wrongful death

Are you dealing with the pain of losing a loved one and wondering if you might have a wrongful death claim? At Bayuk Pratt, we understand how difficult this time must be for you and are here to stand up for your rights. We can manage all the legal details of your wrongful death lawsuit while you take the time you need to grieve your loss.

When you’re ready, we encourage you to reach out to us for a free initial consultation with an Atlanta wrongful death attorney. We are here to listen to your story, answer your questions, and explain what we can do to demand the accountability and compensation you deserve.

How a Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help You

If you know or suspect you have a wrongful death claim, a wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta can pursue maximum compensation for your loss by:

  • Investigating the circumstances of your loved one’s death
  • Gathering evidence to support your claim
  • Identifying all potential sources of compensation
  • Calculating the full value of your claim
  • Filing your wrongful death claim within relevant legal deadlines
  • Securing expert testimony to strengthen your case
  • Communicating with insurance companies on your behalf
  • Negotiating with the at-fault party’s lawyers or insurance adjusters
  • Protecting you from aggressive tactics by the at-fault party’s insurers
  • Advising you on accepting settlement offers
  • Preparing and presenting a strong case at trial if necessary
  • Challenging any attempts to undervalue or deny your claim

When you go with Bayuk Pratt, you have a law firm that provides a distinct advantage to clients. Frank Bayuk and Bradley Pratt, who founded our law practice, served as senior partners for two of the country’s largest insurance defense firms. They know the tactics insurers use when fighting injury claims — because they used to help them do it. Frank and Bradley leverage this legal savvy to help surviving families of fatal accident victims stand up to insurance companies.

What Compensation Is Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Claim?

The compensation from a wrongful death claim is meant to cover the “full value of the life” of the person who died. Courts calculate this value by looking at the deceased person’s earnings as well as less tangible contributions, like their companionship and guidance. This means you could recover compensation for the following from a Georgia wrongful death lawsuit:

  • Lost Wages and Benefits – This includes the money the deceased would have earned if they had not died. Courts look at the deceased’s income at the time of death and estimate future raises, promotions, and retirement benefits they could have received.
  • Lost Care and Services – Survivors can also recover compensation for the intangible value of the services the deceased provided. These include things like childcare, home maintenance, and other daily tasks that family members must now take time or hire someone else to do.
  • Medical and Funeral Expenses – This includes costs related to the deceased’s final illness or injury, such as expenses from hospital stays, treatments, and funeral services.

In rare cases, survivors can also recover punitive damages from wrongful death claims. Punitive damages are a special kind of monetary award that courts sometimes order liable parties to pay. However, the purpose of punitive damages is not to compensate the family for their loss. Instead, the goal is to punish the person or organization that caused the death for intentional or egregious wrongdoing. Punitive damages provide extra money on top of any other compensation the family receives.

How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out?

When a wrongful death happens in Georgia, only certain parties have the right to receive compensation. Potential wrongful death beneficiaries in Georgia are as follows:

  • Spouses – If the person who died was married, their husband or wife is the first person who can demand compensation. If the claim is successful, the law says that at least one-third of the money must go to the surviving spouse, no matter how many children the deceased had.
  • Children – The law treats all children equally in wrongful death claims, meaning they divide the compensation evenly whether they are minors or adults.
  • Parents – If the deceased has no living spouse or child, their parents can seek compensation.
  • Other Family Members – In situations where there are no immediate family members (spouse, children, or parents), the personal representative of the deceased’s estate can file the lawsuit. Any money they recover goes to the deceased’s next of kin, which might include siblings, grandparents, or other relatives.

Once your wrongful death settlement is secured, either the insurance carrier or the at-fault party themselves will provide the funds to your lawyer. After your attorney deducts their legal fees, they will pass your compensation off to you.

There are two ways a settlement can be distributed to beneficiaries: as a single lump-sum payment or as a series of structured payments that you and/or other beneficiaries will receive over time. You will not be responsible for paying taxes on your award, as the money you receive in a wrongful death claim is compensatory.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Georgia?

The Georgia wrongful death statute clearly outlines who can file a wrongful death claim when someone dies because of another’s actions. Here’s a straightforward explanation of the law’s key points:

  • Primary Right to File – The surviving spouse of the deceased has the first right to file a wrongful death claim. This means if the person who died was married, their husband or wife has priority when it comes to seeking compensation for the loss.
  • If There Is No Spouse – If the deceased did not leave behind a spouse, then the right to file a claim goes to their children. This is true whether the children are minors or adults. Minor children can have legal guardians file wrongful death claims on their behalf.
  • If a Surviving Spouse Dies During a Claim – If a surviving spouse starts a wrongful death claim but dies before resolving it, the right to file a claim doesn’t just disappear. Instead, the children of the deceased can take over the claim.
  • If a Child Dies During a Claim – Similarly, if a child who brings a wrongful death claim dies before it’s resolved, their surviving siblings can continue with the claim.
  • If a Child Dies with No Spouse or Children of Their Own – In cases where there’s neither a surviving spouse nor any children, the parents of the deceased can file the claim. If the parents are together (not divorced or separated), they can file the claim jointly. If one parent has passed away, the living parent can file the claim. If the parents are divorced, separated, or living apart, both have the right to file a claim. However, if one parent doesn’t want to or cannot be found in such circumstances, the other parent can proceed with the claim on behalf of both parents.
  • If an Unborn Child Dies – Georgia law recognizes the right to file a claim for the wrongful death of an unborn child, starting from the point where a detectable heartbeat exists.
  • If No Immediate Family Exists – If the deceased doesn’t leave behind a spouse, child, or parent, the executor or administrator of their estate can file a claim. Any compensation from such a claim goes to the deceased’s next of kin, which might include siblings, cousins, or other relatives.
  • Children Born Out of Wedlock – In Georgia, the same rights apply to children born outside of marriage as to those born to married parents. This is true for filing claims regarding the wrongful death of a parent and in cases where the child is the deceased.
  • Protection from Debts – Georgia law explicitly states that wrongful death compensation is protected. This means it cannot be taken to pay off any of the deceased’s debts or liabilities.