Losing someone you love in a tragic and unexpected accident sends your life in a tailspin. As you grieve, you may have many questions about how and why this happened to your loved one. You may be concerned about how you will cover expenses related to medical or funeral costs. You may also be frightened for your family’s financial stability.
At The Embry Law Firm, we understand that this is a difficult time for your family. We offer legal guidance and support for Georgia families who have suffered the loss of a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or criminal acts.
In this post, we offer some answers to the most common questions clients ask about wrongful death claims. It is our hope that you will find this information helpful, and will contact us so that we can help you further.
FAQs About Wrongful Death Claims
Q: What constitutes a “wrongful” death?
A: Georgia law defines wrongful death as a death that is “negligent, reckless, intentional, or criminal”. Examples include:
- A driver is killed in an accident caused by a drunk driver.
- A patient dies on the operating room table because the surgeon made a mistake.
- A baby suffers a fatal brain injury during birth because the doctor failed to order a c-section.
- A woman is attacked outside an apartment complex that has a history of criminal activity. The owner failed to properly secure the property or adequately light the parking lot.
These are just a few examples of situations that may qualify as a wrongful death.
Q: If criminal charges are filed, can I still file a wrongful death claim?
A: Yes. Criminal cases and civil cases (lawsuits) are handled in different courts. If the person responsible for your loved one’s death is being charged criminally, you can still file a civil claim against him or her and pursue financial compensation. Any criminal sentence will be completely separate from a verdict or settlement in your lawsuit.
Q: Is there a time limit for filing a wrongful death claim?
A: Yes. In Georgia, the statute of limitations (period of time you have to file) is two (2) years from the date of death. The vast majority of claims brought after the two-year statute of limitations has expired are rejected. There are a few situations that may “pause” the statute of limitations, such as if the case is being investigated in criminal court. Civil claims are paused until the criminal element is resolved. The statute of limitations then picks up again.
Q: How much is my wrongful death claim worth?
A: There is no way to guess or average what your claim is worth. Valuing a claim is done through a series of processes. The type of damages you can pursue, and the value thereof, will depend on the facts of your case.
Q: Do I need a lawyer to file a wrongful death claim?
A: Technically, you can file a lawsuit without consulting with an attorney. However, it is always recommended that you work with an attorney. Why? Because a wrongful death attorney can help ensure that your case is solid, legally sound, and likely to result in a favorable outcome for your family. An attorney can help you overcome obstacles, communicate with other parties, and negotiate the legal process. Wrongful death claims can be complex and complicated. Also, it may be difficult for you to handle. You and your family are already in an emotionally-vulnerable state. An attorney will work on your behalf so you can focus your attention where it is needed most.