Answers About Georgia Wrongful Death

Wrongful Death

What is a wrongful death claim?

A “wrongful death” is a fatality that is caused by the wrongful or negligent acts of another, including intentional acts. The deceased person’s surviving family members may pursue a claim for damages against the person, business or government agency that caused the fatality. Georgia wrongful death laws determine who can bring a wrongful claim.

Why and when does the probate court and deceased’s estate become involved in a wrongful death claim?

In most wrongful death cases, there are multiple claims for damages. In most instances, the surviving children or spouse will bring a wrongful death action. Simultaneously, the deceased’s estate, through a personal representative, will bring a “survival action” against the negligent or wrongful party. Through the survival action, the estate can seek separate damages than those sought in the wrongful death action, including hospital and medical expenses, funeral costs, and the deceased pain and suffering.

The probate court in your local county, whether Clayton, Gwinnett, Fulton, Cobb or any other county in Georgia, will become involved when we have a personal representative appointed to pursue claims on behalf of the estate. The personal representative or administrator may also bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of the estate if the decedent died without any surviving children or spouse.

Can parents bring a claim for wrongful death if their child is killed due to someone’s negligence?

Yes. Georgia specifically allows parents to bring a claim for wrongful death if a child is killed. Parents, married or divorced, must pursue the claim jointly and share equally in the recovery. If a divorced parent cannot be located, the other parent has the authority to pursue the claim on behalf of both parents but has authority to hire an Atlanta wrongful death lawyer and make decisions regarding the case, including the settlement terms.

If my husband or wife is killed in an accident, what role will my adult children play?

As the surviving spouse, you are first in line to seek recovery through a wrongful death claim. Each child has a right to share equally with you in the recovery that results from the wrongful death claim, whether through a judgment or settlement. As the surviving spouse, however, you will never get less than a third of your net recovery.

How much is a wrongful death case worth and how are the damages calculated?

Determining the amount of damages in a wrongful death case is difficult and every individual case is different. The full value of a person’s life is difficult to measure. Economic damages are typically calculated based upon the expected earnings that the decedent would have made if he or she had lived. Non-economic damages are also awarded based upon a jury’s “enlightened conscience” to account for intangible benefits of life.

Damages such as funeral and medical expenses, which are sought by the decedent’s estate, are easier to determine. If your case goes to trial, economists or other experts may be called to establish economic damages such as lost wage and lost future earnings. Ultimately it is up to a jury of your peers to determine the value of a wrongful death case.

If someone is killed while on-the-job, can we pursue a wrongful death action?

You can bring a wrongful death action in limited circumstances in which a third party causes the wrongful death. For example, if someone was driving a truck as part of his or her job and was struck and killed by a drunk driver on the highway, the deceased employee’s family and/or estate could bring a wrongful death action against the drunk driver. If a family member is killed while on-the-job, consult a Georgia or Atlanta, GA wrongful death lawyer to discuss the specific circumstances of the wrongful death.