Frequently Asked Questions About
Wrongful Death Claims


 
  1. What is a "wrongful death" claim?
  2. Who can file a wrongful death case?
  3. What types of damages may be recovered in a wrongful death case?
  4. What is the first step in pursuing a wrongful death claim?
  5. What if I am told by an attorney that I do not have a good case?
  6. What about the costs involved in pursuing a case?
  7. How long will a wrongful death case take?
  8. How long does one have to make a claim?

 

 
1.  What is a "wrongful death" claim?

 

Answer:
In general terms, a "wrongful death" claim typically refers to a  cause of action that may be brought by certain family members of a decedent whose death was precipitated by the wrongful conduct of another.  The "wrongful" act that resulted in death may have been intentional, reckless, or negligent. In cases where a dangerous product caused the death, it may not be necessary to show "wrongful" conduct in order to recover.   Back to FAQ menu.

 
2.  Who can file a wrongful death case?    
Answer:
In Georgia, a surviving spouse, or if there is no surviving spouse may bring a wrongful death claim.  If there is no surviving spouse, the children may bring the death claim.  If there is neither a surviving spouse or surviving children, the parents of the decedent may pursue the wrongful death claim.  Absent a surviving spouse, surviving children, and surviving parents, the administrator of the decedent's estate can sue on behalf of the estate.

Georgia law dictates that the surviving spouse must share any recovery equally with the surviving children.  Back to FAQ menu.

 

 
3.  What types of damages may be recovered in a wrongful death case?

 

Answer:
Under Georgia law, a wrongful death claimant 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 may include an economic component (such as lifetime income) as well as the value of the inherent enjoyment of living.

Other Damages:  The administrator or executor of the decedent's estate may also seek damages for the decedents medical and funeral bills, and for pain and suffering experienced by the decedent prior to death.   Back to FAQ menu.

 

 
4.  What is the first step in pursuing a wrongful death claim?  
Answer:
Given that wrongful death claims and survival actions generally involve a variety of complex legal issues, the first step is to consult an attorney.  An attorney should be consulted as soon as reasonably possible because there are statutes of limitations and possibly other critical deadlines that may impact the case. 
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5.  What if I am told by an attorney that I do not have a good case?  
Answer:
Determining whether or not one has a "good case" is not always an exact science.  Because such determinations involve the professional judgment (based upon many factors and considerations) of experts and attorneys, it is recommended that you seek a "second opinion" from one or more qualified attorneys if told that your case is without merit.  Back to FAQ menu.


6.  What about the costs involved in pursuing a case?  
Answer:
Some attorneys (including the sponsor of this website) will agree to handle wrongful death cases and survival actions on a contingency fee arrangement.  This means that the attorney will not charge an hourly rate for his or her services, but instead will be paid a percentage of the recovery in the event of a settlement or judgment.  In many instances, such attorneys will also pay the case development expenses (such as expert fees, deposition costs, etc.) with the understanding that he or she will recoup such costs only in the event of a recovery.   Therefore, you may be able to secure legal representation without having to pay any attorney's fees or expenses out of your own pockets.  
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7.  How long will a wrongful death case take?  
Answer:
There is simply no easy answer to this question.  The vast majority of all cases, including wrongful death cases, are settled prior to trial.  Some cases are settled prior to the filing of a lawsuit, while others are settled during litigation or even on the "steps of the courthouse" just before trial.  A wrongful death case, if litigated to trial, could last a number of years.  One who pursues a wrongful death case should understand from the outset that a quick resolution cannot be guaranteed.   Back to FAQ menu.

 
8.  How long does one have to make a claim?  
Answer:
"Statutes of limitation" govern the length of time one has to file a lawsuit or be forever barred from pursuing such claim.  Under Georgia law, different statute of limitations periods apply as to personal injury cases under various circumstances.  In some cases, the statute of limitations may be as short as one year, while under different circumstances, it may be eight years or more.  Many factors bear upon when the applicable statute of limitations period expires including the age of the plaintiff, the type of personal injury claim, the particular facts giving rise to the injury, and others.  One must make absolute certain that they are aware of when their statute of limitations period expires, or risk jeopardizing their legal rights.  An experienced personal injury lawyer can be of assistance in this regard.     

A potential claimant seeking the advice of an attorney should do so without delay. 
  In certain cases, there may also be other deadlines that may also impact the case.  For example, claims against government entities may require that the entity or entities be put on "notice" much earlier than the the statute of limitations period.  Furthermore, given that expert and legal analysis must be done prior to filing a lawsuit, you should not wait until the statute of limitations period is nearing its end because the attorney may not have enough time to complete his or her review prior to its expiration.  

 There are other benefits to securing obtaining counsel early on as well.  Memories of the event or events in question tend to fade in witnesses, potential witnesses may later be unavailable because they have moved, become incapacitated, etc.   Back to FAQ menu.

 
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