No one is ever prepared for the death of a loved one and the emotional toll of such a tragedy is much harder to bear when another person or entity is responsible for your loss. In Georgia, the surviving family members can hold that wrongful person or entity responsible under the Georgia Wrongful Death Act.
WHO MAY SEEK JUSTICE FOR THEIR LOSS OF A LOVED ONE?
The Georgia Wrongful Death Act allows recovery for the "homicide" of a spouse, parent, or child because of criminal or negligent acts. O.C.G.A. § 19-7-1 (c)(1) allows recovery for the wrongful death of a child while O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2 (a) provides relief for the wrongful death of a spouse or parent. In addition, if there is no spouse, child, or parent to bring a wrongful death lawsuit, the administrator or executor representative of the decedent may do so under O.C.G.A. § 51-4-5.
PROVING FAULT IN A WRONGFUL DEATH
The legal components in bringing a Georgia wrongful death lawsuit consist of the following:
- A "homicide" was committed by a person under O.C.G.A. § 51-4-1(2);
- That wrongful person's conduct was the actual and proximate cause of your loved one's death;
- The wrongful conduct would have entitled your lost loved one to bring a cause of action to recover damages if he or she had not died; and
- Such damages for the wrongful death are recoverable by the surviving family members or representative.
The Georgia Supreme Court have defined proximate cause to include all natural and probable consequences that flow from the wrongdoer's negligence unless there is some other sufficient and independently intervening cause. See Cowart v. Widener, 287 Ga. 622, 697 S.E.2d 779 (2010).
WHAT DAMAGES ARE RECOVERABLE ON BEHALF OF MY LOVED ONE?
Arbitration of a wrongful death action is not allowed under the Georgia Arbitration Code in O.C.G.A § 9-9-2(c). In addition, the amount recovered from a wrongful death lawsuit is free from any debt or financial liability of your lost loved one.
- Surviving family members may recover the "full value of their loved one's life" under O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2(a). This full value of life includes both your loved one's expected lifetime earnings and aspects of life that are not capable of exact proof such as a parent's advice and love.
- If your loss is the wrongful death of a parent, the amount recovered must be equally divided among the surviving spouse and children. However, the surviving spouse must receive at least 1/3 of the total amount under O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2(d)(2).
- If your loss is the wrongful death of a child, the amount recovered is equally divided among both parents if they are not divorced, living apart, or separated under O.C.G.A. § 19-7-1(c)(2)(C). For parents who are divorced, living apart, or separated, a hearing will be held after a judgment is awarded. The judge will determine the amount each parent will received based on their relationship to their lost child including custody, control, and support among other factors.
- The costs for funeral, medical, and other necessary expenses from your loss are recoverable by your lost loved one's estate under O.C.G.A. § 51-4-5(b).
HOW WE CAN HELP
We can sympathize with the immense grief that you are facing after losing a loved one. During your time of grief, it is sometimes hard to understanding your options in seeking justice. We are here to explain your rights and focus on necessary steps to ensuring that you obtain justice for losing your one. This allows you to concentrate on your family and begin your road to rebuilding your family life again.
In Georgia, the statute of limitation to bringing a wrongful death lawsuit is 2 years from date of your loss under O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33. Whether you have lost your loved one from a criminal or negligent act by another, we will ensure seeking the justice that you deserve from your tragedy.