Q: What Damages Are Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Claim?
What is the purpose of damages in a wrongful death claim?
Wrongful death damages offer compensation to loved ones for the full value of the decedent’s life. Any living expenses the decedent would have had if he had lived do not reduce this amount.
It is impossible to put a price on the value of a person’s life. While no amount of money can stop the suffering when a life ends because of a wrongful act, the courts have developed standard approaches to calculate how much compensation the survivors should receive. For help with your wrongful death claim, contact the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, PC today at 404-474-0804.
What are economic and non-economic damages in a wrongful death claim?
Economic and non-economic damages are the two types of compensatory damages available in a wrongful death claim. These damages offer compensation to the decedent’s loved ones so they can recover.
Economic damages can include:
- Medical bills from the injury or illness until death;
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- Loss of income and future financial support; and
- Loss of services within the family, such as housekeeping, raising the children, and maintaining the house and yard.
Non-economic damages may involve:
- The decedent’s physical and mental pain and suffering from the time of the injury or illness until the moment of death;
- Mental anguish of the survivors;
- Loss of companionship; and
- Loss of a parent or child’s society, advice, and counsel.
Can I get interest on my wrongful death claim?
All judgments in Georgia carry interest at the Federal Reserve prime rate plus 3%, until paid. Post-judgment interest is automatic, so the judgment does not have to specifically mention interest.
It is also possible to get pre-judgment interest. If, on your behalf, we make a written offer by registered or certified mail with a demand for your unliquidated damages and the court awards an amount of damages equal to or greater than the amount of the demand, you are eligible for pre-judgment interest if the wrongdoer does not pay within 30 days. Pre-judgment interest is the same amount as post-judgment interest—prime rate plus 3%.
What are punitive damages?
Georgia law provides that punitive damages, also known as vindictive or exemplary damages, may be appropriate when there are aggravating circumstances in a wrongful death case. Courts do not order these damages as compensation to the injured party. Instead, punitive damages are strictly to punish, penalize, or deter the wrongdoer. With that in mind, the courts place certain limitations on the amount of punitive damages recoverable in some wrongful death actions.
To prove that punitive damages are appropriate, we must prove that the wrongdoer’s actions showed:
- Willful misconduct;
- Oppression; or
- An indifference to the consequences of their actions.
Depending on the specifics of your case, a portion of any punitive damages the courts award may go toward the state. If a defective product caused the wrongful death, for example, 75% of the punitive damages—minus the litigation costs and attorney fees—will go to the treasury of the state of Georgia.
How can I prove the damages in my wrongful death claim?
While making arrangements after the death of your loved one, keep in mind that your wrongful death claim will require evidence to prove. For help gathering this evidence, contact our wrongful death lawyers as soon as possible.
An autopsy may be necessary to prove a link between your loved one’s death and the wrongful act. An autopsy can provide essential evidence to prove wrongful death, while ruling out other medical conditions or events the negligent party may claim were the cause of death. If your loved one died as a result of medical malpractice, we recommend scheduling an independent autopsy, rather than relying on the hospital’s autopsy.
Police reports can provide evidence in wrongful death cases that arise out of motor vehicle accidents or violent acts. We can use expert witnesses to prove causation in wrongful death cases involving defective products, hazardous conditions, or toxic substances.
Employment records will give the data we need to calculate the decedent’s lost income and to extrapolate the loss of future earnings. Expert witnesses often prepare reports and testify on income and earning damages.
We can also use bills from the doctors, hospital, and pharmacy to establish the cost of medical expenses, while statements from the funeral home will show the funeral and burial expenses.
Note that only medical bills relating to final illness or injury are recoverable as damages in a wrongful death action. You cannot recover for medical bills for a condition the decedent had before the wrongful act occurred.
At the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, PC, we can help.
The wrongful death attorneys at the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, PC will show you the compassion and respect you deserve. We will discuss how the tragic loss of your loved one has impacted you and your family and evaluate your claim for damages. Call us today at 404-474-0804 for your free consultation.