Losing a loved one is easily one of the most tragic events of a person’s life, especially when the loss is unexpected. The tragedy, grief, and pain are compounded when the death of your loved one was caused by negligence. Often, these losses create large financial burdens in addition to the emotional distress felt by surviving family members. Money will not fix the wrong that led to the death of your family member, but it can help alleviate the financial burden.
If a family member dies because of negligence, you might be entitled to recover damages. Georgia has a two-year statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death suit, so it’s imperative that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Call (912) 234-2334 to discuss your case with one of the wrongful death attorneys at Hasner Law’s Savannah office.
What Is Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death occurs when a victim dies as result of negligence or intentional harm by another. Georgia law outlines the surviving family members who are entitled to file a wrongful death suit after the loss of a loved one:
- Parent(s) when no spouse or child is available
- A personal representative of the estate of the deceased
Potential Causes of Savannah Wrongful Deaths
A wide array of situations that include negligence or harmful acts may give rise to a wrongful death lawsuit, including:
- On-the-job accidents such as an accident on a construction site
- Medical malpractice including misdiagnosis, surgical errors, and pharmaceutical errors
- Traffic accidents caused by a driver that was under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
- Traffic accidents with fatigued drivers
- Traffic accidents with distracted drivers
- Injury from a defective product
Types of Recoverable Damages in a Savannah Wrongful Death Suit
Georgia law allows surviving family members to file two different types of wrongful death claims when a loved one dies. Each type of claim provides an opportunity to recover different types of compensatory damages. In the first type of wrongful death claim, the court awards monetary damages that represent “the full value of the life of the decedent.” This includes:
- Lost wages and lost future wages
- Loss of companionship, or the case of a child, the loss of protection or guidance
The second kind of claim seeks to reduce the financial burden caused by death of the victim, and the suit is brought by the victim’s estate. The damages that might be recovered in this type of claim include:
- Medical expenses of the deceased, including ambulance, hospitalization, surgery, radiology, prescription drugs, etc.
- Funeral expenses
- Pain and suffering of the deceased incurred by the injury before death
Like many states, Georgia rarely awards punitive damages in personal injury cases; however, if the act that causes death was malicious and intentional, the court might award punitive damages.
Common Defenses to Wrongful Death Claims
Parties that are named as defendants in a wrongful death suit will often do everything possible to avoid liability. Although Georgia law states that you can file a suit when you lose a loved one due to negligence or harm, Georgia is a modified comparative negligence state which may affect the amount of damages that you are awarded. Further, comparative negligence gives the defense a strong incentive to shift the blame for the death to the victim.
Under pure comparative negligence rules, the court assigns blame to each party for the injury that caused death. The award is then reduced by the percentage assigned to the deceased. For example, if you sue for $500,000 and the court assigns 10 percent fault to the deceased, the final award will be reduced to $450,000. In homicide cases, fault is clear; other types of cases are more susceptible to shared liability.
Depending on the circumstances of the case, the defense might use a number of strategies to shift the blame to the deceased. Here are some examples:
- The defense may claim that the deceased was under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or prescription medication in motor vehicle accidents.
- The defense may claim that the deceased was driving while fatigued or distracted.
- The defense may claim that the deceased violated traffic laws.
- When a wrongful death occurs on-the-job, the employer may claim that the victim was doing their job improperly.
- The defense may claim that the deceased was trespassing or that a hazard was marked when death was caused by a slip-and-fall.
- The defense may claim that the deceased modified a product or were using a product improperly when death occurs because of a defective product.
- The defense may claim that the deceased didn’t read warning labels, whether on products or medication.
Listening to these attacks on your loved one adds to the difficulty in coping with your loss. An experienced wrongful death attorney is prepared for these counterattacks and will guide you through the complex legal process. You and your family can focus on moving on with your lives and dealing with your grief, while your lawyer works to get the best possible outcome for your situation.
Contact Hasner Law Today
If you have lost a loved one due to negligence or intentional harm, this is a difficult time for you and your family. Don’t fight alone. Instead, contact one of the skilled attorneys at Hasner Law online, or call our Savannah office at (912) 234-2334 for a free consultation to discuss the merits of your case. Hasner’s legal team can determine if you are eligible for compensation, investigate your case, interview potential witnesses, and advise you each step of the way, so those who are at fault for your loved one’s death are held accountable.