Georgia Wrongful Death Frequently Asked Questions


October 26, 2010

Every day individuals in the Atlanta area and throughout the State of Georgia receive the devastating news that someone close to them has been killed by the negligent or intentional actions of a third party. This is news that is emotionally overwhelming. When the family breadwinner is the person tragically killed, a family may face an enormous financial crisis.

Wrongful death statutes permit a surviving family member or representative of a decedent's estate to bring a lawsuit for damages. Wrongful death actions can arise out of many types of situations including but not limited to car accidents, trucking accidents, SUV rollover accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, medical malpractice, or a defective product. At Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, we have been helping families that suffer the tragic loss of a loved one due to the misconduct of another, throughout the State of Georgia, for over 25 years. Based on our many years of experience handling wrongful death lawsuits in Georgia, we have provided some answers below to commonly asked questions.

What is a wrongful death claim?

A wrongful death claim is a claim that can be pursued by designated immediate family members of a decedent whose death was the result of the negligent, reckless or intentional conduct of another person. Most states, including Georgia, have a wrongful death statute which specifies who may bring such an action as well as what type of recovery is available.

Who does the Georgia wrongful death statute permit to bring a claim?

The Georgia wrongful death statute, like that of most states, establishes a hierarchy of immediate family members that may bring a wrongful death claim. If the decedent had a spouse, the spouse may bring the wrongful death claim. Where the decedent was not married, his children may bring a claim for wrongful death. In cases where a decedent had neither a spouse nor children, the decedent's parents may initiate a claim for wrongful death. Where there are no surviving family members with any of these familial relationships, the administrator of the estate may bring a wrongful death action.

Do I need an attorney to file a wrongful death claim?

While there is no requirement that you retain an attorney to file a wrongful death lawsuit, it is strongly recommended. It is often the case that an insurance company will be representing the person who causes the action, and they will be interested in paying as little money as possible and if possible nothing at all. Insurance companies have enormous resources at their disposal and handle many wrongful death cases. The insurance company will have access to a team of lawyers, investigators and experts on their side, which means that a successful wrongful death claim typically requires an individual to have similar resources and experience.

How long do I have to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit?

This is a complicated but very important question. Wrongful death cases are governed by the statute of limitations which essentially provides time limits within which a case must be filed. These limitation periods vary in length. When the time begins and ends is based on the facts and circumstances surrounding a particular case and the unique facts of that case. The period of time can be as short as one year or as long as eight years. If you are bringing a claim against a public entity such as a municipality, there are additional requirements including filing a notice of claim within six months of your injury. If you fail to comply with any of these deadlines, it typically means that your claim is completely barred regardless of the merits of your case. Even if you have not decided to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit, it is extremely important to get immediate legal advice to avoid missing any of these critical deadlines. Additionally, there are some circumstances under which the time deadline may be "tolled", or does not run for some period of time.

What if I cannot afford an attorney?

Wrongful death lawsuits are handled by personal injury law firms like ours on a contingency fee basis. This means that we advance the costs of litigation and do not get paid unless we obtain a settlement or verdict in your favor. If we successfully litigate the case, you pay only a percentage of your recovery after the out of pocket expenses and costs of litigation have been paid.

I consulted an attorney who declined my case so I presume I do not have a valid claim?

The practice of law is an art not a science. This means that attorneys can differ in opinion as to the merits of a wrongful death lawsuit. A firm may decline a case for reasons that have nothing to do with the merits of the case. When someone is killed by the conduct of another, you should never accept a single attorney's opinion that you do not have a wrongful death claim that is worth pursuing.

What compensation is available in a wrongful death claim?

The Georgia wrongful death statute expressly provides that a decedent may recover "the full value of the life of the decedent without deducting for any of the necessary or personal expenses of the decedent had he lived." This language essentially means that a wrongful death lawsuit may include compensation for the following:

• Lost wages and future earnings

• Medical and hospital expenses

• Funeral and burial costs

• Pain and Suffering

• Loss of Consortium (loss of services and companionship)

• Punitive damages (in appropriate cases)

The loss of an immediate family member is extremely difficult. We know that no sum of money can truly compensate for the loss of someone you love. However, we also know that you may need the financial recovery from a wrongful death claim to replace the income of a head of household who has been killed or to cover extraordinary medical expenses.

Our Georgia wrongful death attorneys have represented families throughout Georgia for over 25 years. Call Montlick & Associates today to see how we can help. We are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Dalton, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. Call us today for your free consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333), or visit us on the web at www.montlick.com. No matter where you are in Georgia, we are just a phone call away and we will even come to you.

Category: Personal Injury

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.