What constitutes a "wrongful death"?
Wrongful death attorneys represent families, estates, loved ones, spouses, children where a family member has been killed out of the negligence of another. Now, the context in which that family member is killed can vary widely. It can be a car wreck or a truck wreck. It can be medical negligence or medical error. It can be an industrial accident, a fall. It can be that they died as a result of inadequate security at a hotel, motel, shopping mall, business, school, parking garage, parking lot.
The kinds of circumstances that can result in someone being killed and the kinds of circumstances that can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit or possible to talk about in any great detail, I'd like to talk about a few of the areas where we represent families and states in wrongful death cases. First, car accident or truck wrecks are routine instances where people are killed. Now, one of the challenges in car wrecks and truck wrecks is first proving fault and second, finding insurance coverage.
With trucks, it's much easier because by law, under federal law, trucking companies are required to maintain a minimum insurance policy of a million dollars. Now, that is not nearly enough to compensate someone for the loss of their life, to compensate a family where a loved one has been killed but it is a start. When I say that, what I mean is that all this firm can do, we know all that we can do in addition to trying to comfort the family is to try to get some measure of justice for them in dollars.
In doing that, one of our initial concerns is where can we find a source. Assuming we can prove fault and there has been a loss of life, so the damage is incalculable. There is no amount of money that would equal the value of a person's life. But once we identify that we can prove those things in the court of law, then we have to look for resources to pay that verdict or to pay that settlement. With trucking cases, at least we know we start off with a significant insurance policy. With automobile cases, if it's just a case against the other driver, there's often limited insurance.
The average insurance of most drivers on the road is $25,000. Every year people come to us and want us to represent them and their family where their loved one has been killed in a car wreck. We investigate and find out that there's minimal insurance and what we do for those people is we will collect that insurance for them at no charge, not charge them fees and just hand those checks over to them.
Now, there are other avenues though in automobile cases. Perhaps there's a product liability lawsuit. Perhaps that the seat back failed or the retention system on the seat belt failed or the airbag failed. In those cases, we go after the auto manufacturer and they have not only extraordinary insurance but extraordinary value as a company, assets. When we bring product liability cases on behalf of the family where someone has been killed, insurance issue were not an issue.
The next area we look at are say, industrial accidents, industrial wrecks. Often, if the person who is killed is an employee of the company, on a job site where they were killed, their personal injury suit will be barred by the Workmen's Compensation statute. Meaning that under Georgia law and many states have this law, there's a Worker's Compensation statute in place to protect workers who are on the job employed by a company employing a certain number of workers. Where that's the case, it's a no-fault system, meaning that a) an amount of money, a percentage of that person's salary is paid to them including a death benefit. But the exchange is, the bargain is in receiving that and being a part of that Worker's Comp process, the person has given up their right to file a personal injury suit.
Now, we've had success and we've had significant success for workers injured but it hasn't been against their employee. It would be against the subcontractor or against the product manufacturer. Let's say a forklift failed. We wouldn't be suing the employer, we'd be suing the forklift manufacturer and therefore, wouldn't be barred by Worker's Comp.
A third area where we've had a great deal of success is in the area of inadequate security. Now, an adequate security simply means that a person was killed as a result of a lack of security at a public place, hotel, motel, office park, shopping center or parking deck. In those cases, what's required is that we have to prove on behalf of the client's family that the landowner knew of the danger that killed the deceased or should have known of the danger that killed the deceased. But we've had tremendous success in bringing those kinds of claims and again, because we're dealing with a corporate defendant, corporate defendants often have significant insurance policies and assets and ways for us to recover something close to the full value of the life of their loved one.
Finally, there are infant death cases, fetal demise cases. We represent a lot of families in birth injury cases and sometimes, as birth injuries result in death to the newborn early in life. Fetal demise cases are incredibly difficult and we take very, very few of them because juries just don't recognize infants as having the same life expectancy or life span. They don't imagine. They don't predict. They don't expect. They don't assume the same life span that they would assume of you or I.
Human beings look at babies as fragile and know from experience that sometimes babies don't make it into adolescence and adulthood and so it is very challenging to get a jury to understand how to value the full life of an infant. If that life would have extended 70 or 80 years, when they're looking at an infant. If they're looking at a teenager, young adult or an adult, juries have much less trouble with that.
It's an overview of the kinds of cases where we represent families, estates, spouses in wrongful death suits where there's been death as a result of someone's negligence. We will get to the bottom of it and we've represented families in a wide variety of suits in order to compensate the death and loss of life of that family or spouse. Now, we know that money doesn't bring anyone back but what we believe and what I've seen is that it makes life easier. It sends kids to college. It pays off the house. It takes some of the financial burden away from those who are left living. I believe that's merciful and believe that's worth doing.