An autopsy is not required to initiate a wrongful death claim. However, it can be beneficial to show the negligence of another person was the cause of a loved one’s untimely death. An autopsy is a post-death physical exam that can offer additional information and details regarding the cause of a person’s death. In a wrongful death case, substantial evidence must connect the person’s death to another party’s careless acts. If a medical exam is not performed, it may be more challenging to prove causation, negligence, or willful misconduct by another.
For this reason, it is often beneficial to ask for an autopsy if you believe that carelessness or recklessness, such as a medical mistake or auto accident, may have been the cause of a family member’s death. That said, because autopsies aren’t legally required for wrongful death claims, you should retain an attorney with whom you can consult. There may be enough evidence to support a claim without pursuing an autopsy.
What You Do If You Suspect You Have a Wrongful Death Claim
If a person died due to the negligent actions or inactions of another person or party, their family members have the right to file a wrongful death claim. If you believe you may have grounds for a wrongful death claim, you can begin the process by taking the following actions:
- Contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer. Wrongful death claims can sometimes be challenging to prove. An experienced attorney can help you determine if you have grounds for a claim and if you are legally eligible to file one. Under Georgia law O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2, only surviving spouses, parents, children, or representatives of the victim’s estate are allowed to file a wrongful death claim. Work with your lawyer to prepare a claim. Legal counsel can help you investigate wrongful death circumstances, collect invaluable supporting evidence, calculate damages, and determine who may be legally liable.
- Negotiate with the at-fault party for a settlement. Most wrongful death cases settle out of court. Your lawyer can negotiate with the liable party and their insurer and serve as an advocate for your best interests.
- If applicable, file a legal complaint and take your case to court. If the other side doesn’t agree to a reasonable settlement, your attorney can take your case to trial if necessary.
Importantly, in Georgia, the statute of limitation to file a wrongful claim is two years per O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33. Failure to meet this deadline will likely mean that your case will not be viable.
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How an Attorney Can Help With Your Wrongful Death Claim
Below are some key benefits of hiring a wrongful death attorney:
They Will Understand the Legal Process and Provide Support
Lawyers specializing in wrongful death claims have detailed knowledge of the legal process involved. An attorney’s expertise in this area of law can be invaluable to your case. They have extensive knowledge of what elements are necessary to build a solid case on your behalf. They can help you determine if an autopsy is needed and what benefit it may bring to your claim.
A wrongful death attorney can also offer significant support for you and your family after the loss of your loved one. They should remain empathetic yet objective and can relieve you of the burden of your claim by handling the tedious details of the case, thus allowing you to mourn and start the healing process with as little interruption as possible.
They Can Save Time and Money
Wrongful death claims can be more time-consuming if you attempt to navigate the process by yourself, as you do not possess the knowledge and experience an attorney does. The legal process is complex, and numerous documents will need to be filed for a wrongful death case.
Parsing out the details can take claimants a significant amount of time, whereas a lawyer will know precisely what to do and what deadlines to meet. Your attorney will handle most legal tasks, thereby freeing up your time to spend with your family as you heal from your emotional wounds related to your loved one’s passing.
They Can Accurately Evaluate Your Claim
Due to their experience, a wrongful death lawyer will know how to estimate the value of your claim correctly. They will thoroughly assess your situation to determine all the different ways you and your family have been impacted by your loss so that you can pursue fair compensation. When evaluating your wrongful death claim, a lawyer will consider many different expenses and losses, including the following:
- Medical bills related to your loved one’s care
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of earnings and benefits
- The decedent’s pain and suffering
- Family members’ pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
They Can Take Your Case to Court
Not all wrongful death claims make it to trial, as parties often choose to settle before the process progresses to this point. However, if your case does end up in court, you want to have an experienced attorney to support you and work to obtain the maximum compensation available to your family.
Get Legal Help for a Wrongful Death Claim Today
When a family has unexpectedly lost a member due to an accident, they are often consumed by grief and are not initially considering legal actions. While having an autopsy performed can be valuable evidence in a wrongful death case, it is not the only supporting evidence available and may or may not be necessary.
If you suspect your loved one may be the victim of wrongful death, please schedule a consultation with Bader Scott Injury Lawyers today. An attorney can address your questions and concerns and offer guidance in seeking justice and compensation for your family member.