Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorney
When an accident leads to the tragic death of a loved one, the attorneys at ChancoSchiffer Law, LLC are here to help. If you have recently lost a loved one, you may be able to file a claim to hold negligent parties accountable for a loved one’s accident. While nothing can bring a loved one back, a wrongful death claim can help ease the family’s financial burden and hold negligent parties responsible for losses from a loved one’s death.
The Atlanta lawyers at ChancoSchiffer Law, LLC will handle your case with care, attention, and compassion. If you’ve recently experienced the loss of a love one and need legal advice from a skilled Atlanta wrongful death lawyer, contact our office today to schedule free consultation of your case and legal options.
Georgia’s Wrongful Death Laws
A “wrongful death” occurs when someone else’s negligence contributes to loss of life. This negligence may arise from action or inaction, even malicious intent. While surviving members of a family can file a wrongful death claim on top of any criminal charges, a crime is not a requirement to file a wrongful death claim. These are matters of civil law, and only require that:
- The defendant owed the decedent a duty of care
- He or she violated that duty, committing negligence
- That negligence led to someone’s death
- That death led to damages
Wrongful Death in a Motor Vehicle Accident
In 2016, 1,554 people died in motor vehicle crashes in Georgia, an 8.5% increase from the previous year, which including motorcycle crashes, pedestrian accidents, tractor and cycling accidents. More than 20% of these fatalities (368 deaths) stemmed from impaired drivers, while speeding took 266 lives. These troubling statistics show the number of fatal Atlanta accidents has been steadily increasing year over year. If you’ve lost a loved one in an auto accident in Georgia or near Atlanta, your case may involve the following laws:
- Wrongful death laws. Regardless of what caused the fatal accident, plaintiffs will need to abide by Georgia’s wrongful death claim laws. This includes the statute of limitations, burden of proof, who can file, and filing requirements. Our Atlanta wrongful death lawyers can help you with every aspect of your claim.
- Auto accident fault laws. Georgia is a “fault” insurance state. This means the party at-fault for the car accident will be legally responsible for everyone’s damages. It is up to you to determine who caused the crash that killed your loved one. This will be the individual or entity that serves as the defendant in your wrongful death case.
- Comparative negligence. Georgia also abides by modified comparative negligence rules. This means that more than one party – including the plaintiff – can share liability and still recover compensation. As long as the deceased loved one’s share of fault for the crash is 49% or less, surviving family members could still be eligible for damages.
Wrongful death claims resulting from car accidents in Georgia may involve different rules than those that stem from other causes, such as medical malpractice or property hazards. It’s important to work with an attorney who has handled auto accident wrongful death claims in the past. You need specific expertise for your best chance at securing financial recovery.
Statute of Limitations on Death Car Accident Claims
Like all states, Georgia has strict deadlines by which all claimants must file their cases with the civil courts. The legal term for these deadlines is “statute of limitations.” The statute of limitations determines the time limit by which you must submit your claim – or else risk the courts refusing to hear your case. Missing the statute of limitations almost guarantees losing your right to file and receive compensation. It’s extremely important to learn your deadline and treat it as the final date by which you must file.
Georgia Code Section 9-3-33 states the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims. This law states that all claimants bringing actions for Atlanta personal injury or wrongful death cases must do so “within two years after the right of action accrues.” In other words, two years from the date of death. However, the courts will “toll,” or stop, the clock in certain situations. For example, if your case involves a criminal action (such as drunk driving), the courts may suspend the time limit to file until the completion of the criminal case.
Unfortunately, nothing can replace a loved one, who is gone forever due to somebody’s negligence. However, our wrongful death lawyers will diligently work to ensure that the family is fairly compensated when there has been injury or death due to an Atlanta automobile accident.
Not only is a wrongful death case shrouded with emotional toll, but it is also accompanied with medical bills and funeral costs. Often the spouse and children suffer a substantial loss of income source for the household due to the wrongful death.
If you are suffering from the aftershock of the wrongful death of a loved one, it may come as some consolation to know that the Atlanta lawyers at ChancoSchiffer Law, LLC are ready to litigate for you. Our Atlanta auto accident lawyers are familiar with causes of these accidents, the insurance companies frequently involved and how to maximize the recovery in each circumstance.
Who Can File a Georgia Wrongful Death Suit?
Georgia law sets forth specific rules for who can file a wrongful death suit in the state. First in line is the decedent’s surviving spouse.
Chapter 51, Title 4 of the Georgia Code states if the couple has surviving minor children, the spouse acts on behalf of these children, and may be entitled to no more than 1/3 of the total recovery.
If the decedent has no spouse or minor children, the parents may file a wrongful death claim. If the decedent has no surviving parents, then the administrator of the estate may file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the beneficiaries outlined in the estate plan.
What Is the “Discovery Rule?”
Like any other civil action, a wrongful death lawsuit from a car accident must follow the statute of limitations. This means the person or people filing a wrongful death claim on behalf of a decedent must file within the allotted time limit. Some state laws acknowledge the right to bring a wrongful death claim as fundamental, and the statute of limitations begins on the date of death.
In some cases, however, the court may make a special consideration if applying the statute of limitations at the time of death would prevent the claimants from discovering the cause of death.
What does this mean for a wrongful death case?
The discovery rule in wrongful death cases exists to ensure claimants meet the actual statute of limitations. This helps both plaintiffs and defendants in different ways.
- Plaintiffs get the benefit of having the statute of limitations begin when they learn of the cause of death instead of simply at the time of death. For example, if a person dies and the family does not know the cause of death immediately, they may not realize there are grounds for a wrongful death claim. If the family discovers a year later that the decedent experienced exposure to harmful conditions at work that directly caused his or her death, then the statute of limitations begins on the date of this discovery.
- Defendants. The discovery rule can be beneficial for defendants in that it compels plaintiffs to take timely action. If they do not discover grounds for a wrongful death claim in a reasonable time, the defendant may avoid liability. When a loved one unexpectedly dies, the surviving family members should do everything in their power to determine the actual cause of death and decide whether they have grounds for a wrongful death claim. Ultimately, the discovery rule allows the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim to begin on the date of discovery of the cause of death instead of on the date of the death in question.
One situation in which the civil courts might extend the deadline for filing a wrongful death claim is if the case qualifies under the “discovery rule.” The discovery rule holds that the clock for filing a wrongful death claim shall begin as soon as the plaintiff discovers or reasonably should have discovered the cause of the decedent’s death.
In other words, as soon as you realize another driver’s negligence killed your loved one, you generally have two years from this date to bring a claim, which may or may not be the same date as your loved one’s death. The Georgia courts might apply the discovery rule in wrongful death actions if the claimant reasonably could not have known the cause of death until after the date of death.
Contact our office to discuss your family’s specific statute of limitations.
Seeking Damages for Wrongful Death Claim
A wrongful death claim seeks to provide compensatory damages for all the harm a family suffers resulting from their loved one’s death. Surviving family members may collect the following types of damages in a wrongful death claim:
- Economic damages – which include medical expenses, any loss in earning capacity, and the expenses associated with the funeral or burial.
- General damages – which compensate for intangible losses such as pain, suffering, emotional distress, and loss of partnership or guidance.
In some cases, such as deaths arising from gross negligence, plaintiffs may be able to collect punitive damages. These damages punish the defendant for their wrongdoing and discourage similar behavior in the future.
Your Wrongful Death Attorney in Atlanta
If your family is suffering following the tragic loss of a family member, a wrongful death claim can help. These claims seek to provide financial reimbursement for the losses associated with your loved one’s death. The wrongful death attorneys at ChancoSchiffer Law, LLC can identify the parties responsible for your loss and claim fair compensation for the harm your family suffered. Our community law firm treats each case with the care and attention it deserves, unlike larger corporate firms with nameless associates.
Contact us to schedule a free initial consultation with our firm today.
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