If you have reached this page because of a loved one’s untimely death, we at The Stoddard Firm are truly sorry for your loss.
We know that this is one of the most difficult imaginable times to have to look up your legal rights and plan the next steps of your life. There’s a lot of pressure to make the best decisions for yourself, your surviving family, and your lost loved one’s memory, and often not a lot of time to make them in.
Whether you’re looking to work with us, or just scoping out your options, we hope the information below will help you proceed with confidence and clarity.
On this page, we’ll discuss what wrongful death means, how it most often affects South Fulton communities, and when you can file a lawsuit. If you’d prefer to speak directly with a South Fulton wrongful death lawyer, please feel free to reach out by phone or chat at any time.
When Negligence Kills, the Family Is Entitled to Compensation
That’s the basic idea behind wrongful death. If a person’s death is the result of someone else’s negligence, the victim’s next-of-kin has the right to sue the negligent party.
Depending on who the victim was, how they died, and the next-of-kin’s relationship to them, a wrongful death settlement might include reimbursement for the victim’s lost income and final expenses, as well as compensation for the next-of-kin’s emotional loss, and for the pain the victim experienced before death.
To figure out whether this applies to you and your loved one, it’s helpful to start by defining both “negligence” and “next-of-kin.” We’ll start with next-of-kin.
For the purpose of filing a wrongful death suit in Georgia, next-of-kin means:
- The victim’s spouse
- The victim’s child
- The victim’s parent
- The executor of the victim’s estate
The only person who can sue for wrongful death is the highest living person on this list. So, for example, if the victim had both a living spouse and living parents, only the spouse would have the option of suing.
If there are multiple children or multiple parents who would have the right to sue, they can do so together. If any of them opt out, the others can still sue.
If the right to sue comes down to the executor of the estate, any settlement would become part of the estate, rather than going directly to the executor.
Negligence is a little more complicated to define, because it takes so many different forms. However, at its core, negligence is a failure to live up to one’s responsibilities toward others, causing harm to come to them.
Everyone has a basic, universal responsibility to consider the safety of those around them, and to avoid doing anything that would put them at unreasonable risk. Certain careers, activities, roles, and relationships carry additional responsibilities that we’ll discuss in more detail below.
Caregivers Have Often Let Down Vulnerable South Fulton Residents
Caregiving relationships create a much higher standard of responsibility than what exists between unconnected strangers.
Children rely on their guardians, teachers, and sitters to meet their basic needs. Adults with disabilities that limit their independence rely on the assistance of family members or support services. People who accept the trust that comes with a caregiver position and then abuse it, or are careless with it, are liable for the resulting damage.
This is the kind of incident that Tiffany Richardson recently visited the South Fulton Fire Department to discuss. Richardson lost her son, and her daughter suffered permanent scars, because of a fire in a home-based daycare center. The woman in charge of the center had reportedly gone shopping and left seven children alone in the house, with oil heating on the stove, which ultimately started the fire.
Though this happened in Houston, her warnings are deeply relevant for South Fulton — not just her warnings about fire safety, but those about keeping an eye on how the vulnerable are cared for.
Across Georgia, serious problems with nursing home safety have been coming to light over the past few years. In just one of a flood of disturbing examples, a South Fulton home reportedly allowed a patient to fall eleven times in two months, ultimately resulting in a fatal brain hemorrhage. The Department of Community Health concluded that the home should have recognized sooner that it was a poor fit to meet the patient’s needs.
Another recent, recurring theme of inadequate caregiving in South Fulton has been improperly stored firearms. Within a single month toward the end of 2021, there were two separate incidents in which a toddler found an unsecured, loaded gun in a South Fulton home and fired it. The first killed his sister. The second shot himself and survived.
Incidents like these may not leave much room for a lawsuit, if the gun owner and the next-of-kin are the same person. However, if a non-parent caregiver allows this to happen to a child in their care, the parents absolutely have the right to sue.
If you believe your loved one’s death resulted from caregiver negligence in a nursing home, daycare, or other caregiving scenario, there’s a good chance you have grounds for a wrongful death suit.
Where There’s Crime, There’s Negligence
As nice as many South Fulton neighborhoods look, and often are, violent crime does happen here.
Within the past year, we’ve had intentional fatal shootings on Birdseye Trail and Cedar Hurst Trail, a shootout between two cars on Fairburn Road near the Walmart, and the discovery of a stash of illegal guns and drugs on Winterside Lane, with signs of gang activity.
Crime in South Fulton is relevant to the subject of wrongful death for two reasons:
- Criminal violence is a form of negligence. Though people more commonly associate the word “negligence” with preventable accidents, it’s also negligent to kill or injure someone on purpose (without a valid justification like self-defense). Basically, in any situation where someone could face criminal charges for hurting you or your family, you can probably sue them as well.
- Like caregiving, property ownership is another role that carries special responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is providing tenants and guests on the property with security appropriate to local crime patterns. The higher the probability of violence, the more security is needed. When a property owner downplays or ignores the danger of violence, and then an act of violence happens on the property, both the perpetrator and the owner may be considered negligent.
A property owner’s responsibility for preventing violence increases even further if someone makes specific threats against the property or the people on it.
For example, in December of 2021, an 8th grader allegedly attacked a 6th grader and threatened to bring a gun to Renaissance Middle School to kill him. When the 6th grader’s mother called the school, she says she received no information or assurance that he would be protected. If the 8th grader were to follow through on the threat, the school would likely be liable.
If your loved one was murdered, a wrongful death lawyer can help you identify all possible defendants for your case. If the murder happened on a rental property, commercial property, or even a property owned by a government organization, this will include figuring out whether the owner failed in their duty to provide a safe space.
South Fulton Is Vulnerable to the Same Wrongful Deaths That Happen Everywhere
While the above examples of wrongful death have taken a particular toll on South Fulton families, there are many more situations in which a person or organization’s failure to meet their responsibilities can result in death.
Some more roles that carry special responsibilities include:
- Driving — Every time someone gets behind the wheel of a vehicle, lives depend upon their skill and conscientiousness. Drivers who kill through recklessness or carelessness are liable for those wrongful deaths.
- Medicine — Patients must be able to trust medical professionals to know what they’re doing, and to perform their work with all the care, attention, and respect it deserves. When a care provider fails to meet the standards of their profession, and a patient dies as a result, that’s medical malpractice, and it’s grounds for a wrongful death suit.
- Product design, marketing, and sale — When a company puts a product on the market, it’s promising consumers that the product is safe to use as advertised and directed. Product designers should also anticipate likely misuses of the product and add safety features, or at least clear warnings, to minimize associated risks. When a death results from an unexpectedly or needlessly dangerous product, the manufacturer, and possibly the retailer, are liable.
- Commercial services — Just like producers of physical products, service providers have a responsibility not to put people in unexpected or needless danger with their services. For example, an auto repair shop that accidentally drains a customer’s brake fluid would be liable for any resulting accident.
- Property ownership — We’ve touched on this in the violent crime section, but security against crime isn’t the only safety measure property owners are responsible for. Anyone who rents, works on, or legally visits someone else’s property has a right to expect it to be free of hidden or unnecessary dangers. Negligently maintained premises can hold deadly hazards like toxic mold, rusted handrails, blocked fire escape routes, and slippery or uneven floors.
If you’re not sure whether your loved one’s death is linked to a form of negligence or not, your best bet is to check with a wrongful death lawyer as soon as you feel able to do so. That way, if you learn you do have grounds for a wrongful death suit, you’ll have the option of pursuing it while the evidence is still fresh.
The Stoddard Firm Has Wrongful Death Lawyers for South Fulton Families
The experts at The Stoddard Firm understand how overwhelming the prospect of a wrongful death lawsuit can be for grieving survivors. We aim to make the process as simple and low-stress as possible, so that our clients can focus on the mourning process, secure in the knowledge that the fight for justice, and for their financial future, is in good hands.
Our close familiarity with the city of South Fulton helps us achieve this. We can coordinate confidently with the Wellstar health system, the South Fulton Police Department, and Fulton County Superior Court. We’ll even speak directly with Forest Lawn Funeral Home, Parrott Funeral Home and Crematory, or your local funeral home of choice, to make sure all necessary evidence collection has been done and won’t interfere with your farewell plans for your loved one.
To discuss the details of your situation with a qualified South Fulton wrongful death lawyer, and learn more about how we can help, reach out any time through our online chat function, or by phone at 678-RESULTS, for a free consultation.