The unexpected death of a loved one can leave you feeling desolate, especially if someone’s negligence caused the death. While you are probably more concerned about taking care of your loved one’s final wishes, you should also speak to an Atlanta wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. While you handle your loved one’s affairs and go through the grieving process, we can investigate the case and gather evidence to help you recover compensation for your loss. While the money won’t bring your loved one back, it will go a long way to reduce the financial stress most people suffer after losing a loved one.
Bringing a Wrongful Death Case in Georgia
While the period just after a loved one’s death is stressful, and the last thing you think of is bringing a lawsuit, it is the best time to retain an Atlanta wrongful death attorney. Georgia law allows two years after the date of your loved one’s death to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. However, the evidence that helps your wrongful death attorney prove negligence caused the death of your loved one tends to disappear after only a few short weeks.
Weather can degrade evidence, and defendants could inadvertently or purposely destroy evidence. Even the police could inadvertently destroy evidence by leaving a vehicle outside in the weather. If the wrongful death was caused by a product, that product could decompose. Witnesses could forget pertinent facts – and these are just a few of the reasons evidence disappears.
Furthermore, Georiga has a two-year statute of limitations. Once that time runs, you won’t be able to take legal action. Thus, the sooner you see a wrongful death attorney, the better it is for your case. We understand that you are going through a stress-filled time, and we will do our best to help reduce that stress.
Investigating an Atlanta Wrongful Death Case
Your Atlanta wrongful death attorney can start helping your case by starting an investigation into the accident or incident. Collecting evidence takes time and might involve the following:
- Visiting the accident scene.
- Taking photos of the vehicle, product, or situation that caused your loved one’s death.
- Obtaining police reports.
- Obtaining medical records.
- Obtaining documentation and/or logs from emergency medical personnel, if available.
- Speaking to witnesses, either informally or formally (at a deposition).
- Requesting any documents from the individual or entity that allegedly caused your loved one’s death.
Once the investigative team gathers all evidence, we can draft a demand letter to the appropriate insurance companies or, if not insured, the defendants.
The Demand Letter
A demand letter contains the case facts and requests a settlement amount. It also gives the defendant a certain number of days to respond. If the defendant doesn’t respond, we will file a lawsuit. However, most defendants obtain legal counsel and respond to the demand letter.
A defendant could accept your demand, though that is rare. In most cases, the defendant – usually the insurance company – denies your claim or offers a lower settlement amount. If the defendant denies your claim, we can file a lawsuit.
If the defendant forwards a counteroffer, you can either accept it, counter the defendant’s counter, or decline it and file a lawsuit. Your Atlanta wrongful death lawyer will help you decide which is the best way to proceed.
Recovering Compensation After an Atlanta Wrongful Death
If you lost a loved one due to another’s actions or inactions, you could recover two types of damages: Compensatory damages and punitive damages. The court orders compensatory damages in an attempt to make you whole again. Most plaintiffs in wrongful death cases recover a combination of economic damages and non-economic damages.
If you can prove with “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant’s actions or inactions were wanton, oppressive, fraudulent, malicious, or that the defendant showed willful misconduct or showed the “entire want of care,” you could also recover punitive damages.
While the money doesn’t bring back a loved one, it can significantly reduce the financial stress that your losses cause.
Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages have a monetary value. In wrongful death settlements or trials, you could recover:
- Medical expenses.
- Therapy expenses.
- Any home health care, rehabilitation, or nursing home care your loved one incurred prior to death.
- Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property.
- Loss of earning capacity.
- Funeral expenses, burial expenses, cremation expenses, and certain probate court costs. You could also recover probate attorney’s fees and costs.
Sometimes referred to as general damages, non-economic damages do not have a monetary value and include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of consortium and companionship.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores your loved one usually did, such as lawn care, grocery shopping, home maintenance and repair, and house cleaning.
The court only orders punitive damages as a punishment for the defendant’s gross negligence or intentional actions or inactions. It is more difficult to obtain punitive damages, but in many cases where it’s warranted, it’s worth the extra time and effort.
Georgia only limits punitive damages in certain circumstances. Your Atlanta wrongful death attorney can advise you of the laws regarding punitive damages and whether your case qualifies to ask for them.
Settlement or Trial?
Many cases settle out of court. Settlement negotiations could take as little as a couple of months to several months. However, a court case could take anywhere from a few months to over a year. Insurance companies do not like to go to court, as it costs them more money than agreeing to a fair and reasonable settlement.
Regardless of the path your case takes, we work diligently to recover the compensation you deserve.
Contact an Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorney
The time after a wrongful death accident or incident is almost always stressful as you take the unexpected steps of ensuring your loved one’s wishes are granted and you go through the grieving process. While you might think a wrongful death case is another stressor that you don’t need, it is important to get your case started as soon as possible. We will do our best to make it the least stressful part of this difficult time.
If you lost a loved one because of a vehicle accident or another personal injury incident, contact an Atlanta wrongful death attorney for a free case evaluation.