The survivors (close loved ones) of a victim in a personal injury case can pursue personal injury damages through either a wrongful death or a survival action in Georgia after the injured person dies. There are, however, limitations of each type of action.
Survival Actions in Georgia
Suppose a perpetrator is abusing the elderly in nursing homes in a state that does not allow survival of actions for personal injury. If the aged abuse victim dies before receiving compensation, the court would have to dismiss the action, and the abuser would not have to pay for his misdeeds.
Because Georgia allows a personal injury cause of action to survive the death of the harmed person, the survivors of the decedent can continue the lawsuit. If there is no one with the right of survivorship, the personal representative of the deceased person can pursue the action. Survival of actions law also applies to injuries and deaths from criminal behavior.
Wrongful Death Actions in Georgia
Georgia law allows wrongful death lawsuits when the decedent died because of someone else’s criminal conduct. So, if the negligence caused a death, a wrongful death lawsuit might be the best course. There are differences, however, in the kind of damages you can recover in survival and wrongful death cases. In a wrongful death case, the survivors can recover for the “full value of the life of the decedent.”
It is impossible to put a dollar amount on a person’s life, but the law attempts to provide a yardstick for compensation for the surviving loved ones. One aspect of the full value is how much money we can reasonably expect the decedent would have earned if he had lived a typical number of years.
Example of the value of a person’s life: if the deceased person died at age 40 due to someone else’s negligence, he likely would have worked another 25 years or longer. If he earned $80,000 a year, the income would have totaled $2,000,000 without including raises in salary over the years. We can use a vocational expert to explain to the court the reasonable amount of money the deceased would have earned if he had lived. The law does not subtract the living expenses the decedent would have incurred if he had not died.
In addition to income, the personal representative can also recover the medical, funeral, and burial expenses of the decedent that resulted from the injury and death. The courts can also put a dollar value on the services a person performs for the family, like housekeeping and yard work.
The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for shockingly unacceptable behavior and to deter others from similar actions.
For an award of punitive damages, the plaintiff must convince the court that when the defendant harmed the plaintiff, the defendant acted:
- Intentionally or
- Without caring about how his actions injured others.
What Happens When the Negligent Person Dies
Do not assume that you have no legal remedy if the negligent person who harmed you or killed a loved one also dies. The rule in Georgia about personal injury claims surviving death includes the death of the at-fault person.
We can sue the personal representative for the same damages that we could have sought against the negligent person if she had not died, except in this situation, we cannot go after punitive damages. This law also applies to injuries and deaths that involved criminal activity.
How to Get Help for a Wrongful Death or Survival Action
You do not have to figure out whether a wrongful death or survival action is the best legal remedy for you and your family. Call the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, PC, and we will talk with you about your situation at no charge and no obligation. You can contact us at 404-474-0804, to set up your free consultation. We will sort out which type of lawsuit is appropriate and will not charge any legal fees until you recover compensation.