Losing a loved one before their time causes survivors unimaginable grief. Family and friends must learn to cope with their loved one’s absence, and continue without the person’s love, companionship, and contributions to the household.
The loss may be especially hard to bear if the death was attributable to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing. Families might seek closure by taking legal action against the wrongdoer with the help of a Sandy Springs wrongful death lawyer. Holding the person who caused the death accountable might help a family emotionally, and any damages they receive could help them recover from the financial hardship of living without their loved one.
The Official Code of Georgia Annotated §51-4-1(1) allows a designated family member to seek the value of the deceased person’s life as damages. The law does not define how to determine the value of a deceased person’s life, but it states that the plaintiff must show evidence supporting their claim.
In general, courts allow you and your family to seek damages that equal the present value of all the wages and employment benefits the decedent might have earned had they lived until retirement age. You could also present evidence showing the decedent’s earnings at the time of death and prospective future earnings had their career continued.
The family also might seek the value of the decedent’s contribution to the household. They may collect these damages whether the decedent worked outside the home. Evidence showing how much the family would have to spend to hire someone to carry out these functions establishes the value of the decedent’s contributions. Families could receive compensation for the value of their loved one’s:
Families also could seek non-economic damages, which compensate for the loss of their loved one’s affection and companionship. Many states cap the amount of non-economic damages a jury could award, but Georgia does not. A plaintiff’s attorney could present evidence of the activities the decedent enjoyed and how the family spent their time together to establish proof of non-economic losses.
The law requires a surviving spouse to be the plaintiff in a wrongful death claim. If no spouse survives but there are surviving children, the children are the plaintiffs. In the absence of a surviving spouse or children, a parent or legal guardian is the appropriate plaintiff.
Even though the law designates the plaintiff, any damages must be distributed among the beneficiaries equally, with one exception. If there is a spouse and more than two surviving children, the spouse receives one-third of the damages, and the children split the remaining two-thirds equally between them. An experienced attorney could explain who the beneficiaries are and what their shares might be in a particular case.
In most cases, plaintiffs have only two years from the date of their decedent’s death to bring a wrongful death claim. If the family does not bring an action within two years, they permanently lose the right to sue.
However, under certain circumstances families might have more time. If the decedent’s estate must be settled through probate, the statute of limitations does not begin until probate is complete or five years after the decedent’s death, whichever comes first. If there is a criminal action underway that is directly related to the cause of the decedent’s death, the statute of limitations does not begin until the criminal case is resolved.
Bringing a wrongful death lawsuit is a decision that families should consider carefully. Bereaved families benefit from working with an experienced advocate who understands the specific challenges facing those mourning the loss of a loved one.
A Sandy Springs wrongful death lawyer could help a grieving family move forward after their loved one’s premature death. Call to schedule a consultation.