What Are the Steps to Proving Wrongful Death in Georgia?

Crying woman consulting lawyer for wrongful death lawsuit.

Crying woman consulting lawyer for wrongful death lawsuit.After losing a loved one, compensation through a lawsuit is perhaps the last thing you want to think about. At the end of the day, no amount of money can truly compensate for this kind of loss. Notwithstanding, Georgia law does provide a legal avenue to recover for the wrongful death of a loved one.

At the Butler Kahn, we understand how difficult someone’s passing can be for family and friends. If you recently lost someone close to you through a wrongful death, let us help you make the most of your legal right to compensation. Our attorneys are dedicated to helping our clients through some of the most difficult moments in their lives, including the passing of loved ones.

As with all personal injury cases, decisive action early on can significantly increase your chance of securing maximum compensation for a wrongful death. Call the Butler Kahn today for a free consultation with a Georgia wrongful death lawyer.

What Is Wrongful Death in Georgia?

Georgia law does not define “wrongful death.” Instead, it allows certain surviving family members to secure compensation for the homicide of a loved one. The governing statute specifically defines homicide as follows: “[A]ll cases in which the death of a human being results from a crime, from criminal or other negligence, or from property which has been defectively manufactured, whether or not as the result of negligence.”

However, though family members may recover for the death of a loved one caused by a criminal act, wrongful death lawsuits seeking compensation are always brought as civil cases. Criminal prosecution may also be initiated as a separate action by the state.

This distinction comes with important consequences for your case. Prosecutors seeking to punish criminal acts must prove a defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The burden of proof is lower for family members seeking compensation. They need only prove their case “by a preponderance of the evidence.” In plain language, this means they need only prove that it was more likely than not that the defendant’s actions led to the death of their loved one.

What Do You Have to Prove in a Wrongful Death Claim?

Negligence is the most common (though not exclusive) legal theory underlying wrongful death cases. This theory is based on the idea that we must each take care to avoid causing injury to others. Successfully arguing negligence requires proving four elements. If any of these intuitive elements are missing, the claim fails. The elements are:

  1. The defendant owed a duty to take reasonable care. For example, in a wrongful death suit arising from an auto accident, the defendant has a duty to drive responsibly by following the rules of the road. In some cases, proving what is “reasonable” can be more complicated than it seems.
  2. The defendant breached their duty to use reasonable care. In an auto accident, a breach of duty might include speeding in a school zone or driving while intoxicated.
  3. The plaintiff suffered a harm. Of course, the harm in a wrongful death case is the loss of a loved one. It might also include things like medical bills and funeral costs.
  4. The defendant’s breach caused plaintiff’s harm. Finally, the wrongful death must have resulted from the defendant’s failure to use reasonable care. Depending on the case, causation can sometimes be difficult to piece together.

Again, negligence is not the only route to secure compensation for a wrongful death. For example, negligence normally implies that an accident took place. However, a wrongful death case can also arise from deliberate actions (for example, assault). If your loved one was killed because of a defective product, you can also seek compensation by filing a product liability claim.

No matter the circumstances of your loved one’s death, the attorneys at the Butler Kahn are here to help. Call today for a free consultation.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

In Georgia, only certain people close to the decedent are authorized to file a wrongful death claim. If the decedent was married, their surviving spouse takes precedent in filing the claim. If they were unmarried, their surviving children take precedent, followed by surviving parents. If the decedent was still a minor, their surviving parents share precedent.

In Georgia, siblings and grandparents are ineligible to file a wrongful death claim. However, if there are no eligible family members to file a claim, a personal representative can file a claim on behalf of the decedent’s estate.

What Compensation Can You Secure in a Wrongful Death Case?

Again, no amount of money can truly compensate for the loss of a loved one. However, Georgia law recognizes the suffering such a loss may cause, as well as the injustice of letting perpetrators of wrongful deaths go unscathed by the consequences of their actions. Therefore, the law provides family members with an avenue to secure some form of compensation for the wrongful death of a loved one.

In particular, the law specifically allows eligible family members to recover “the full value of the life of the decedent, as shown by the evidence.” An important step in any wrongful death is considering what this might entail. Ultimately, family members of the decedent might secure compensation for:

  • Lost wages and benefits the decedent might have been entitled to in life
  • Loss of companionship, care, and counsel
  • Medical expense of treating the decedent’s injuries
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Other necessary expenses associated with the decedent’s death

How a Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help

A wrongful death attorney can be your closest ally in securing legal recognition and compensation for the death of your loved one. Among other things, an attorney can:

  • Help you understand your rights and options
  • Gather evidence to prove the at-fault party’s culpability and the resulting losses to your family
  • Investigate the relevant law and formulate an effective case strategy
  • Evaluate applicable insurance coverage and file claims on your behalf
  • Negotiate a fair settlement with the at-fault party if possible
  • File a lawsuit and advocate for your family in court if a reasonable settlement cannot be reached
  • Provide compassionate counsel and representation in your hour of need

Contact Butler Kahn Today for Help in Your Wrongful Death Case

At the Butler Kahn, we are proud to provide excellent legal counsel and representation to our clients in some of the most challenging moments of their lives. If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s actions, you and your family are likely entitled to legal compensation. Do not wait to have your case evaluated by a lawyer.

Our wrongful death attorneys are a call away. Contact our firm today for a free, no-obligation consultation. Let us put our experience to work for you.

Picture of Jeb Butler
Jeb Butler’s career as a Georgia trial lawyer has led to a $150 million verdict in a product liability case against Chrysler for a dangerous vehicle design that caused the death of a child, a $45 million settlement for a young man who permanently lost the ability to walk and talk, and numerous other verdicts and settlements, many of which are confidential at the defendant’s insistence. Jeb has worked on several cases that led to systemic changes and improvements in public safety. He has been repeatedly recognized as a Georgia SuperLawyer and ranks among Georgia’s legal elite. Jeb graduated in the top 10% of his class at UGA Law, argued on the National Moot Court team, and published in the Law Review. He is the founding partner of Butler Kahn law firm. Connect with me on LinkedIn
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