When you’ve lost a loved one through someone else’s carelessness, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. The Georgia Wrongful Death statute creates a cause of action when death is caused by:
…a crime, from criminal or other negligence, or from property which has been defectively manufactured, whether or not as the result of negligence.
The broad wording of the statute means that a wrongful death claim may arise under a wide range of circumstances, from an automobile accident to murder.
Who Can File a Georgia Wrongful Death Claim?
Not every loved one or family member has standing to file a wrongful death suit in Georgia. The Georgia Wrongful Death statute sets forth only two parties, other than the decedent’s estate, who may file a wrongful death suit:
- A surviving spouse
- A child or children
However, another Georgia statute specifies that parents may recover for wrongful death under two circumstances:
- When the deceased child is a minor
- When the deceased child is an adult (statutorily described as “sui juris”), but leaves behind no surviving spouse or children
Two Types of Wrongful Death Claims in Georgia
A wrongful death claim in Georgia is typically filed on behalf of both one or more family members and the decedent’s estate. With regard to the family members’ claim, the goal of the law is to compensate for the “full value of the life of the decedent.” In contrast, recovery by a personal representative of the decedent’s estate is more strictly economic, and is typically limited to compensation for expenses resulting from the wrongful death.
While this separation may sound complicated, the decedent’s family and personal representative need not be concerned with the specifics of the claims. We represent both the surviving spouse and/or children and the estate, bringing all available claims in a single case.
Full Value of the Life of the Decedent
When a wrongful death claim is filed by a family member such as a surviving spouse or minor children, the damages include both the economic and non-economic value of the victim’s life. Economic damages typically center around lost earnings of the decedent. Non-economic value may include elements such as loss of care and companionship. Some factors to be considered by the jury in determining damages include:
- Age at the time of death;
- Health and life expectancy had the incident resulting in wrongful death not occurred;
- Earning history and capacity
There is no specific list of qualifying non-economic damages, but in a wrongful death case the calculation may include elements such as loss of love and support, the increased burden on the surviving spouse and the loss of shared experiences such as family holidays. Every family’s losses are unique. The only way to identify and prove real damages is to take the time to fully understand the family dynamics, relationships and unrealized plans and then showcase those losses to the jury. At Hoffspiegel Law, we make that investment in every case.
Economic Recovery by the Estate
While the family is compensated for the full value of the life of the decedent, an award to the estate will be based on liabilities incurred as a result of the action causing the death. These typically include costs such as medical expenses incurred as a result of the defendant’s negligent or intentional act and funeral expenses.
Recovery by the Estate in the Absence of a Qualified Family Member
Since the Georgia Wrongful Death statute limits the family members who may sue directly for wrongful death, the personal representative in the estate may sometimes play a dual role in the prosecution of a wrongful death claim. Where there is no eligible family member, the personal representative’s claim will include costs on behalf of the estate and the full value of the decedent’s life on behalf of any heirs.
Retaining the Right Wrongful Death Lawyer
While many personal injury lawyers file wrongful death claims, the representation you receive is not always the same. While some law firms seem to specialize in wrapping up cases with a quick settlement and moving on to the next, Lloyd and Alex Hoffspiegel prepare every case as if it is going to trial.
Only after a thorough investigation, assessment of the evidence and consideration of any offers received will be determine whether to recommend accepting a settlement or proceeding to trial.
If you’ve lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or intentional act, we will aggressively represent your interests and protect your rights. Contact us today at (404) 760-8600, or click the Contact Us button to get started. You may be surprised by the peace of mind that comes with having a dedicated, knowledgeable advocate on your side.