Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorney
If you have lost a loved one due to the negligent, reckless, or intentional acts of another, then you may be entitled to bring an action against the defendant to secure compensation for the harm caused. These damages may be significant, depending on the nature of your relationship with the deceased.
Wrongful death claims apply when a beloved family member died as the result of the fault of another person, company, or corporation. Civil claims for wrongful death apply regardless of whether a family member died due to the wrongdoer’s intentional killing or criminal negligence, or whether the death occurred as a result of purely ordinary civil negligence.
These claims occur in countless types of scenarios. A claim may occur when a person is killed in the parking lot or the premises of any business that does not have adequate security. A claim can also occur when tires or other parts of a car are manufactured defectively or inspected improperly. In perhaps the most common context, wrongful death claims will arise from a fatal motor vehicle collision.
Attorney Walter Gabriel has experience getting results for clients in their claims for wrongful death. He is cognizant of the pressures faced by plaintiffs (particularly wrongful death claimants) and the importance of resolving matters quickly and successfully.
Contact the Law Firm of Walter Gabriel, LLC for comprehensive assistance.
Understanding Wrongful Death Claims
In Georgia and Louisiana, as in every other state, the law gives specific family members the right to sue and recover damages for the wrongful death of their loved one.
Many people do not quite understand the concept behind these claims. Wrongful death damages are not meant to compensate the deceased individual, but they are instead meant to compensate the surviving family members for the losses they suffered due to the death of their loved one.
Losses suffered by surviving family members can vary significantly, but they may include:
- Loss of financial support
- Loss of love, affection, and emotional support
- Loss of guidance
- Loss of domestic services
- Pain and suffering
- Medical expenses
- Funeral expenses
- And more
These claims have no basis without underlying misconduct, either in the form of negligence, recklessness, or intentional harm. For example, if your spouse is killed by a drunk driver, then that underlying misconduct could give rise to an actionable claim. On the other hand, if your spouse dies in a solo car accident where nobody else appears to be at-fault, then there may not be a defendant against whom such a claim can be pursued.
What Can be Recovered?
For wrongful death cases, the representative is entitled to sue for the full value of the life of the decedent, as shown by the evidence. O.C.G.A. § 51-4-1.
The full value of the life has economic and noneconomic components that the jury would consider: the noneconomic includes the decedent’s personal relationships and connections, and overall quality of life, and the economic was explained by the Georgia Court of Appeals as follows: O.C.G.A. § 51-4-1(1) defines “full value of the life of the decedent, as shown by the evidence,” relevant to the measure of damages recoverable in a wrongful death case, as simply 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. Brock v. Wedincamp, 253 Ga. App. 275.
When death of a human being results from a crime or from criminal or other negligence, the personal representative of the deceased person shall be entitled to recover for the funeral, medical, and other necessary expenses resulting from the injury and death of the deceased person. O.C.G.A. § 51-4-5
Georgia Wrongful Death Claims/ Claims for Pain and Suffering
For wrongful death claims, there are two main categories of plaintiffs: (1) the individual who files the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased relative, and (2) the administrator of the estate, who make a claim on behalf of the decedent’s pain and suffering.
The Georgia statutes and courts have made it clear that an individual’s claim for wrongful death and an estate’s claim for the decedent’s pain and suffering are distinct causes of action. See generally O.C.G.A. §§ 51-4-2 (a); 51-4-5 (b); Complete Auto Transit v. Floyd, 214 Ga. 232 (2) (104 S.E.2d 208) (1958). What is notable also is that the plaintiff in his individual capacity and in his capacity as administrator are legally different persons. Stiltjes v. Ridco Exterminating Co., 197 Ga. App. 852, 853 (399 S.E.2d 708) (1990), aff’d 261 Ga. 697 (409 S.E.2d 847) (1991).
These principals were illustrated in Smith v. Memorial Medical Center Inc. et. al, where the plaintiff filed suit in both his capacity as an individual on the decedent’s wrongful death claim and as administrator of the decedent’s estate’s claim for pain and suffering. Smith v. Memorial Medical Ctr., Inc., 208 Ga. App. 26, 430 S.E.2d 57 (1993). In this case, the plaintiff voluntarily withdrew his wrongful death claim once it was determined that he was not the proper plaintiff for the decedent’s wrongful death claim. The defendant then moved to dismiss all claims in their entirety – which included the remaining estate claim for pain and suffering. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion and dismiss the estate’s claim for the decedent’s pain and suffering. The court of appeals determined that an individual’s claim for wrongful death and an estate’s claim for the decedent’s pain and suffering are distinct causes of action. Therefore, the court of appeals held that the plaintiff could dismiss the wrongful death claim and leave pending the estate’s claim for pain and suffering.
An element within wrongful death claims is what is referred to as a “survival action,” which essentially applies to allow for claims to be made where the decedent could have brought for his/her own injuries had he/she survived.
O.C.G.A. § 9-2-41 provides that “[n]o action for a tort shall abate by the death of either party, where the wrongdoer received any benefit from the tort complained of; nor shall any action or cause of action for the recovery of damages for homicide, injury to the person, or injury to property abate by the death of either party.”
Who is Eligible to Recover?
For Georgia claims, O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2 provides the answer to most questions on this matter.
The surviving spouse or, if there is no surviving spouse, a child or children, may recover for the homicide of the spouse or parent the full value of the life of the decedent, as shown by the evidence.
- If an action for wrongful death is brought by a surviving spouse and the surviving spouse dies pending the action, the action shall survive to the child or children of the decedent.
- If an action for wrongful death is brought by a child or children and one of the children dies pending the action, the action shall survive to the surviving child or children.
When no spouse or child is available to bring a claim on behalf of the decedent, O.C.G.A. § 51-4-5 applies: “The administrator or executor of the decedent may bring an action for and may recover and hold the amount recovered for the benefit of the next of kin. In any such case the amount of the recovery shall be the full value of the life of the decedent.”
In Louisiana, only certain eligible parties are entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit to obtain compensation for such losses. Those eligible parties include:
- Spouse and children
- Parents (in the event that there is no living spouse or children)
- Siblings (in the event that there is no living spouse, children, or parents)
- Grandparents (in the event that there is no living spouse, children, parents, or siblings)
It is irrelevant whether the relation is by blood or adoption.
Contact an Experienced Attorney for a Free Consultation
The Law Firm of Walter Gabriel, LLC is a personal injury litigation firm with substantial experience handling a wide range of disputes, including those that center around an individual’s wrongful death.
Plaintiffs deserve legal representation that is comprehensive and compassionate. We understand that the impact of a loved one’s death may leave your family in a difficult position. It is not uncommon for the loss of a loved one to have financial and emotional ramifications that last for several years. Such damages can help to smooth over the material challenges. For example, if your spouse was paying for your living expenses, then a successful wrongful death lawsuit is likely to cover that loss.
Ready to speak to an attorney about your claim? Call 404-549-6742 or send us a message online online to schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced attorney at the Law Firm of Walter Gabriel, LLC.