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What Types of Negligence Can Result in a Wrongful Death Case?

Losing a loved one is devastating in any context, but an accidental, unexpected death can be even more tragic in many ways. Unfortunately, these incidents are quite common according to statistics compiled by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2017, unintentional injuries claimed the lives of 169,936 individuals; this number represents a significant increase over the average from the previous five years.

As a surviving family member, your losses can be considerable, affecting you financially and emotionally. Georgia law does provide you with rights through a wrongful death claim, which is akin to a personal injury case. An Atlanta wrongful death attorney can explain your options in more detail, but you can also review the types of negligence that can lead to legal action.

Common Types of Wrongful Death Cases: Almost any accident that results from carelessness or recklessness can result in a wrongful death claim in Georgia. Some examples include:

  • Car, truck, and motorcycle collisions, many of which result from speeding, drunk driving, texting while driving, and other violations of Georgia traffic laws;
  • Pedestrian, bicycle, and scooter accidents;
  • Slip and fall injuries and other incidents that occur due to dangerous conditions on property;
  • Medical malpractice, including medical mistakes and diagnosis errors;
  • Nursing home neglect and abuse;
  • Dangerous, defective products; and,
  • Many others.

Proving a Negligence-Based Case: Georgia’s statute on wrongful death claims allows a surviving spouse or personal representative to recover compensation, but you must be able to prove the factors of negligence. They are:

  1. The responsible party had a duty to exercise reasonable care when acting, so as to avoid causing a risk of harm to others;
  2. That person or entity breached this duty;
  3. The breach of duty was a direct cause of the accident in which your loved one was killed; and,
  4. You and designated family members suffered losses as a result of that person’s death.

Though it’s not an element of a negligence case, you should also be aware of your time restrictions. Georgia’s statute of limitations on wrongful death cases is two years, so you must file a lawsuit within this time to preserve your rights.

Seek Compensation for Your Losses: There are two types of monetary damages you can recover through a wrongful death claim, one of which pertains to your own losses. For instance, your loved one’s passing results in lost income and financial support. You’re also affected by losses of guidance, education, emotional support, and the effects upon your personal relationship. A second type of compensation is available to cover the victim’s medical expenses, burial and funeral, and related costs.

You Can Trust an Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyer with Your Claim

Though it cannot bring a loved one back, a wrongful death claim may help alleviate some of the financial struggles you experience due to his or her passing. To learn more about the types of negligence that can result in a wrongful death case, please contact the Atlanta, GA Law Offices of Julie A. Rice. We can set up a complimentary consultation to explain your rights and how these cases work.


DeKalb Jury Awards $1.8M for Woman Who Died After Nursing Home Fall

Lawyers for the estate of an ailing 70-year-old nursing home resident said the jury’s award showed that even a terminally ill patient’s pain and suffering was not without value.

By Greg Land | April 29, 2019 at 01:54 PM

(Evan Jones (from left), Jonathan Marigliano, Michael Prieto and William)

A DeKalb County jury awarded $1.8 million to the estate of an ailing, elderly nursing home resident who died several weeks after hitting her head in a fall from bed as the linens were being changed.

The jury verdict covered the pain and suffering of Christine Mitchell, 70, but included no damage award on an accompanying wrongful death claim.

Attorneys for the woman’s son and executor said the verdict revealed that a jury could find value in the suffering of even terminally ill plaintiffs.

“One of the interesting things about this kind of case is how a jury would look at her. What is the pain and suffering worth for a woman dropped on her head who probably only had another six months to live?” said Evan Jones of Athens’ Blasingame, Burch, Garrard & Ashley.

“The jury answered that very important question: Their pain and suffering does matter,” said Jones, who tried the case with co-counsel Michael Prieto, William Holbert and Jonathan Marigliano of Prieto, Marigliano, Holbert & Prieto, an Atlanta firm.

Jones said his team made a $500,000 offer of settlement on the pain and suffering claim and a similar offer on wrongful death in September, both of which were declined.

Because of that, they will be filing for attorneys fees under Georgia’s Offer of Judgment statute, under which a party that declines a settlement offer then loses at trial by at least 25 percent more than the rejected offer may have to pay the opposing party’s fees from the date of the offer.

Jones said the defense’s last offer to settle the case was $500,000 just before it went to trial.

The nursing home defendants’ trial counsel was Hall Booth Smith partners Howard Reese III and H. Eric Hilton.

“This was a difficult case with admitted liability and we are sympathetic to the Mitchell family,” said Reese via email. “While plaintiffs sought a larger jury verdict than awarded, we are disappointed with the amount of the verdict and are considering our options for appeal at this time.”

According to Jones and court filings, 70-year-old plaintiff Christine Mitchell had been living at Grace Healthcare of Tucker for more than three years when the accident happened.

She suffered from multiple diseases, including several prior strokes that led to vascular dementia as well as hypertension, epilepsy and diabetes. She also experienced seizures and had fallen several times at the nursing home.

The defense portion of the pretrial order said that, a few weeks before her death, Mitchell had been taken to Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital because she was experiencing difficulty eating, where she was diagnosed with end stage dementia and would likely die within six months.

She was back at Grace Healthcare in September 2015 when a certified nursing assistant attempted to perform an occupied bed linen change, inadvertently rolling Mitchell off the bed. She landed face-down and hit her head, resulting in a cut and a large bruise on the right side of her forehead.

The CNA called for a nurse who applied pressure and an ice bag, and Mitchell was taken to DeKalb Medical Center, where she was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma.

Four days later she was taken to a hospice facility; she never regained the ability to communicate and died 32 days after the fall. Her death certificate said the cause of death was cardiopulmonary arrest, hypertension, cerebrovascular disease and chronic kidney disease.

In 2017 her son and executor, Keith Mitchell, sued Grace Healthcare and parent company Tucker Investments & Associates LLC in DeKalb County State Court, asserting multiple claims including wrongful death, general and professional negligence, violations of federal nursing home guidelines for facilities serving Medicare patients and violations of Georgia’s Bill of Rights for Residents of Long-Term Care Facilities, among others.

Trial began April 22 before Judge Janice Gordon.

Throughout the course of the litigation, Jones said the defendants never conceded negligence.

“They finally admitted negligence on the first day of trial for the first time,” he said.

The defense’s portion of the pretrial order contained a litany of Mitchell’s various afflictions, and Jones said her failing health was a large part of their strategy.

“Their defense was kind of ‘no harm, no foul. She was she was declining rapidly since May of 2015 for various ailments—thrombosis, heart problems, dementia,’ all of which was true,” he said.

“The defense was sort of like ‘I’m sorry we dropped her and she developed a subdural hematoma, but we didn’t cause her death.’”

Jones said key plaintiff’s experts included Macon geriatrician Harry Strothers III and Decatur Gerald Gowitt, along with Philadelphia nursing expert Stacy Donnelly.

The key defense expert was Sarasota geriatrician Bruce Robinson, he said.

During closing arguments, the plaintiffs did not suggest any dollar figure.

“We gave a range for pain and suffering and allowed them to fill in the blanks,” Jones said.

The defense said there should be no award for wrongful death and suggested $100,000 to $150,000 for Mitchell’s pain and suffering might be appropriate, he said.

On Thursday, the jury took about four hours to award $1.8 million, he said.

In conversation afterward, he said some jurors were “concerned that they first admitted liability at trial; they didn’t like that. Where they were unanimous was that for the 31 days this woman lived after being dropped on her head, the subdural hematoma caused her decline and her pain and suffering.”

Your office may not be as safe as you think

When you think of dangerous jobs that have a high rate of workplace accidents, you probably think of construction workers, law enforcement officers and firefighters. You may think that your Atlanta office on the 10th floor is one of the safest places you can work. Unfortunately, even a business office has hidden dangers that can lead to workplace injuries.

Continue reading Your office may not be as safe as you think

Late night ride turns into tragic motorcycle crash with 4 killed

Bikers claim that riding their motorcycles is one of the greatest passions of their lives. Unfortunately, even the most experienced and skilled operator can become a victim of a horrific motorcycle crash. One Florida driver is now facing multiple charges after striking several motorcyclists with his vehicle.

Continue reading Late night ride turns into tragic motorcycle crash with 4 killed

There is a 26 percent chance long-term disability will be needed

Many workers obtain life insurance once they become parents. However, according to one report, there is a greater likelihood that one will suffer a serious injury or illness rather than die before retirement. It is in these situations that long-term disability becomes a safety net for primary wage-earners. Georgia residents who have experienced these uncertain events can attest to the value of these types of policies.

According to the Social Security Administration, the average 20-year-old male worker faces a greater than 25 percent chance of suffering an illness or accident that results in the inability to work for an average of three years. Conversely, the same worker only faces slightly higher than a 7 percent chance of dying young. As such, it highlights the need for workers to access a stream of income for these periods. There are two ways to acquire these types of insurance — through one’s employer or the independent marketplace. There are pros and cons to each.

Continue reading There is a 26 percent chance long-term disability will be needed

Truck accidents happen for many reasons: Many are avoidable

If you spend any amount of time driving on the interstate, you’ll come to find your vehicle in close proximity to commercial trucks. There is no way around this, so you need to become familiar with the best way to share the road.

Car-truck accidents happen for many reasons. There are things you can do to improve your safety, however, you don’t have control over what truck drivers are doing when they are behind the wheel.

Continue reading Truck accidents happen for many reasons: Many are avoidable

America’s Streets: Death Traps based on Poor Road Designs; among other things.

t3.jpgWe are all a part of America’s streets whether as a driver, pedestrian, bicyclist, or just living in our homes and walking our neighborhoods, and having to go out and check our mail. But, are America’s Streets becoming Death Traps? Statistics show that driver error and high speed limits can increase the probability of pedestrian deaths, and now there is a new culprit: Poor Road Design .

Continue reading America’s Streets: Death Traps based on Poor Road Designs; among other things.

A Woman who was Injured in a Low-Impact Rear End Collision for which she sought Back Surgery was awarded Nothing by a Jackson County, Georgia Jury

t9.jpgIn November, 2001, on a rainy day, the Plaintiff, a woman from Tifton, Georgia named Melissa Chapman, was stopped on Pleasant Hill Road at a traffic light in Gwinnett County, Georgia when she was was hit in the rear of her car by Defendant Ameda Wittmer. Defendant Wittmer would admit to being the cause of the accident, but deny that the accident was the cause of the surgical treatment that the Plaintiff later endured to her back.

Continue reading A Woman who was Injured in a Low-Impact Rear End Collision for which she sought Back Surgery was awarded Nothing by a Jackson County, Georgia Jury

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