The most common causes of wrongful death in Atlanta are motor vehicle or truck accidents, followed by premises liability. Premises liability can cover on-the-job accidents, explosions at a plant or factory, criminal actors on a premises, or failures of premises owners to provide a safe environment.
However, there is a wide variety of causes of wrongful death. Anytime there is a death that results from the negligence of an individual or a company, a loved one could file a claim. With the help of an established wrongful death attorney, there may be a basis for someone to obtain damages in Atlanta wrongful death actions.
What are Wrongful Death Damages?
Wrongful death cases are broken down into liability, causation, and damages. Damages in Atlanta wrongful death actions include economic losses such as lost wages, medical expenses, and funeral expenses. Damages also include non-economic losses which often far exceed the economic damages.
Non-economic damages are losses a person cannot necessarily put a price tag on such as pain and suffering, loss of experiences, and loss of consortium. Damages are comprised of a variety of general categories, but a lawyer must analyze each case closely to determine what the specific damages exist in a case and more importantly and what damages give the case the most value in front of the jury.
Parties that Can Recover Damages
A spouse who survives the decedent will usually bring the wrongful death claim. The spouse has the authority to file and pursue the wrongful death claim, but if the decedent has children, they must share the proceeds of the claim. However, in any scenario, the spouse is guaranteed at least a third of the settlement.
If there is no surviving spouse, but there are surviving children, then the children hold the claim. If there is no surviving spouse or surviving children, the parents of the decedent can pursue the claim or a representative of the estate can be appointed to pursue the wrongful death claim.
Defining Possible Economic Damages in Atlanta Wrongful Death Actions
The role economic damages play in a wrongful death action is very case-specific and the estate may not choose to pursue them. In a wrongful death claim, the individual generally does not have significant medical expenses. Further, if the decedent did not have a steady job when living, the case would also not have significant future lost wages, which is another key component of economic losses. However, if the individual incurred significant medical expenses prior to death and/or had a steady pattern of wages to establish the lost wages because of their death, a lawyer could present those economic damages to the jury as a loss of actual economic earnings. It is case specific and a person does not need to have economic damages for a wrongful death to have tremendous value.
Can Someone Seek Damages for their Grief?
Grief factors into non-economic recoverable damages in Atlanta wrongful death actions. The jury must analyze these aspects from the perspective of the decedent. While their loved ones may experience significant grief because of their loss, that is not the compensable injury. If the decedent experienced some grief, shock, or conscious pain and suffering, that is compensable. However, the potential value and how an attorney will present it to a jury is case-specific.
Damages and Compensation for Loss
The jury must also analyze loss of love and affection in a wrongful death case from the perspective of the decedent. Attorneys will discuss the significant value of the decedent’s loss of the ability to love and have affection for their spouse or children with the jury. Attorneys will seek significant monetary awards for those aspects of life that are important to people but that they may take for granted such as being there for their child, seeing their child graduate, or having grandchildren. However, a surviving loved one, other than a spouse, is not able to pursue a compensable claim due to the loss of the love and affection they suffered.
Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium is the more general term used to define the claim a surviving spouse may bring that focuses on their losses. It does not focus on the fact that they lost someone who was earning a certain sum of money but rather on the more intangible elements of the loss. They lost their partner, an individual who helped around the house, helped raise the kids, and who they relied on for love and affection and they may be able to recover damages that reflect those losses.
Difference from Other Personal Injury Cases
The main difference between wrongful death and other injury cases is damages. A wrongful death case is a lot different than a typical injury case because the real value of the case is the life that was lost. Georgia law considers the full value of life from the perspective of the person who died.
Many of these losses are difficult to place an economic value on as they are invaluable. For example, these losses include experiences a person will miss such as the ability to have a family, pursue a career, or get married. Many of the damages a jury must consider are non-economic losses that are difficult to translate into dollar amounts. It can be critical to discuss possible damages in Atlanta wrongful death actions with an attorney right away.