Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyer

A wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta, GA from The Krause Law Firm represents businesses in business disputes. Originally, attorney Roger Krause was trained to defend insurance companies, but now, the Krause Law Firm sues the insurance companies for failure to pay its insurance claims. Operating a business takes guts. Business owners buy commercial insurance to protect them from harm that is out of their control. Most business insurance or commercial insurance policies cover three fundamental issues:

  1. Liability protection against claims from third parties for injuries
  2. Damage to business property, including fire and water protection
  3. Business interruption

Please continue reading for information about insurance claims and disputes.

Wrongful Death Lawyers

The Marketing – Claims Adjudication Paradox: They Want to Sell Policies, Not Pay Claims

Insurance companies are in the business of making money. Insurance companies are wildly successful at making money, for they are some of the most profitable companies in the world.

To sell a product – insurance contracts or “policies,” insurance companies spend billions of dollars on promoting insurance as a method of protecting against all losses. Insurance companies are marketing masters because insurance is a difficult “product” to sell. Insurance is not a consumer good, such as a computer or orange juice. Nor is it a service, like teeth cleaning, window washing, or car repair.

Instead, insurance is an intangible product – a promise that the insurance company will pay if bad things occur. The insurance company fails to explain in its cute ads that the promise is very specific. The insurance company will pay only for specific types of losses – not all losses. Only specific persons can recover, and the claim must be made in a particular fashion. Finally, they will pay a limited amount – and not the actual loss.

This is why insurance companies employ huge marketing departments, advertise continually, and create fun and interesting commercials. They are selling very sophisticated and complex products, and packaging those products may reduce your average level of skepticism. For example, the insurance company does not sell contracts; they sell “policies.”

This is a great deception. The companies advertise broad coverage – akin to a warm security blanket – yet in truth – the blanket has many holes. You only learn of these holes at the time that you make a claim, during the so-called “claims adjudication process.” (Read: how to exclude your claim.)

As one Court of Appeals described the marketing-adjudication paradox: “It seems that insurers generally are attempting to convince the customer when selling the policy that everything is covered and convince the court when a claim is made that nothing is covered.” Universal Underwriters Insurance Co. v. Travelers Insurance Co., 451 S.W.2d 616, 622-623.

Who Pays the Settlement In a Wrongful Death Case

When you work with a skilled wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta, GA, you are highly likely to receive a settlement letter for a case fairly won. People who choose to hire a wrongful death lawyer often have a higher settlement amount than those who do not. We will help you determine if you have a valid case so that you can take the steps to recover compensation you may be entitled to. Since your loved one passed away in an accident or as a result of someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to every dollar of that settlement money. However, you may be wondering: Where exactly does the money come from? Who pays up in the event of a wrongful death settlement. As a Krause Law Firm attorney may explain, there are various ways in which a wrongful death settlement may be funded.

Paid By Insurance

That said, your wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta, GA may have to walk you through what happens if the defendant is uninsured.These types of cases are fairly common. In a case where the defendant lacks insurance, he or she will be ordered to pay the settlement by themselves. However, they can be trickier to handle compared to cases where the defendant does have insurance.

In cases like this, funds are usually very limited. Defendants tend to appeal the judgment by demonstrating financial hardship and an inability to pay the full settlement. And it might not have sufficient money to pay for the settlement out of their own pocket because of a lack of income or funds.If this happens, your Krause Law Firm attorney can fight for every penny of your awarded settlement. You are likely to receive the full sum as a structured settlement instead of as an upfront lump sum.

Paid By Defendant

That said, your wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta, GA may have to walk you through what happens if the defendant is uninsured. In a case where the defendant lacks insurance, he or she will be ordered to pay the settlement by themselves.

In cases like this, funds are usually very limited. Defendants tend to appeal the judgment by demonstrating financial hardship and an inability to pay the full settlement. If this happens, your Krause Law Firm attorney can fight for every penny of your awarded settlement. You are likely to receive the full sum as a structured settlement instead of as an upfront lump sum.

Blended Settlement

There are instances in which a defendant may still need to pay out of pocket even if he or she is insured. If your wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta, GA fights for your right to the maximum settlement amount under your circumstance, this amount may exceed the defendant’s insurance coverage. For instance, you may win a 250 thousand dollar settlement, but your defendant’s coverage only goes up to 200 thousand. You will not be denied the full sum if you are working with an attorney at Krause Law Firm. With your lawyer’s compelling arguments, you may still receive the full 250 thousand dollar sum, but the defendant will have to pay the outstanding 50 thousand dollars that their insurance policy will not cover. 

Five Misconceptions About Wrongful Death Lawsuits

I Can’t File a Wrongful Death Claim Because the Death Was an Accident

It may have been just an accident, but that doesn’t mean it’s not cause for a wrongful death claim.There are certain criteria a case must meet for it to qualify as a wrongful death case, and a lawyer can help you determine if wrongful acts led to the death. A wrongful death is when a loved one dies because of someone else’s negligence, recklessness or lawful act. A wrongful death doesn’t just carry emotional weight with it; there is a very real financial burden that may arise. If you recently lost a loved one in an accident, reach out to a wrongful death lawyer so that they can conduct an investigation to find out how your loved one died. A wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta, GA, can help you sort out whether you have cause for a wrongful death lawsuit.

I Don’t Have the Money to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Some people who have lost loved ones in an accident are reluctant to seek help from a lawyer because they don’t have enough money. However, many lawyers do not demand money from clients right away. Standard practice in the industry is to give you a free initial consultation to determine whether you have a case or not, and then to work on a contingent basis. That means that when you win your case, your wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta, GA, will take an agreed-upon percentage of your payout. If you work with a lawyer who operates through this setup, you do not have to worry about the expenses that come with filing a claim. This allows you to focus on your case without the added stress caused by financial concerns.

A Wrongful Death Claim Means Someone’s Going to Jail

Another common misconception about wrongful death claims is that at its conclusion, an individual will be sent to prison. This is not always the case, and only occurs in specific circumstances. The only time a wrongful death claim means someone’s going to jail is if you file a police report claiming your loved one was intentionally or accidentally murdered. There are a variety of statutes under which you could file these charges, including homicide, aggravated homicide, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. Your Krause Law Firm wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta, GA, can guide you in leveling a police report against someone.

Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Is Greedy

One reason that families of a deceased loved one choose not to file is because they don’t want to be viewed as greedy. Any time it feels greedy to file a wrongful death lawsuit, think about what you’ve lost. It’s not just a spouse or parent you’ve lost. It’s also a source of income, love, support and household services that’s now gone from your life. A lawsuit is also a means to finding closure after your loved one’s death. When you are choosing to pursue a wrongful death claim, you are not making the decision out of greed, but you are doing it out of love for your loved one and the duty to hold the negligent parties accountable.

I’m Going To Think About Filing a Lawsuit, but There’s No Rush

There’s a statute of limitations — the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit — in every state regarding wrongful death cases. It’s different from state to state; in Georgia, it’s usually two years from the day your loved one passed away. If a government entity is involved, you could have just six months to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If the injury that claimed the life of your loved one happened while a crime was being committed, you may have two years after the criminal trial is completed. Your Krause Law Firm wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta, GA, can help you sort out the timeline in your particular case.

Three Strategies Insurance Companies Use to Avoid Paying Claims

Insurance companies rely on three general strategies to avoid paying claims entirely or to pay less than what is truly lost. This is the “claims adjudication” process, in which the insurance company uses its contract to exclude or eliminate coverage. They may try to argue that your injuries or situation are not covered under their insurance policy. Your lawyer will do his or her best to make sure you are not ripped off if you decide to settle outside of court. Wrongful death lawyers are incredibly experienced in being able to spot these tricks to make sure you do not miss out on compensation.

Insurance Companies Write the Contracts to Exclude Coverage

Insurance contracts are drafted to cover only specific events and exclude all others. For example, one purchases a property insurance policy, expecting to receive coverage for any losses to their property, regardless of whether the property is an individual home or a warehouse. After a severe rainstorm, you learn that the policy may or may not cover the property’s loss, the insurance company arguing that the damage was due to grown water. Coverage disputes arise when the insurance companies inappropriately interpret the terms of the policy to exclude coverage. 

When refuting the insurance company’s arguments, a claimant must show why those exceptions and exclusions should be read for the policyholder’s benefit, not for the insurance company’s use. (This is, technically, not the policyholder’s legal obligation; instead, it is for the insurer to deny coverage. Yet, the practicalities require that the policyholder is forced to carry this burden). As one Court of Appeals observed: “Ambiguity and incomprehensibility seem to be the favorite tools of the insurance trade in drafting policies. Most are a virtually impenetrable thicket of incomprehensible verbosity…. The miracle of it all is that the English language can be subjected to such abuse and still remain an instrument of communication.” Universal Underwriters Insurance Co. v. Travelers Insurance Co., 451 S.W.2d 616, 622-623, (1970).

Insurance Companies Pay Less than Your True Loss

The second way that insurance companies limit their risk is to pay less than the actual loss. This is accomplished in many different approaches. One way the insurance company achieves this goal is by having specified limits within the contract. For example, if a business loses $3 million worth of inventory due to fire, but the limit is specified at $2 million, coverage will only be issued for the $2 million. 

Sometimes the insurance company applies a co-insurance penalty, stating that you should have had more insurance. Since you did not have sufficient insurance, they will penalize you by an additional 25%, and now, the $2 million loss is reduced to just $1.5 million—another way for an insurance company to pay for a loss than the actual loss. In a business setting, lost or stolen inventory is often replaced at cost. As such, no compensation is given for lost profit or even the associated carrying or financing costs. Even when the insurance allows for actual replacement cost, rarely does one truly recover all their expenses.

Recovery and Claims Must Comply with All the Contract Provision

The third way insurance companies limit their risk is by requiring that the claim be made in a particular fashion. For example, the claim must be made in a timely manner. The general rule in Georgia is that written contracts have a four-year statute of limitation, meaning, if there is a breach of the terms of a written agreement, one must file suit within four years. 

However, these insurance contracts have a significantly shorter time period and require suit as soon as one to two years, from when the period the loss was known or should have been known. The insurance companies further engage in gamesmanship because the adjuster may be “adjudicating” the claim while the time period to file suit expires. Likewise, the person claiming the insurance must be the named beneficiary, regardless of whether or not they paid for the policy. If the beneficiary is not properly identified, folks may not be properly protected. 

Finally, under the terms of the insurance contract, you are obligated to assist the insurance company in its investigation. In other words, you must continually provide the insurance company with information and documents. The adjustors often request documentation that you do not have and will hold up the claims process waiting for an unavailable document to appear. The failure to continue to engage with the insurance company may be grounds for the insurance company to deny your claim.

Those are the most common strategies insurance companies use to avoid paying policyholders. However, insurance companies will formulate many other deceptive strategies and tactics if it means maximizing company profits.

Is there favorable law business, or does the law only support insurance companies

There is some favorable law.

One of the most important is the Supreme Court of Georgia ruling that insurance contracts must be construed from a lay person’s perspective, not an insurance adjuster. York Ins. Co. v. Williams Seafood of Albany, Inc., 273 Ga. 710, 712 (2001). The Georgia Court of Appeals has stated that insurance contracts are to be read to favor rather than exclude coverage. “[W]here a provision in a policy is susceptible to two or more constructions, the courts will adopt that construction which is most favorable to the insured.” Ace American Ins. v. Truitt Bros, 288 Ga. App. 806, 808 (2007). Combined, these cases and other favorable case laws allow plaintiffs to win in an adequately prepared litigation battle.

At the same time, there have been some interpretations that ignore the general rules. In 2010, the Georgia Supreme Court addressed the question of what the term “accident” means in an automobile case. In State Farm v. Matty, a car hit two people, severely injuring each. The first person was hit, and two seconds later, the second person was hit. The driver had insurance of $100,000 of coverage per accident. The term accident was undefined in the policy. 

The question, therefore, was whether there were two accidents or one. In other words, could each injured person recover $100,000, or would the plaintiffs have to share the $100K? The Georgia Supreme Court determined that even though the term was undefined, the term accident had to mean both collisions, and thus payment was capped at $100K. However, note that the dissent, led by Justice Benham, Chief Justice Hunstein, and Presiding Justice Carley, argued that since the term was arguably ambiguous, the term should have been construed against the Defendant insurance company. See our Blog on the Matty Case.

Can you sue for punitive damages or mental distress

As a general rule, claims for punitive damages or mental stress are generally prohibited. Of course, there is an exception to every rule, but we will address that very narrow exception later. For almost all claims, a Georgia plaintiff suing their insurance company can only recover bad faith damages.

What are the bad faith damages? For most types of Georgia policies, the damages for bad faith are limited to the following: (i) the amount of the loss, (ii) additional damages of $5,000.00 or 50% of the liability, whichever is greater, and (iii) all reasonable attorney’s fees for the prosecution of the action against the insurer. O.C.G.A. §33-4-6 (a).

What is bad faith? The answer is unclear, for the term is not defined in statutory law and is only loosely defined in case law. However, bad faith can include:

  • The unreasonable denial of a claim.
  • A failure to promptly and thoroughly investigate a claim.
  • Unreasonable delays in paying a claim.
  • An improper or overly narrow interpretation of the policy underlying a claim.

Moreover, just as with all insurance, you must properly notify the insurance company of potential bad faith claims. Under most statutory schemes, this is limited to providing notice of the claim 60 days before filing the suit and providing such notice to the proper address by way of certified mail. Failure to do so could result in the loss of the bad faith claim.

Unfortunately, winning bad faith claims is difficult in this context, and Georgia law is stacked against businesses. This is because merely demonstrating the insurance company was wrong does not mean that there was bad faith. Progressive Amer. Ins. v. Horde, 577 S.E.2d 835 (2003). Many Georgia courts have held that there is no bad faith so long as the insurer has a reasonable and probable cause for refusing to pay a claim. The insurance companies thus “create” such issues, for example, by paying some money on a loss but not paying all the monies due because the total amount due is in dispute. 

This burden-shifting is different in Georgia than in many other states, such as Florida. If an insured wins on the underlying matter, they most often recover at least their attorney fees. See generally, State Farm Florida Insurance Company v. Seville Place Condominium Association, Inc., ____ So.3d ____ (Fla. 3rd DCA October 14, 2009). Given these limitations, Georgia’s bad faith damages are considered weak for plaintiffs and favorable for insurance companies.

What if a wrongful death happens at work

Wrongful death cases that occur at work should still be filed through a wrongful death lawyer. A wrongful death lawyer has experience handling cases that involve deaths that occur in the workplace. The lawyers at The Krause Law Firm are incredibly experienced in this field and will know how to move forward with seeking damages in a case like this. We may decide to file a suit against both an individual and the workplace, depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident. We will work tirelessly to hold the responsible parties accountable. You deserve to be compensated for the early passing of your loved one. We know there is no amount of money you could get to make you feel better, but you should not have to struggle financially moving forward. We will do our best to help you feel financially secure, even after the passing of your loved one. 

The Ways Wrongful Death Can Happen

Wrongful death is defined as the death of a person that results from negligent or wrongful acts of another person. It does not matter whether or not the wrongful acts were deliberate or not. Furthermore, wrongful death falls within the gray area of law that sets is aside from manslaughter and murder. To be liable, it has to be shown that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased person. And, they must have breached this duty of care by failing to act with reasonable care. This breach must have then directly caused the injuries that led to death.  You need strong evidence to show that all of these elements are present to file a wrongful death claim. If you recently lost a loved one and believe that you may have a wrongful death case, contact a lawyer right away so that they can evaluate your situation.

Here are just a few examples of accidents that may warrant filing a wrongful death lawsuit:

Vehicle Collisions

Each year, hundreds of thousands of lives are lost because of car accidents, and numerous more have a long road of recovery ahead. After an accident, victims and their families may struggle to pay for medical bills and other expenses that were consequences of the accident happening. Vehicle collisions are often the result of:

  • Defects of an auto part
  • Speeding
  • Drunk driving
  • Reckless driving
  • Hazards in the road
  • Construction activity
  • Distracted driving
  • Reckless driving

Truck Accidents

Truck accidents are different due to the size and weight of the vehicle. In fact, trucks can weigh upwards of almost a hundred thousand pounds. So it’s no wonder that these accidents are unlike others, since the smaller vehicle is likely to absorb the most force from impact. Influencing factors of semi-truck accidents include: 

  • Driving with too heavy a load
  • Mechanical/engine defects
  • Driver negligence or error
  • Aggressive driving
  • Drunk driving
  • Fatigued driving
  • Failure to maintain/inspect truck
  • Driving during poor weather conditions

Medical Malpractice

The majority of medical professionals are good at what they do. However, there are times when even a dedicated doctor can make a mistake. And tragically, their patients may suffer needlessly or face death because of it. When doctors and nurses cut corners or do not abide by proper procedures, people can lose their life. Examples of medical malpractice are birth injury, incorrect diagnosis, lack of informed consent, surgical errors, delay of proper treatment, pharmaceutical mistakes, and defective medical devices/tools. 

Workplace Accidents

Employers have a duty to their workers to keep the workspace as hazard free as possible. While the risk of injury may not be entirely preventable simply due to the nature of the job (ie. construction workers), an employer still must make reasonable adjustments or offer safety equipment that wards against workplace injury accidents. Instances where surviving family members may have grounds for a wrongful death claim are listed as follows:

  • Manufacturing accidents
  • Strain/repetitive motion injuries
  • Transportation industry accidents
  • Barge/towboat accidents
  • Asbestos and mesothelioma
  • Railroad work accidents

Common Reasons for Wrongful Death

When someone passes away as the result of a tragic accident, family will be left to grieve and pick up the pieces left behind. It’s utterly devastating to lose a loved one. When a person is in a fatal accident, the losses are substantial. If you have lost a loved one because of a wrongful act that was intentional or unintentional, it makes the loss even more painful and difficult to bear. As a family member of the deceased, you have a right to hire a lawyer and determine if you have a wrongful death case. Examples of wrongful death cases include:

  • Boating Accidents
  • Swimming Pool Accidents
  • Pedestrian Related Accidents
  • Motorcycle Accidents
  • Bicycle Accidents
  • Car Accidents
  • Medical Malpractice
  • Workplace Accidents
  • Product Liability Cases

Common Reasons for Wrongful Death Infographic

When someone dies unexpectedly in such a tragic way, the last thing on your mind will be the process of taking legal action for damages. However, despite this, you may also want to hold the responsible party accountable. Hiring a wrongful death lawyer can help you hold the parties accountable and obtain justice for your loved one. While no settlement amount can erase the pain of losing a loved one, being awarded a fair settlement amount can make up for the financial losses that your family will have to endure. When your financial needs are taken care of, it can help you and your family better cope with your grief. With our team, a family can have peace of mind with a professional who can help weigh your options and determine whether you have a case against the responsible party.

Insurance Settlement or Lawsuit? How to Proceed

In the wake of tragedy, taking steps towards legal recourse can be a difficult decision to make. One critical decision will be whether to proceed by pursuing an insurance settlement or a lawsuit. These two forms of seeking damages have stark differences and it’s crucial to understand the two. 

What to Know About Filing an Insurance Claim:

  • Can resolve within a reasonable timeframe
  • Allows the opportunity for negotiations
  • The best opportunity at walking away with compensation

What to Know About Filing a Lawsuit:

  • Put the plaintiff at risk for walking away without a settlement for losses
  • It can take much longer before a resolution is reached
  • It puts case outcomes in the hands of the legal system

Also, keep in mind that while choosing whether to pursue an insurance settlement or a lawsuit may appear to be a clear decision, it’s not. While in most cases, it will be necessary to first pursue an insurance claim before filing a lawsuit, sometimes, your lawyer may recommend that you initiate your case by filing a lawsuit. 

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is the length of time the victim (or their family) has to take legal action against the responsible party. In the state of Georgia, the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases is two years. Once the injury or discovery of injury occurs, the clock starts ticking. Once the two-year timeframe closes, the opportunity to take action is no longer an option. It’s important to not hesitate as failure to do so will close the door to seeking damages for the losses you and your family have experienced. 

The Krause Law Firm has witnessed firsthand the impact that the loss of a loved one can have, especially when they have passed away tragically. Working with our wrongful death lawyer can play a crucial role in assisting with the process of moving forward and holding the responsible parties accountable. 

Wrongful Death FAQs

Is my Case Eligible for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Your prospective wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta, GA should provide a brief review of your case. Wrongful death cases typically involve accidents that involve motor vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles, dangerous properties and employers. They also cover defective products. Finally, you can sue for wrongful death in the case of abuse or neglect in nursing homes. Your attorneys will also discuss the need to prove malicious intent or neglect in accident cases.

What Type of Damages Can I Pursue?

Your wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta, GA can look over your case to determine what expenses you can recover as damages. For example, you may sue for medical costs, lost earnings, burial expenses, mental anguish, lost inheritance and lost support. You can even recover punitive damages if the malicious conduct caused the death. Each of these types of damages have specific conditions that must be met. For example, although the loss of support or care is not necessarily financial, the loss of the love, support and companionship you experience may be given a financial compensation amount.

Am I Eligible To File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Because each state has different laws with regard to wrongful death lawsuits, you need to ask your wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta, GA whether you are eligible. For example, some states only allow certain family members, such as spouses and children, to file a claim. However, you may also file a group claim for all the surviving family members. In addition, some states may allow the executor of the deceased’s estate to file this type of suit. A reputable law firm, such as the Krause Law Firm, can clarify the laws that apply to your case.

Will My Award Be Taxed?

A wrongful death attorney, such as those at the Krause Law Firm, can help you navigate the tax implications of any wrongful death award. For example, in most cases, damages that cover the loss of your income or financial support are not taxed, but punitive damages, such as those given for pain and suffering, may be taxed. Your wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta, GA can guide you on what damages will require you to pay additional taxes.

I Received a Settlement Letter, What Should I Do?

If you have experienced a wrongful death in your family, the at-fault party’s insurance company will do everything it can to save the company money, so it is unlikely that the settlement you receive is adequate for your needs. In addition, the insurance company’s representatives may seem kind and as if they are on your side, but their goal is to get you to sign away your legal rights. A wrongful death attorney will guide you in the settlement process.

Wrongful Death Lawyer

If you have any more questions about what a wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta, GA can do for you, don’t hesitate to reach out to Krause Law Firm to learn more. Given the challenges that might come with pursuing an accident claim, contacting a wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta, GA, is likely to be imperative. When negligence is a factor and a fatality is a result, victims’ families may have the ability to pursue a wrongful death case. Several types of accidents may result from wrongful death claims. With the assistance of The Krause Law Firm, our team can help determine the most appropriate course of action and whether it’s in your best interest to pursue an insurance settlement or a lawsuit.