In Georgia, when a wrongful act causes a person’s death, two separate legal claims are created. First, a claim for wrongful death may be brought by a surviving spouse for the “full value” of the person’s life. If there is no surviving spouse, the wrongful death claim falls first to the children, then to the parents, and finally to the personal representative of a lost loved one. Wrongful death damages are determined in the “enlightened conscience of the jury” from the perspective of the person who died, and can often result in large damage awards based on the subjective dollar value of the person’s life.
Second, a claim may be brought by the person’s estate for medical and funeral expenses, and the conscious pain and suffering the person endured before death. Many times, the estate is administered by the same family member bringing the wrongful death claim, and the two are combined in the same lawsuit, although they are separate legal claims.
After a loved one has been wrongfully killed by a negligent party, it is important to hold that negligent party accountable. There are strict time limits associated with bringing wrongful death, and estate claims. The wrongful death limit is generally two years. The estate’s claims must generally be brought within two years from the date the estate was established, but these may be longer in some instances. It is therefore important to seek legal guidance from an experienced attorney as soon as possible after the tragic loss of a loved one.