When a person dies because of someone else’s negligence, certain survivors are eligible under Georgia law to seek compensation for the full value of the life of the deceased person. This is known as a “wrongful death” lawsuit. It is a creation of the Georgia legislature with unique Georgia rules. In addition, the decedent’s estate has a separate and distinct claim for any medical expenses, burial and funeral expenses and any pain and suffering suffered by the decedent prior to death.
If you have lost a loved one through the wrongful actions of a third party, the lawyers of James M. Poe, P.C., can protect your legal rights as you go through a very trying time. Please contact us to discuss your case. Our firm serves clients in Atlanta and across Georgia.
Who May Pursue a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Georgia?
Georgia’s wrongful death law specifies those who are entitled to pursue and recover damages in the event of a death caused by negligence. Wrongful death claims arise from car crashes, defective products, medical malpractice, worksite accidents and any other events where negligence caused the death.
Georgia law gives the right to pursue a wrongful death claim to specific persons depending on the decedent’s status. In statutory order, the right to pursue the claim is given to:
- The surviving spouse, if any; then
- The children (if there is no surviving spouse); then to
- Parents (if there is no surviving spouse or children); then to
- The estate of the deceased.
While the spouse has control of the cause of action, selects the lawyers and controls any settlement negotiations, the proceeds from the litigation are divided, with the spouse holding a designated portion of the proceeds in trust for the decedent’s children. Parents of the deceased receive proceeds only if there was no spouse and no children.
Georgia law prescribes strict methods for supervising funds awarded to minor children until they turn 18. There are also provisions of the law that address spouses who do not want to pursue a claim, warring siblings and surviving parents who are divorced, separated or living apart.
If there are no living survivors, the executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate has the right of recovery for a wrongful death.
What Can Be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
The funds recovered in a Georgia wrongful death claim are compensation for the full value of the economic and non-economic value of the decedent’s life.
The plaintiffs and survivors in a wrongful death lawsuit are not eligible to receive compensation for their emotional pain and suffering stemming from the death. They may recover for:
- Pain and suffering of the deceased,
- Medical expenses, and
- Burial and funeral expenses.
There are no punitive damages available under a wrongful death claim in Georgia because Georgia law allows a full recovery of the value of the life of the decedent without any offset or reduction for the expenses the decedent would have incurred had they lived. Georgia’s courts hold that this award, without any reduction, is already a punitive damage. So, separate additional awards of punitive damages are not permitted in a wrongful death claim.
Contact Our Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorneys
The law firm of James M. Poe, P.C., can help you to pursue justice if you have lost a loved one because of a negligent or other wrongful act by another. We are dedicated to assisting families like yours in Atlanta and across Georgia. Please contact us today for a free discussion of how we can help you seek the compensation you are due.
Sources / More Information
• O.C.G.A. § 51-4-1, et seq., Wrongful Death, Georgia Code