C.G.A. 9-3-33. That time can be modified under special circumstances. If the government is at fault, the deadline could be shortened. Depending on which governmental entity is involved, it could be anywhere for six months to one year. The date depends on the facts and circumstances as well as the branch of government involved. If a decedent is killed due to a violent crime, the statute of limitations may be tolled or stayed until the criminal prosecution is completed. That would include a misdemeanor traffic violation. If the at fault truck driver could have been charged with either a crime or traffic violation at the misdemeanor level, the statute of limitations can be tolled from the date of the violation until there is a final resolution of traffic charge or for six years, whichever is shorter. The two year period would start running after that.

The family will have two years from the date of death to file a lawsuit. If it is not filed by that time, the right to bring the lawsuit will be denied. O.C.G.A. 9-3-33 (2021). That statute of limitations may be tolled if the death was the result of a crime. If so, then the time is tolled until the criminal case is completed. This tolling occurs for a maximum of six years. Once resolved, the two year period begins to run. O.C.G.A. 9-3-92 (2021). Finally, Georgia law allows the tolling for up to five years if the estate is not probated. O.C.G.A. 9-3-92 (2021). It is clear that Georgia wrongful death cases are complicated. It  is therefore essential that you consult with a wrongful death attorney to explain how these laws will apply to your case.

Evidence in Wrongful Death Cases in Georgia

If you or a family member are ever involved in a wrongful death due to a truck accident in Georgia, timely grieving is the first step. Everything is surreal, uncertain, and highly emotional due to the loss of a family member. Nonetheless, it is vitally important that the family gather as much evidence as soon as practicable after the wrongful death. For example, a wrongful death due to a truck accident requires significant investigation. A truck driver is required to notify the company as soon as possible after an accident. The company will immediately begin to gather evidence, contact their insurance defense attorney, and send experts out to investigate. This allows both the truck driver and company to build a case against the decedent and hopefully avoid responsibility. The truck carries a black box that gives data about speed, braking parameters, and driving time. Skid marks need to be photographed and measured as well as all vehicle damages needs to be determined. Debris from the vehicles must be gotten before the scene is cleaned up. Witness statements must be gathered as well as obtaining the accident report. Failure to gather any of this information will only hurt the case at a later date. For a wrongful death involving a criminal act, any and all videos that show the crime must be gotten before it is erased. A pivotal witness may move or change her number. Letting a wrongful death attorney handle the case while the family mourns allows for the attorney to gather all the evidence necessary to put the case together for trial. On the other hand, it gives the family proper quality time to mourn without losing precious time.

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Dennis P. Sawan

Partner

Licensed in Ohio and Georgia

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Christopher A. Sawan

Partner

Licensed in Ohio and Michigan

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