Understanding Georgia’s Wrongful Death Laws
Every death brings with it feelings of grief and loss, but when a death occurs as a result of someone else’s carelessness, misconduct or negligence, the sense of loss can be almost overwhelming. And although there is no action you can take that can bring your loved one back to you, there are laws that can make sure the negligent party is held accountable, and perhaps, send a message that will even help ensure the same type of “accident” doesn’t claim the life of another person.
This is when Georgia’s wrongful death laws come into play. When a death occurs as the result of the negligence or carelessness of another person or corporation, the state has extensive statutes that help determine the type of wrongful death damages the survivors can seek and how those damages will be distributed.
In fact, the statues regarding wrongful death are some of the most extensive and comprehensive laws in Georgia, and having an experienced wrongful death attorney is the best way to understand and protect your rights.
Here’s a quick overview of Georgia’s wrongful death claims process:
First, in Georgia, there are two types of damages that may be sought following a death due to the negligence of another person or corporation:
- a claim for “full value of life” which is distributed to specific survivors designated by the statute, and
- a “survival action” claim which is initiated by the deceased’s estate and covers medical and funeral expenses as well as pain and suffering before death.
Claimants may pursue one or both types of claims, depending on their circumstances, and a skilled wrongful death attorney can help you determine which course is best based on your case.
Full value of life claims
In Atlanta and elsewhere in Georgia, there is no formula for determining “full value” in a wrongful death case; rather, the award decision may include a wide range of both tangible and intangible factors including projected income and loss of enjoyment that occurs when life ends unexpectedly.
The law also determines who is eligible to file a wrongful death claim:
- The surviving spouse may file a claim and must share the damages equally with any surviving children. In the case of minor children, up to $15,000 of the award may be held by the child’s guardian without the need to post a bond. When an award for a minor child exceeds $15,000, a bond must be posted and the guardian of the money must be qualified in probate court. Bonds may be avoided if the court approves a structured settlement where the child receives annuity payments once he or she reaches 18 years of age.
- When there is no surviving spouse, the award goes to the children.
- When there are neither a surviving spouse or children, the deceased’s parents may file a claim.
- When none of these family members survive the deceased, the estate administrator may file a claim on behalf of the next of kin.
Survival action claims
Under a survival action claim, the estate administrator may sue to recover medical and funeral costs as well as any pain and suffering the deceased suffered as a result of the accident. In addition to physical pain and suffering, the claim may include the mental pain the deceased may have suffered by anticipating their impending death. Punitive damages – that is, an amount assessed as a “punishment” for negligence – also may be awarded.
Where do you go from here?
If your loved one has died as the result of negligence or carelessness, filing a wrongful death case helps you protect their rights even after death and ensure the negligent party is held responsible. At the Law Offices of Roger Ghai, our wrongful death attorneys have the skills and experience to help you understand your legal rights and to aggressively pursue your wrongful death case. Don’t let a negligent death go unanswered. Call our offices today at (770) 792-1000 and schedule a consultation to learn how we can help you.