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Wrongful Death

If your loved one has been killed due to the fault of another person or company, you may have a wrongful death claim. First and foremost, we understand that you are hurting. In addition to your grief, you are likely faced with many legal worries related to funeral expenses, debts left behind, probate of the estate, and financial support for the surviving children or spouse. We can help remove some of your worry by providing legal advice and guidance during this difficult time of your life. Second, we have decades of experience helping family members maximize their recovery in wrongful death claims.

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim?

Generally, a spouse has the right to bring a wrongful death claim. If no spouse is available, then a child may bring the wrongful death claim (subject to the guidelines discussed below.)

In Georgia, when a person is killed by the negligence of another, two potential claims arise:

  1. wrongful death claim (for the value of the expected lifetime earnings and the intangible value of the lost life), and
  2. an estate claim (for medical expenses, funeral expenses and any pre-death pain and suffering).

Generally, a living spouse has the right to bring a wrongful death claim. If the surviving spouse is unable or unwilling to bring the claim, then a surviving child or children may bring the wrongful death claim. If no surviving spouse or children are available, then a surviving parent may bring the wrongful death claim. If none of the above are available, the estate representative may have the right to bring the wrongful death claim.

The right to bring the estate claim vests in the court appointed representative of the estate (called an "administrator" or "executor.")

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Who Gets the Money Awarded for Wrongful Death or the Estate Claim?

O.C.G.A. §51-4-2 sets out who gets the money awarded for a wrongful death claim. This money does not go into the estate of deceased, and thus is not controlled by the decedent's will. O.C.G.A. §51-12-2 requires the money to be split equally between the surviving spouse and all surviving children, with the one requirement that the spouse shall not get less than one-third.  Importantly, this money is not subject to any debt left behind by the deceased.

For an estate claim, any money awarded goes into the estate, and is controlled by the terms of the decedent's will. If the deceased had no will, then the laws of intestacy control who gets the money. These laws typically require the spouse and children to share equally (subject to a few exceptions.)

Once our firm is hired, we can coordinate both the estate claim and the wrongful death claim, and provide detailed guidance to your family to maximize your recovery for all claims due to the death.

How Can Anyone Put a Value on a Human Life?

This is a really tough task. Under Georgia law, the jury is allowed to award the "full value of the life" including both the "economic losses" as well as the "intangible value" of life. There is no set formula for calculating the value of a human life. After hearing all the evidence in the case, the jurors are guided by "the enlightened conscious" of all the members of the jury. The jury's verdict must be unanimous, so the ultimate award is likely to be the result of a compromise among the jurors.

We have helped many families with wrongful death claims. Mr. Hall and our trial team have decades of experience in this area. We can help remove many of the worries you may be facing. When you hire our firm, you will get personal and detailed attention from Mr. Hall and our entire trial team. We handle a low volume of cases - allowing us to spend time getting to know you and your family. We routinely develop personal relationships with our clients and their families.

Give us the chance to listen to your story. We can provide a free, no obligation meeting. Then, you can make the important decision about the right law firm to trust with your wrongful death case.

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