Without question the loss of a loved one is one of life’s most tragic experiences. When the death results from an unexpected accident, the family of the deceased must deal with the emotion of the loss and determine whether it was the result of negligence or intentional conduct. This can be a challenging process because the legal issues involved are complex. That is where we come in.
Given the opportunity, our starting point is to proceed to the scene the minute we learn of an incident. We work to obtain statements from all available witnesses to every aspect of the accident. Memories fail; recordings do not. Preserving the physical evidence as well as the eyewitness evidence is also critical.
In some serious accidents involving death or catastrophic injuries, there will be a need for expert engineering assistance relating to issues from speed, skid marks, computer data, breaking, and on and on. Given our extensive involvement in the trucking arena, we have in our directory dozens of highly specialized experts and engineers relating to accident reconstruction. We are in the enviable position of being able to bring them to bear immediately on the most complex incidents.
It is also important that all parties involved be requested to preserve all reasonably related evidence under their control so as not to run the risk of a “spoliation” issue down the road. Spoliation is where an involved party permits critical evidence to be lost or destroyed. Whether something constitutions “spoliation” is a fact-intensive examination.
Putting together a successful case for wrongful death is a challenging enterprise. Under Georgia law, there are two components to recovering for the wrongful death of an individual. First, is what is known as the economic component of the value of the life. This means that there must be presented to the jury an economic calculation of what the deceased would have been expected to earn and accumulate during his or her lifespan, among other things. This often requires the assistance of specialized economists who can make those calculations based on historical data and future economic projections.
The second component to the value of a life is the loss of the “value” of the right to live a normal life expectancy. This part of the calculation is left to the “enlightened conscience of a fair and impartial jury”. Addressing the notion of converting the value of a living human being to a dollar amount after death is an alien concept to most jurors. Only the most seasoned counsel can navigate that exercise.
Further, there are a myriad of legal issues and technicalities that have to be addressed including the probate of the will, appointment of an administrator, and accounting for the estate assets, including some components of the wrongful death claim. We work closely with our colleagues that practice estate law to ensure that our clients meet the requirements of the probate laws in Georgia.