Understanding Wrongful Death Claims in Georgia

As of 2019, there have been 173,040 unintentional deaths in the United States. Unintentional deaths can result from various incidents, such as work-related injuries, medical malpractice, or car accidents. When a loved one dies, it makes sense that survivors would want to file a wrongful death claim against the person or entity they believe caused the death. The following article will provide some vital information regarding wrongful death claims in Georgia to assist you if you decide to file a claim.

What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim typically asserts that the decedent’s death was the result of a person’s negligence or misconduct. Wrongful death claims can apply to all types of fatal accidents, ranging from car accidents to medical malpractice. Various individuals can be sued in wrongful death suits, such as the driver in a car accident fatality or the physician in a medical malpractice fatality.

What Types of Deaths Can Give Rise to a Wrongful Death Claim?

There are several types of deaths that can give rise to a wrongful death claim. These include deaths resulting from:

  • General negligent conduct
  • Car accidents, especially those involving driving while intoxicated or while under the influence
  • Medical malpractice incidents
  • Nursing home abuse or neglect
  • Use of defective or recalled products
  • Ingesting contaminated food or drinks
  • Use of unsafe prescription drugs
  • Use of dangerous medical devices
  • Illegal sale of drugs and alcohol
  • Dangerously faulty construction
  • Intentional homicide

 What is Georgia’s Law Regarding Wrongful Death Claims?

 GA Code § 51-4 provides a cause of action for surviving parties to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of a decedent. The surviving parties who can file a claim include spouses, parents, children, and personal representatives of the decedent. Specifically, in the case of spouses, if one spouse dies, the other spouse has the right to file a wrongful death claim. If there is no surviving spouse, then any child or children of the deceased spouse have the right to file the claim. Similarly, parents have the right to file wrongful death claims on behalf of their deceased children. If a decedent has no surviving spouse or children, a personal representative can file a claim on the decedent’s behalf.

Additionally, GA Code § 9-3-33 states that all personal injury claims (including wrongful death claims) have to be filed within two years of the incident giving rise to the claim. This means that if you have a potential wrongful death claim, you must file it within two years of the date of the death of the decedent for the claim to remain valid.

What Types of Damages are Awarded in Wrongful Death Suits?

Georgia law indicates that there are three types of damage awards that surviving parties can receive in wrongful death suits. These are:

  • Funeral costs and other relevant expenses (for example, medical expenses) resulting from the injury and subsequent death of the deceased
  • Pain and suffering awards resulting from the injury and subsequent loss of the deceased
  • Full value of the life of the deceased, which is not specifically defined under the statute, but has been defined over time by Georgia appellate courts as including the economic value (the present value of the deceased’s future earnings or services) and non-economic value (intangible elements such as consortium, which are typically determined by a jury) of the deceased.
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