This page will look at Atlanta wrongful death and survival lawsuits. Our lawyers explain how wrongful death lawsuits work in Georgia and what the average settlement compensation value of these cases is in Atlanta.
Atlanta Wrongful Death and Survival Lawsuits
Like all states, Georgia recognizes two separate but related causes of action or claims that can be asserted in civil court when someone dies as a result of the negligent or intentional acts of another. The 2 potential claims for a civil death case in Georgia are: (1) wrongful death claims, and (2) survival claims.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Atlanta
Atlanta wrongful death lawsuits can be brought under the Georgia wrongful death statute (Ga. Code § 51-4-2). This law was enacted by the legislature to give surviving family members the ability to bring a civil lawsuit when a death is caused by negligent, reckless or intentional conduct.
The purpose of the law is to give family members of the decedent the ability to get financial compensation. The law also advances the public policy goal of deterring negligent or intentional conduct resulting in death.
Who is Eligible to File an Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Only certain immediate family members of a decedent are legally permitted to be plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia. Under the Georgia wrongful death statute, the surviving spouse of the decedent has priority standing to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. If there is no surviving spouse, then the decedent’s children have standing to bring a claim.
Who Gets the Settlement Money in a Georgia Wrongful Death Case?
Regardless of who actually files the wrongful death lawsuit, any settlement proceeds generated by the case must be divided between the family members of the decedent as set forth in the statute. Subsection (d) of the Georgia wrongful death statute states that any amounts recovered in a wrongful death case “shall be divided equally” among the surviving spouse and the children of the decedent. However, in any distribution, the surviving spouse is entitled to receive no less than 1/3 of any recovery.
2-Year Statute of Limitations for Atlanta Wrongful Death Cases
Like any other lawsuit, Atlanta wrongful death claims must be filed within a certain time deadline which is known as the “statute of limitations.” In Georgia, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit is 2-years from the date of death. Ga. Code § 9-3-33. So if the decedent died on 1/1/2023, the wrongful death lawsuit must be filed on or before 1/1/2025 or it will be time barred.
Exceptions to the 2-Year Statute of Limitations
Georgia has 2 very significant exceptions to the 2-year statute of limitations that normally applies to wrongful death claims. The first exception applies in cases where the wrongful death is the result of a crime (i.e., murder, assault, etc.). In this situation, the 2-year staute of limitations does not begin to run until the criminal case against the offender is completed, up to a maximum of 6 years. Ga. Code § 9-3-99
The second exception applies in cases where the decedent’s estate has not been probated. In this situation, the statute of limitations can be tolled for up to 5-years to await probate of the estate. Ga. Code § 9-3-92
Damages Available in Atlanta Wrongful Death Cases
In Atlanta wrongful death cases, damages can be awarded to the plaintiff(s) to provide financial compensation for a variety of losses directly resulting from the family member’s death, including:
- funeral expenses
- medical expenses incurred before death (caused by the negligence)
- estate administration expenses
- lost income and benefits, including amounts the deceased reasonably would have been expected to earn had he or she lived, and
- loss of the deceased’s services and companionship
Under Georgia law, damages are intended to compensate the deceased’s surviving spouse, children, and/or parents for their losses related to the death.
Atlanta Survival Lawsuits
In addition to bringing a claim for wrongful death, Georgia law permits the personal representative of a decedent’s estate to bring something called a survival action lawsuit. Survival actions in Georgia are governed by Ga. Code § 9-2-41. This statute essentially gives the decedent’s estate the ability to stand in the shoes of the decedent and bring legal claims on their behalf.
The personal representative for the estate is able to bring the same claims that the decedent could have brought if they were still alive. Damages recoverable under a survival action may include things like the decedent’s pain and suffering, medical bills, and past and future wage loss.
Survival Actions Vs. Wrongful Death Claims
Both survival actions and wrongful death claims are tort claims for compensation for the surviving family. But they serve different purposes and compensate for different types of damages. A wrongful death claim in Georgia seeks to compensate for the full value of the life of the deceased, measuring it from the decedent’s perspective. It is for the survivors’ loss. It includes lost wages, loss of companionship, and all of the awfulness that comes with losing a loved one.
In contrast, a survival action compensates for the suffering endured by the decedent from the time of injury until their death. It is the claim that might have had if they lived. A survival action in Georgia seeks damages for medical expenses, funeral costs, and the conscious pain and suffering experienced by the deceased before they died.
Atlanta Wrongful Death Verdicts and Settlements
Below are summaries of verdicts and reported settlements from recent Atlanta wrongful death cases. These summaries are provided strictly for informational purposes.
$125,000 Settlement (Fultyon County 2023): A 73-year-old nursing home resident died from complications related to a fractured hip which he suffered after falling while under the care of the defendant nursing home. Wrongful death and survival lawsuit alleged that the death was caused by negligent supervision by the nursing home.
$650,000 Settlement (Gwinnett County 2023): The decedent was reportedly operating a motorcycle northbound at an intersection when a motor vehicle driven by the defendant and owned by a company turned left in front of him, causing a collision. The collision caused fatal injuries. Settlement allocated 80% to wrongful death and 20% to survival claims.
$7,000,000 Verdict (Fulton County 2023): A mother of 2 young childred suffered fatal injuries when the vehicle she was driving northbound, attempting a left turn at an intersection on a green arrow, was struck on the driver’s side by an eastbound SUV operated by the defendant. The lawsuit alleged that the defendant was driving within the scope of his employment for Popeyes Chicken at the time of the accident, but Popeyes claimed he was on his commute home and therefore not on the job. The jury in Atlanta awarded $7 million.
$77,593,787 Verdict (DeKalb County 2022): The decedent was a 29-year-old man with a history of bipolar disorder and substance abuse. He was struck and killed while sitting on an interstate highway a few days after being released from a rehab facility. Wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the rehab place and the psychiatrist who treated him, alleging that they negligently switched him off his meds and released him without observing his reaction. The jury in DeKalb County was clearly offended by the defendant’s conduct in this case because $77 million is a massive verdict even in a wrongful death case.
$4,250,000 Verdict (Gwinnett County 2022): The decedent was operating a street sweeper machine manufactured by the defendant. The decedent was crushed to death when he tried to check a jam on the machine and was pulled into the hopper on the device. His family brought a wrongful death lawsuit based on product liability alleging that the sweeper was defective because it lacked certain safety features. The verdict was reduced to $2.6 million based on comparative fault as the decedent was found to be 49% at-fault.
$7,700,000 Verdict (Gwinnett Count 2022): The decedent, a 56-year-old female survived by 2 adult children, was killed in a vehicle accident on the highway with a tractor trailer. The jury awarded $6 million for the wrongful death claim and $1.7 million for the survival claim.
Hire an Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyer
Call 800-553-8082 if you are looking to maximize the jury payout or settlement amount of your wrongful death claim in Atlanta. You can also contact us online.