Wrongful Death Attorney in Lawrenceville, Georgia
This page will look at the key elements of wrongful death lawsuits in Georgia and how much money you can expect as compensation in these cases in a settlement amount or jury payout.
What is a Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death lawsuits are allowed in Georgia only under statutory law – meaning that the law was specifically passed by the legislature and signed by the Georgia Governor. The code provides that the survivors or family members “may recover for the homicide of the spouse or parent the full value of the life of the decedent, as shown by the evidence” O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2(a). This is a process in which includes both an economic analysis, i.e. how much money would the loved one make, as well as the value of the enjoyment of life.
In order to receive full damages or full compensation, one must also recover under an Estate. An Estate is created in the probate court that collects all the assets and liabilities of the decedent. Once an Estate is created, then, under Georgia’s wrongful death statute, O.C.G.A. § 51-4-5(b), whereby the Estate recovers the pain and suffering of the decedent, between the time of the wrongdoing and the death.
A wrongful death lawsuit is a type of personal injury claim that arises from injuries that cause a person’s death. Any type of fatality caused by the unlawful or negligent acts of another can result in a wrongful death filing. Car accidents and commercial truck accidents are common causes of wrongful death accidents.
Wrongful death lawsuits are unique in that the person harmed is no longer alive to file the case. As a result, it is the deceased person’s estate that files a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf. The recipients of the damages award are the person’s survivors, usually their close family. Wrongful death lawsuits are civil suits filed against the negligent party, independent of any criminal charges.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The surviving spouse, children, or parents of the deceased are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Surviving family members may be entitled to compensation for losses such as:
Loss of consortium and companionship
Loss of income and benefits (especially if the deceased person was the family breadwinner)
In addition, if the negligent party’s actions were malicious, reckless, or criminal in nature, the family may be awarded punitive damages, which are designed to punish the negligent party. Examples of this include cases where a truck driver grossly disregarded road rules by operating their truck while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
A lawyer from The Fleming Firm, LLC can evaluate your particular case and discuss how much compensation you and your loved ones are entitled to.
Damages Available in a Georgia Wrongful Death Suit
Regardless of who is filing the suit, Georgia recognizes two separate and distinct types of wrongful death claims: a wrongful death claim to establish the full life and value of the deceased, and a wrongful death claim to compensate the deceased’s estate/beneficiaries for financial losses stemming from the decedent’s passing.
As such, damages available via these two claim types include:
Medical expenses incurred by the decedent prior to death
The value of the deceased’s lost earnings, earning capacity, and benefits
Funeral and burial expenses
The value of pain and suffering experienced by the deceased prior to death
Noneconomic damages suffered by surviving family members, such as the value of lost parental guidance, companionship, and protection of the deceased
Factors that Affect a Wrongful Death Settlement Value in Georgia
Settlements vary greatly depending upon the circumstances of the case. Factors that can affect a wrongful death settlement include:
Age of the Victim
Typically, the younger the victim, the more years the victim would have lived but for death. As such, the greater the loss of potential earning capacity and value of lost wages suffered by the victim and family as a result of death.
Earnings, Education, and Training
The amount of wages that a decedent collected prior to death or would have collected in the future due to employment, promotions, etc. can have a large effect on a settlement, too.
For example, the family of a person who had an expected 25 working years left prior to retirement and was earning $100,000 per year would likely be entitled to a larger settlement than an individual of a similar age who was only earning $40,000 per year.
Economic Damages Suffered
In some cases, a person who is injured may live for days, weeks, or months with those injuries prior to death, incurring hundreds of dollars in medical expenses along the way. A family deserves to be compensated for these medical expenses, as well as other financial losses, such as the costs associated with their loved one’s prolonged suffering.
When a person dies and leaves behind a spouse, minor children, and other dependents, the loss can be especially hard on the family. Having minor children may affect the value of a claim, as minor children not only suffer financial losses when a parent dies but also the loss of parental guidance.
Keep in mind that in addition to the above factors, something that can have a monumental impact on your case is the amount of insurance that’s available.
In fact, if the defendant doesn’t have insurance, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to recoup a settlement at all.
How Can I Know What My Case Is Worth?
The best way to learn what your case is worth, and what the average wrongful death settlement is to look for cases similar to yours, then schedule a free consultation with an experienced lawyer at The Fleming Firm, LLC.
Our lawyers can review the details of your claim and provide you with a rough estimate of your claim’s value based on similar wrongful death settlements.
However, until a thorough investigation is opened and there is a clearer understanding of the insurance policies involved, it is impossible to get a precise average wrongful death settlement amount.