What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
Answer: Wrongful Death is defined under the Georgia Wrongful Death Act at O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2 et seq.
Who has the Legal Right to Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim or Lawsuit in Georgia?
Answer: The Georgia Wrongful Death Act governs which people are entitled to recover in the event of a death caused by a negligent party who is liable under that statute. According to that statute, the spouse of the decedent is the party that controls the legal claim for wrongful death. If the decedent was unmarried divorced at the time of his or her death, then any of the decedent’s children (biological or adopted) may pursue the wrongful death claim. If the decedent had no spouse or living children at the time of death, then one or both parents would then be eligible to pursue the wrongful death claim. If no spouse, children or parents were living, then the wrongful death claim is to be pursued by the Executor/Executrix or Administrator/Administratrix of the decedent’s estate.
What Types of Damages can One Claim in a Wrongful Death Action?
Answer: Wrongful death beneficiaries are entitled to the “full value of the life of the decedent, as shown by the evidence” as defined in Georgia statute O.C.G.A. § 51-4-1(1) as “the full value of the life of the decedent without deducting for any of the necessary or personal expenses of the decedent had he lived.” As this statute is the only direction from the Georgia legislature on how to calculate the “full value of life” and is quite vague, judicial interpretation from Georgia courts is necessary to give direction on how to calculate this level of damages. Georgia courts have suggested the ‘full value of life’ has two components: 1) Economic component; and 2) Non-economic, or “intangibles”, component.
How are Those Damages Distributed Among the Heirs of the Loved One?
Answer: The person who is legally authorized to pursue the wrongful death claim is not necessarily the person entitled to collect the proceeds from the claim. As stated above, the surviving spouse must share the proceeds with surviving children. The executor or administrator mush distribute the proceeds to the beneficiaries in the decedent’s will or to his intestate beneficiaries.
In What Georgia Court the Action Should be Filed?
Answer: The State and Superior courts of Georgia are courts of original trial jurisdiction. These courts are authorized to hear and try wrongful death cases. If an executrix or administrator must bring a case, then it will be necessary to first bring an action in probate court to be named as personal representative.
For a more detailed discussion of the Georgia Wrongful Death Act, please click here.
Charles Scholle serves clients from offices in Duluth, Decatur, Midtown and the Perimeter and represents victims throughout Atlanta and Georgia. To set up your free consultation, you can email, send the firm a message online or call toll-free at 866-972-5287 or in Atlanta at 770-717-5100.