What You Need to Know about Wrongful Death Lawsuits:

Our Atlanta wrongful death attorneys represent people and families who have lost a loved one through the negligence of another person or business. While there is no monetary amount that will ever compensate for the loss of a loved one, the law does allow for the recovery of monetary damages when a person’s death has been caused by the fault of another.  These types of claims are called wrongful death lawsuits and their purpose is to hold the wrongdoer responsible for killing someone and compensate the family of the deceased for the loss of their loved one.

What is a wrongful death lawsuit?

Georgia law O.C.G.A. § 51-4-1 defines a wrongful death as the death of a person caused through a negligent act, a criminal act or a defectively manufactured product.  When there has been a wrongful death, the loved ones of the deceased and the deceased’s estate can file a lawsuit to hold the person or business responsible for the death and recover monetary damages to compensate for their loss.

Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?

Georgia law has specific rules on who the proper person to file a wrongful death lawsuit is.  Here’s a general overview of the law, though there are exceptions to these:

  • If the deceased was married, the husband or wife has the legal claim for wrongful death;
  • If the deceased does not have a surviving spouse, the children of the deceased have the legal claim for wrongful death;
  • If there is no surviving spouse or children, then the estate of the deceased has the legal claim for wrongful death. Any monetary damages recovered go to the deceased’s next of kin. O.C.G.A. § 51-4-5.

If the deceased was married and had children, the surviving spouse has the legal claim for wrongful death and is the correct person to file the wrongful death lawsuit. Any financial recovery that the surviving spouse makes in the lawsuit is split equally among the spouse and the deceased’s children, provided that the surviving spouse is guaranteed at least a third of the recovery in all cases. O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2.

What damages can be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit?

The estate of the deceased person has the legal claim for the deceased’s funeral expenses, medical bills and any other expenses that were caused as the result of the death. O.C.G.A. § 51-4-5.  The deceased’s estate also has the legal claim for the deceased’s physical and mental pain and suffering before their death.  The administrator or executor of the deceased’s estate is the proper person to file a lawsuit to recover these damages.

Georgia law allows recovery for the “full value of the life of the decedent.”  O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2. Courts in general have interpreted this to mean that damages are made up of two parts: the economic component and the non-economic component of the deceased’s life. Peeler v. Central of Ga. R.R., 137 S.E. 24, 27 (1926).

The Economic Component of the Deceased’s Life

The economic component is calculated as the value of the future earnings and services of the deceased.  Essentially, this means that recovery can be made for what that person would have earned over the course of a lifetime.

The Non-Economic Component of the Deceased’s Life

Georgia law recognizes that the value of a person’s life is measured by more than the amount of money they would have earned over the course of their life. The non-economic component allows recovery for more intangible losses from a wrongful death.  These damages are calculated from the point of view of the deceased and seek to compensate for the deceased’s loss of the enjoyment of family, friends, and life.

Call for Free Consultation

Our firm has offices in Atlanta and Athens and handles wrongful death cases throughout Georgia.  We do not charge you a fee unless we win a verdict or settlement. Call for a free consultation.

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