When Do You Have A Wrongful Death Case In Georgia?
A wrongful death claim is where someone is killed because of someone else’s actions. It can be a car wreck, truck accident, medical malpractice or premises liability; it can be virtually anything where someone is killed due to the negligence or even intentional conduct of an individual or business.
Who Can Actually Bring A Wrongful Death Claim?
In Georgia and in many other states, there are two types of wrongful death claims. One is the actual wrongful death claim, which is the value of the life of the deceased. The spouse, children, parents, or the siblings, depending upon who survives the deceased, can bring that claim by statute.
The other claim is referred to as the estate’s claim for pain and suffering, or it is sometimes referred to as the survival action. This is basically the claim the victim would have been able to bring for pain and suffering, mental anguish, etc., if they had survived. There must be evidence that the deceased lived for some period of time after the incident, even if just for a few seconds. If death was instantaneous, then there is likely no survival action for pain and suffering. Who can bring the survival claim depends on whether the person had a will, and if not, it goes to the laws of intestacy.
What Is The Statute Of Limitations For Wrongful Death Suits In Georgia?
The statute of limitations in a wrongful death claim in Georgia is generally two years, although there can be exceptions depending on who is responsible for the death. For example, if any government entity is responsible, then while the statute of limitations is two years, there is a requirement called anti-litem notice. This requires a person to give notice to the government within either six months or one year depending upon whether it is a city, county, state government, or a state agency.
Are Punitive Damages Available In Wrongful Death Claims?
Usually not. The Georgia Wrongful Death Act is the statute which specifies not only who can bring a claim for wrongful death but also the types of damages that are recoverable. Because punitive damages are not specified or even mentioned, Georgia courts have held that punitive damages are not recoverable for wrongful death.
However, because the survival action for pain and suffering is basically the claim that the victim could have brought had they survived, punitive damages can be recovered in some cases. In order to recover punitive damages, there must be evidence not only that the victim survived for at least a few seconds but also that the defendant’s conduct was intentional, malicious or showed a conscious disregard for the consequences.
In some states, punitive damages are available in a wrongful death case. For example, in Alabama (where we are also licensed), punitive damages are the only measure of damages available for the wrongful death. Alabama does not recognize any claim for compensatory damages for the loss of earnings or the loss of someone’s life, nor does Alabama recognize a survival action for pain and suffering. In Alabama, the measure of damages for wrongful death is strictly punitive, not compensatory.
How Do You Advise Clients That Want To Handle A Wrongful Death Claim On their Own?
It depends on who the defendant is and how much insurance coverage is available, if any, to handle a claim on their own. It depends on factors we briefly discussed regarding the earning capacity, the remaining life expectancy and who else might possibly be responsible.
There are numerous factors that might affect your right to sue, including the statute of limitations and whether there is a government entity involved, in which case you only have 6 to 12 months to give the proper notice. There might also be uninsured motorist coverage available from your own insurance carrier, and it needs to be given timely notice. There are numerous things to be considered, and while it is possible that you can represent yourself, it is certainly worthwhile to consult with an attorney.
For more information on wrongful death claims in Georgia, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling 770-637-5470 today. Get Help Now.