The unexpected, premature and avoidable death of a loved one is always a tragedy, and it often leaves families struggling with significant financial losses and uncertainty. The law in Georgia, however, does allow survivors to obtain some compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit.
How wrongful death actions work
While it is not always the case, many wrongful death lawsuits come on the heels of criminal proceedings in which a prospective defendant faced charges for the death of the individual at issue. Though the evidence presented may ultimately be similar in the two cases, the standard of proof required in a civil wrongful death case will be lower than that needed to secure a conviction.
A wrongful death lawsuit cannot be brought by just anyone, and it is typically initiated by the personal representative of the deceased individual’s estate for the benefit of the family members left behind. In order to file a suit of this nature, several conditions must be present, including:
- An individual’s death
- An allegation that the death stemmed from another party’s negligence or harmful intent
- The existence of surviving family members who have financial losses as a result
- The appointment of a personal representative to pursue the claim
The overriding purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to assess the degree to which surviving family members have suffered — and may continue to suffer — monetary losses due to the decedent’s absence from their lives.
Evaluating losses sustained
After it is established that all necessary elements of a wrongful death claim are present, a highly detailed evaluation of the aforementioned financial losses will be undertaken, generally with the help of expert witnesses. This review will assess factors including the decedent’s life expectancy, earning potential, contributions to family income, level of emotional and household support provided, the age and ability of survivors and much more.
Whether a wrongful death claim stems from medical malpractice, a vehicle crash, a workplace accident or another party’s criminal conduct, it is important for survivors to know that there are processes available that may help them recover from the financial disruptions they face.