The attorneys at Bell & Brigham represent families in Augusta, Georgia and throughout the surrounding communities, including in South Carolina, who have suffered the loss of a loved one in a motor vehicle accident, workplace accident, or because of a defective product.
Known as a wrongful death suit, these types of cases arise when a person dies because of another’s negligence or wrongdoing. These are different from personal injury cases, where the injured person sues on his or her own behalf to recover for the damages and suffering they have personally endured. In a wrongful death action, the victim’s family members or personal representatives are the ones bringing the lawsuit to recover for the losses they have sustained as a result of the loved one’s death.
At Bell & Brigham, we have a wealth of experience handling wrongful death cases, and a track record of helping clients obtain the maximum recovery possible. Our results include numerous verdicts and settlements in a variety of wrongful death cases, including ones based on motor vehicle accidents, workplace injuries, slip and fall and other premises liability accidents, and cases involving defective products.
Who Can Bring Wrongful Death Claims
Georgia – According to Georgia law (OCGA 51-4-2), a person’s surviving spouse may file the lawsuit. If the decedent has no spouse, his or her children can bring a wrongful death claim. If, however, there is no surviving spouse or children, the administrator or executor of the decedent’s estate may bring a wrongful death lawsuit for the benefit of the next of kin (OCGA 51-4-5).
South Carolina – South Carolina’s wrongful death act allows a spouse or children, and if there is neither, the parents of the deceased to file a wrongful death claim. If there is no surviving spouse, children, or parents, the person’s heirs may file the suit.
Georgia – Georgia’s allows recovery for “the full value of the life of the decedent without deducting for any of the necessary or personal expenses of the decedent had he lived” (OCGA 51-4-1). This generally includes recovery for:
- Funeral expenses, medical bills, and other direct expenses
- Loss of future earnings of the decedent, including financial benefits, equal to the amount the decedent would have earned during his or her lifetime
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of household services and financial support
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damages, in certain cases where the defendant’s actions were particularly egregious or negligent
South Carolina – The South Carolina Supreme Court (Ballard v. Ballard, 443 S.E.2d 802 (1994)) has defined available damages in a wrongful death suit as including “the damages resulting from the death of the decedent, including pecuniary loss, mental shock and suffering, wounded feelings, grief, sorrow, and loss of society and companionship.” This allows recovery for the same types of damages that are available in Georgia.
Damages the deceased personally experienced before passing away are recoverable under a separate lawsuit, known as a “survival action” (see Georgia OCGA 9-2-41; South Carolina), which is simply the personal injury claim the decedent would have been able to file had he or she survived. An attorney can file a survival action on your behalf, generally at the same time as the wrongful death claim.
How Damages are Calculated
Some wrongful death damages are easier to calculate than others. Direct economic expenses, such as medical bills and funeral costs, are easy to estimate. Other damages, such as the appropriate recovery amount for lost lifetime earnings or loss of companionship, are more abstract and difficult to evaluate accurately. Calculating these damages is a complex process involving multiple factors, such as:
- The nature of your relationship to the decedent;
- How dependent you were on the decedent;
- Your loved one’s anticipated lifespan;
- The anticipated earnings and employment benefits of the decedent; and
- Whether the decedent contributed to the accident at all.
To ensure that we can pursue the maximum damages to which you are entitled, we consult with financial experts, experts familiar with the decedent’s professional field, and other experts who can assist us with accurately calculating the full extent of the damages in your case.
Length of Time to File
Like personal injury lawsuits, wrongful death claims must be filed within the applicable statute of limitations, which refers to the amount of time you have in which to file the lawsuit. In Georgia, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of death (OCGA 9-3-33), while South Carolina allows you three years to file. In certain cases, there may additional time limits, making it important that you contact us as soon as possible so that we can begin investigating your case, gathering evidence, and ensuring we meet all relevant deadlines.
Consult Experienced Attorneys
An initial settlement offer made by an insurance company is unlikely to fully compensate you for the damages you have suffered as a result of your loved one’s death. We have a proven record of success recovering for our clients, and work tirelessly to help you and your family through this difficult time. Our goal is to help you avoid worrying about the financial impact of your loss so that you can begin healing. If you have lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident, workplace accident, or because of a defective product, contact the experienced attorneys at Bell & Brigham today or call us at (800) 763-2063 to schedule a free initial consultation.
|BELL & BRIGHAM
ATTORNEYS AT LAW
|457 Greene Street (30901)
P.O. Box 1547, Augusta, GA
Toll Free: 800-763-2063