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Georgia Wrongful Death Case Law

Georgia law has defined wrongful death as a loss of life caused by the negligence of another person. Negligence is when someone does not show the same care that a reasonably prudent person would under similar circumstances. Wrongful death attorney Shane Smith represents families who have lost loved ones in auto accidents, truck accidents, DUI accidents, pedestrian accidents, or serious premises liability accidents.

Under early Common Law, once the victim died there was no right to sue the responsible party. However, in 1846 the Fatal Accidents Act was passed (also known as Lord Campbell's Act) allowing surviving family members to sue the responsible party for damages. Georgia has adopted a similar wrongful death statute.

There are essentially two claims in a wrongful death suit. The first is by the deceased's estate and seeks damages as if the victim had not died. These damages would include medical expenses, funeral expenses, lost wages (and future wages) and the victim's pain and suffering between the time of the accident and his time of death. The second claim is by a living person against the person who caused the death. According to Section 51-4-1 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.), the order of the appropriate party to bring the wrongful death claim is: the spouse, children, or the victim's parents (if there is no living spouse or children).

Damages are calculated considering both the economic and non-economic values of the victim's life. Economic values include the amount of lifetime earnings using the victim's actual prior earnings as determined by tax documents. Non-economic values are more subjective and are determined by witness testimony and documentary evidence. Georgia recognizes that a life has an intrinsic value independent of the victim's potential lifetime earnings.

Damages are determined from the victim's perspective. This means that the court does not look at a death from the point of view of the surviving family's loss but rather the victim's losses. Brock v. Wedincamp, 558 S.E.2d 836 (Ga. Ct. App. 2002).

In determining damages, a jury will consider characteristics such as "age, life expectancy, precocity, health, mental and physical development, [and] family circumstances…". Williams v. Worsley, 510 S.E.2d 46 (Ga. Ct. App. 1998).

You should hire an experienced wrongful death attorney if you believe your loved one was killed due to someone else's negligence. Call Shane Smith Law at (980) 246-2656 for a free consultation.

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