A wrongful death is a death that is caused by another individual’s wrongful actions. A wrongful act can be intentional, reckless, or careless.
A homicide is an example of an intentional wrongful act. However, a person who acts in self-defense (as recognized by Georgia law) or a police officer who acts in the line of duty to protect others from harm have legal privilege to cause a death. Only under these circumstances is intentional wrongful death permissible.
A high-speed street racer who drove negligently without regard to the safety of others and kills someone, is an example of a wrongful death due to reckless behavior. A driver who causes a death by texting instead of watching the road, is another example of wrongful death caused by recklessness
The wrongful death lawyers at Butler Law Firm can determine whether the circumstances of a death support a wrongful death claim. Here are some examples of the most common reasons wrongful death claims are filed in Georgia.
Car and Truck Accidents
Most wrongful death claims arise from traffic accidents. According to the Georgia Governor’s Office on Highway Safety, there were 1,430 fatal accidents on Georgia roads in 2015. According to estimates provided by the National Safety Council, the number of fatalities rose to 1,540 in 2016.
Not every car or truck accident fatality involves a wrongful death. Some drivers die in collisions with fixed objects or other vehicles as a result of their own negligence. However, when another driver’s negligent or reckless driving was more than 50% at fault for a fatal collision, the family of the deceased accident victim is entitled to pursue wrongful death compensation from that driver.
Head-on crashes and T-bone collisions are particularly likely to be fatal. Crashes that occur at high speeds and collisions involving large or heavy vehicles (such as tractor-trailers and garbage trucks) also increase the likelihood that a Georgia traffic accident will cause a fatality.
On occasion, an entity other than a careless driver might be responsible for a fatal traffic accident. For example, a city government that failed to remove tree branches hiding a stop sign could be held accountable for a death caused by a driver who could not see the stop sign.
People who do not ride motorcycles often believe that motorcyclists usually cause their own accidents. Studies show, however, that more than half of all motorcycle accidents are caused by a driver of a car or truck.
Drivers who turn in front of an oncoming motorcycle at an intersection are the most common reason for collisions between motorcycles and cars. Research shows that drivers fail to yield because they either do not see the motorcyclist or they misjudge the speed at which the motorcycle is traveling.
Motorcycle riders in Georgia must wear a helmet, but helmets do not always save the rider’s life. Head and neck injuries, as well as blood loss, can be fatal even when the motorcyclist is wearing a helmet.
Pedestrian, Scooter, and Bicycle Accidents
Head and brain injuries are the usual cause of death in fatal accidents involving pedestrians, scooter riders, and bicyclists. Those accident victims have even less protection than motorcyclists. Bicycle helmets provide scant protection in a collision with a car or truck, while pedestrians and scooter riders have nothing to cushion the blow when a collision drives them into the ground.
Drivers who are not watching the road are typically responsible for the wrongful deaths of bicycle or scooter riders and pedestrians. Drivers may be distracted by cellphone use. They may close their eyes because they are intoxicated or fatigued. Whatever the reasons might be, drivers are negligent when they fail to observe and avoid pedestrians or scooter and bicycle riders.
Shootings and Violent Crimes
Gun owners can be held accountable for failing to lock up weapons when a child finds a gun and causes a death by treating the gun as a toy. Insurance will often be available to cover the consequences of the owner’s negligence.
When guns or other weapons are used to commit violent crimes, or when a fight gets out of hand and ends with a death, insurance coverage can be more difficult to find. Criminals often go to prison, making it difficult to collect judgments against them.
A diligent lawyer will nevertheless determine whether insurance or personal assets might be available to cover a death that results from a violent crime. For example, a person who commits a murder during a robbery in a parking lot might have no assets, but the parking lot owner might be held accountable for failing to provide adequate lighting or security. Whenever a wrongful death occurs on the premises of a business, including an apartment building or parking lot, family members should ask a Georgia injury lawyer whether compensation might be available.
The deaths of an employee at work will almost always be covered by workers’ compensation death benefits. Whether the employee’s family can obtain additional compensation usually depends on if a third party’s negligence contributed to the death. For example, the family of a delivery driver who is killed in a traffic accident is usually entitled to pursue a wrongful death claim against a negligent driver who caused the accident, even if the death is covered by workers’ compensation.
Independent contractors and bystanders are not covered by workers’ compensation and are therefore free to make wrongful death claims against the business that was responsible for the death. For instance, if scaffolding at a construction site collapsed on a pedestrian who happened to be walking under the scaffolding, the construction company and/or the business that provided the scaffolding can be held responsible for the pedestrian’s wrongful death.
Deaths can be caused by the negligence of a doctor or hospital in many ways. A surgeon who makes an avoidable mistake that kills the patient during an operation, a doctor who fails to diagnose cancer while it is still treatable, an obstetrician who does not recognize fetal distress in time to save a baby’s life, and a hospital that dispenses the wrong medication to a patient may all be held accountable for a wrongful death.
The families of patients who died because of medical malpractice need representation by lawyers who are not afraid to take on the powerful medical industry. The experienced and dedicated medical malpractice lawyers at Butler Law Firm know how to find the right expert witnesses and to overcome the roadblocks that the Georgia legislature has enacted to protect doctors from the consequence of their negligence.