Law Firm of Cochran & Edwards

What Is A Wrongful Death Claim 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, 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 he or she 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 upon 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 not only specifies who can bring a claim for wrongful death, it also specifies the types of damages which are recoverable. Because punitive damages are not specified or even mentioned, Georgia court 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 he or she survived, punitive damages can be recovered in some cases. In order to recover punitive damages, not only must there be evidence that the victim survived for at least a few seconds, but also that defendant’s conduct was intentional, malicious or showed a conscious disregard for the consequences.

In some states, punitive damages in a wrongful death case are available. 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?

Almost never. It depends on who the defendant is, and how much insurance coverage is available, if any, to handle a claim on his or her own. It depends on factors we briefly discussed about with the earning capacity, the remaining life expectancy, or who else might possibly be responsible. There are any number of factors that might affect your right to sue, including the statute of limitations, whether there is a government entity involved, in which case you only have six to twelve months to give the proper notice. There might also be uninsured motorist coverage available from your own insurance carrier, and they need to be given timely notice. There are any numbers of 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) 575-8617 today.

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