Wrongful Death in Georgia
In Georgia, the surviving spouse of the deceased person is entitled to bring a wrongful death action on his/her behalf and on behalf of any surviving children and is entitled to recover the “full value of the life of the decedent.” If there is no surviving spouse, then the surviving children of the deceased would be the proper party to bring the wrongful death action.
In addition, the Executor or Administrator of the Estate of the deceased is entitled to bring a claim to recover the medical, funeral and burial expenses, as well as for the pain and suffering of the deceased. It is our job to see that all of these claims are brought to maximize the value of any claim we bring to the full extent of the law.
Georgia Wrongful Death Law
O.C.G.A. § 51-4-1. Definitions
As used in this chapter, the term:
(1) “Full value of the life of the decedent, as shown by the evidence” means 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.
(2) “Homicide” includes all cases in which the death of a human being results from a crime, from criminal or other negligence, or from property which has been defectively manufactured, whether or not as the result of negligence.
O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2. Homicide of spouse or parent; survival of action; distribution of recovery
(a) The surviving spouse or, if there is no surviving spouse, a child or children, either minor or sui juris, may recover for the homicide of the spouse or parent the full value of the life of the decedent, as shown by the evidence.
(b)(1) If an action for wrongful death is brought by a surviving spouse under subsection (a) of this Code section and the surviving spouse dies pending the action, the action shall survive to the child or children of the decedent.
(2) If an action for wrongful death is brought by a child or children under subsection (a) of this Code section and one of the children dies pending the action, the action shall survive to the surviving child or children.
(c) The surviving spouse may release the alleged wrongdoer without the concurrence of the child or children or any representative thereof and without any order of court, provided that such spouse shall hold the consideration for such release subject to subsection (d) of this Code section.
(d)(1) Any amount recovered under subsection (a) of this Code section shall be equally divided, share and share alike, among the surviving spouse and the children per capita, and the descendants of children shall take per stirpes, provided that any such recovery to which a minor child is entitled and which equals less than $15,000.00 shall be held by the natural guardian of the child, who shall hold and use such money for the benefit of the child and shall be accountable for same; and any such recovery to which a minor child is entitled and which equals $15,000.00 or more shall be held by a guardian of the property of such child.
(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1) of this subsection, the surviving spouse shall receive no less than one-third of such recovery as such spouse’s share.
(e) No recovery had under subsection (a) of this Code section shall be subject to any debt or liability of the decedent.
(f) In actions for recovery under this Code section, the fact that a child has been born out of wedlock shall be no bar to recovery.
O.C.G.A. §19-7-1 Recovery for the Homicide of Child
(c)(1) In every case of the homicide of a child, minor or sui juris, there shall be some party entitled to recover the full value of the life of the child, either as provided in this Code section or as provided in Chapter 4 of Title 51. For the homicide of an unborn child, the right to recover for the full value of the life of such child shall begin at the point at which a detectable human heartbeat, as such term is defined in Code Section 1-2-1, is present.
(2) If the deceased child does not leave a spouse or child, the right of recovery shall be in the parent or parents, if any, given such a right by this paragraph as follows:
(A) If the parents are living together and not divorced, the right shall be in the parents jointly;
(B) If either parent is deceased, the right shall be in the surviving parent; or
(C) If both parents are living but are divorced, separated, or living apart, the right shall be in both parents. However, if the parents are divorced, separated, or living apart and one parent refuses to proceed or cannot be located to proceed to recover for the wrongful death of a child, the other parent shall have the right to contract for representation on behalf of both parents, thereby binding both parents, and the right to proceed on behalf of both parents to recover for the homicide of the child with any ultimate recovery to be shared by the parents as provided in this subsection. Unless a motion is filed as provided in paragraph (6) of this subsection, such a judgment shall be divided equally between the parents by the judgment; and the share of an absent parent shall be held for such time, on such terms, and with such direction for payment if the absent parent is not found as the judgment directs. Payment of a judgment awarded to the parent or parents having the cause of action under this subparagraph or the execution of a release by a parent or parents having a cause of action under this subparagraph shall constitute a full and complete discharge of the judgment debtor or releasee. If, after two years from the date of any recovery, the share of an absent parent has not been paid to the absent parent, the other parent can petition the court for the funds, and the recovery, under appropriate court order, shall be paid over to the parent who initiated the recovery.
(3) The intent of this subsection is to provide a right of recovery in every case of the homicide of a child who does not leave a spouse or child. If, in any case, there is no right of action in a parent or parents under the above rules, the right of recovery shall be determined by Code Section 51-4-5.