Whether in a fatal motor vehicle accident, related traffic fatality, or other catastrophic accident, the loss of a loved one is a tragic, heartbreaking event. No amount of money can ever replace a parent, spouse, or child lost in a fatal accident. However, when someone dies due to the fault of another, the surviving family members have the right to be compensated for their financial losses in a wrongful death lawsuit. Available damages in a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of future earnings
- Loss of support, love, affection and guidance
Because the deceased family member is not available to bring a case against the person responsible for the loss, their estate is often authorized by wrongful death law to do so on his or her behalf. An executor or administrator, who may be a spouse, child, parent, or other relative, represents the estate.
Wrongful Death — An Overview
A “wrongful death” occurs when a person is killed due to the negligence or misconduct of another individual, company or entity. Every state has a civil “wrongful death statute,” or set of statutes, which establish the procedures for bringing wrongful death actions. An action for wrongful death belongs to certain persons identified by statute. In Georgia, such persons will include the decedent’s immediate family members, such as surviving spouses and children, and sometimes parents or siblings. An attorney experienced in wrongful death law, can explain all of the intricacies of these lawsuits and help achieve the best possible outcome for survivors.
The Physician-Patient Privilege in Wrongful Death Actions
In wrongful death actions, the issue of the physician-patient privilege, which protects the privacy of a decedent’s medical records, often arises. The general rule is that unless the patient/decedent waives the privilege, a physician is not allowed to disclose any information acquired in attending to the patient in a professional capacity.
Wrongful Deaths Involving Children and the Elderly
Setting a price on human life is not an easy task, but it is one that courts and juries are required to do in wrongful death actions. Because the primary measure of damages in a wrongful death action is financial loss, the death of a child brings up difficulties in arriving at an adequate damage award. When an adult dies, the financial loss to the family is easily calculated. For example, when a parent dies, a child may seek damages for loss of the parent’s care, income, nurturing, and guidance. When a child dies, the parents’ recovery is limited to their financial loss, which is usually smaller.
Statutes of Limitations
All civil actions, including wrongful death actions, have time limits as to when they must be filed. These time limits, or “limitations periods,” are contained in laws called “statutes of limitations.” If you do not file your action before the expiration of the applicable limitations period, in most cases, you permanently waive your rights to recover damages in a cause of action.
If you have lost a loved one due to others’ negligence, you have the right to seek compensation, and the time to act is NOW.
The attorneys at McAleer Law Firm are experienced in handling wrongful death cases, and are ready to help. Call an attorney now at 404.MCALEER.