Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

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When someone dies as a result of injuries that were caused by the negligence of another, the reckless misconduct of another, or the intentional criminal acts of another, the surviving family members are able to file a claim for wrongful death against the party responsible. With the help of a skilled Atlanta wrongful death lawyer, justice can be sought for your dearly departed loved one.

Wrongful death claims arise in a number of different contexts, including:

  • Automobile accidents.

bus-accident
The Atlanta Journal Constitution website reported that metro Atlanta school buses have been involved in more than 700 accidents since July 1, 2016, according to the Georgia Department of Education. That’s equivalent to four accidents a day. Record indicate that 302 students and drivers were injured in Georgia bus crashes this year through November.

Recently, the national news featured reports on a crash in Chattanooga, Tenn., where six Chattanooga elementary school children were killed when a school bus driver lost control of the bus. The driver, who reportedly was driving above the speed limit, was charged vehicular homicide. The family of one of the students killed has filed a lawsuit claiming wrongful death against the bus service, manufacturer, and driver.

Thousands of students ride school buses every day. School transportation vehicles have long been considered insufficient in safety features, such as seat belts for the students. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued statistics demonstrating that from 2005-through 2014, nationally there were 1,191 school-transportation-related accidents. 1,332 people killed—an average of 133 fatalities a year. Passengers on school transportation vehicles accounted for 8 percent of the fatalities, and pedestrians, bicyclists, etc., accounted for 21 percent of the fatalities.

In Georgia a wrongful death is caused by the reckless or intentional negligent conduct of a person or company. When someone dies as a result of another person’s negligence, that family of the deceased can file an action in court claiming wrongful death and asking for damages. Wrongful death claims may not only be made against persons but also organizations, such as a business.

A wrongful death may be caused by many factors, such as:

  • Medical malpractice
  • Defective products
  • Crime, such as homicide or manslaughter
  • Drunk driving or drug-related accident
  • Elder abuse
  • Work-related accident
  • Auto, truck, or other vehicle-related accident, including pedestrians, airplanes, boats, and bicycles

When someone dies is a loss suffered by many who knew the deceased, but not just anyone can sue for wrongful death. Someone interested in filing legal action must have what is called standing to sue. Georgia law states that in wrongful death claims, recovery is limited specifically to surviving family members; which means only surviving family members have the right to sue.

Wrongful death may claimed by three different persons or groups:

  1. Surviving spouse or children
  2. Parents
  3. Decedent’s personal estate representative

In this table we indicate which members of the family may sue after the death of certain persons.

Relationship to the decedent Who can sue
Wife or husband Surviving spouse
Mother or father Surviving children, if there is not a surviving spouse
Sister or brother Only permitted to sue via estate
Child Surviving parents, if there is not a surviving spouse; or if the child died as the result of homicide
Grandparent Not permitted to sue

A brother or sister of the decedent who has no surviving spouse or children or parents can bring a claim, but it must be brought by the representative of the decedent’s estate.

An estate claim

A decedent’s representative can file a wrongful death claim for the benefit of the next of kin, which could be a sibling or a parent. administrator or executor of the decedent may bring an action for and may recover and hold the amount recovered for the benefit of the next of kin. The amount recovered will be the full value of the life of the decedent.

When the death resulted from a crime or criminal or other negligence, the representative can recover for all expenses associated with the injury and death of the deceased. This includes medical expenses, funeral expenses and any other out of pocket expenses necessitated by the injury and death. The estate may also claim for the pain and suffering the deceased experienced when he or she was injured directly before death.

The Angell Law Firm is experts in personal injury law, the only kind of case the firm handles. If you have lost a loved due to someone else’s negligence or commission of a crime such as homicide, call (770) 217-4954 today for a free consultation with an Angell attorney, who will advise you on your qualification to sue for wrongful death or assist you in directing the estate representative to file a legal action on your behalf. The Angell Law Firm is located in Atlanta and serves Chatham County, including Savannah; Clarke County including Athens; Cobb County, including Marietta; DeKalb County, including Decatur and Stone Mountain; Fulton County, including Atlanta, College Park, and Roswell; Gwinnett County including Buford, Lawrenceville, and Norcross; and Oconee County, including Watkinsville.

 

When a case goes to trial for personal injury in Georgia, the jury may be required to make several complicated determinations.  A jury may be asked to weigh if the injured or deceased party was less than 50% negligent, and if the injured was comparatively negligent, how much damage to award the injured or deceased party with the percentage of comparative liability removed.  A federal opinion from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal reviewed a jury’s award and District Court judge’s judgment as a matter of law in favor of the defendants.  The jury found the deceased to be 99% negligent and awarded no damages.  The judge also granted a Judgment as a Matter of Law in favor of the defendants, asserting the estate of the deceased did not present a case with legally sufficient evidence where a reasonable jury could find for him on a material element of causation.  The Court of Appeals reversed on all issues and remanded the case for a new trial.

In this case the gentleman died as a result of his injuries from an apparent fall off of rocky promontory named “the Point”.  The deceased was staying on privately owned land as part of his membership of a private golf club.  He was taking pictures of the sunset with his friends at a location near the Point, and went off alone.  When it was discovered he was missing two to ten minutes later, a search was conducted, but ultimately unsuccessful.  His body was found the next day in the water two and a half miles from the Club.  His cause of death was listed as “polytrauma with intracranial hemorrhage and fracture of ribs/injury upper and lower extremities”.  His estate brought suit, alleging that the defendants were negligent by failing to maintain the property near the Point, failing to provide adequate warnings about the dangerous conditions of the Point, and failing to keep guests and residents from accessing the Point.  It was not disputed that while the Point was not property of the Club, it was only accessible through Club property.

sailing trailThe deceased had a urine alcohol concentration of .22, which is a different measurement than blood alcohol concentration.  The deceased’s estate presented their case, including damages of lost wages and loss of support to his children.  The jury struggled and sent notes to the judge, first indicating they could not come to a 100% agreement, and then asking if an award to the plaintiff’s estate of $0.00 was possible with a finding of negligence.  After the verdict, the deceased’s estate filed for a new trial, arguing the verdict was an impermissible compromise, the toxicology report should not have been included in the evidence, and that there was an issue with the jury instruction discussing the deceased’s status as an invitee. Continue reading