April 30, 2020

Pitts Carr and Alex Weatherby

What is the Average Wrongful Death Settlement Amount in Georgia

When an accident results in a fatality, the case is truly tragic. Under Georgia law, certain family members have the legal right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. This is to compensate the family for the losses they suffered as a result of their loved one’s death.

If you are the family member, you understandably would like to know the average settlement amount in Georgia. Likewise, if you are the potential defendant, you would want to know your potential exposure. However, the truth is: there is no wrongful death lawsuit settlements average that we can share with you. The value of the claim depends on the facts and circumstances.

Just like any other personal injury claim, the wrongful death lawsuit value will depend on the circumstances of the accident. Retaining an Atlanta wrongful death attorney can help. When you meet with our legal team at Carr & Weatherby, we will provide you with an estimated claim valuation based on the circumstances of your case at the earliest opportunity.

A good faith estimate cannot be given in the first conversation. However, we know that folks dealing with a wrongful death want to know as soon as possible the estimated valuation of the case. We work to provide that.

Types of Damages in a Georgia Wrongful Death Claim

The damages available in a wrongful death settlement amount may vary. Damages are separated into two main categories.

The first category is economic damages. Economic damages look at the potential earning capacity of the deceased. How much money could the deceased have made if they had lived a long life and died of natural causes? Georgia law also factors in the economic value of services provided by the deceased in the home.

The law recognizes that there is value in uncompensated services such as childcare, household care, caregiving to a sick or disabled family member, and other related services. Sometimes expert testimony can be used to calculate the potential economic loss.

The second category is non-economic damages.  This type of damage is why settlement amounts can vary significantly. This is a more subjective value and includes the “full value of the life of the decedent.” This includes intangible benefits like companionship, support, counsel, and general enjoyment of life.

In very limited cases, punitive damages may be awarded. This type of financial compensation is limited to cases that involve some type of malicious or egregious behavior. The idea behind punitive damages is to punish the wrongdoer while deterring others from committing the same actions.

Factors That Can Affect the Average Settlement for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Georgia, Atlanta

One key factor in negotiating a wrongful death settlement is the liability of the defendant. In general, liability is proven by the plaintiff showing that the other party was negligent, reckless, or acted intentionally. The more clear liability generally the larger the settlement.

Other factors include the amount of economic and non-economic losses, discussed above. And, the facts and circumstances of the case. Some factors that can affect a wrongful death settlement include:

  • Victim’s Age — If the deceased is younger or a minor, it may increase the claim value since it’s expected that a younger person would have had longer to live. That also means that the value for loss of earnings and potential earning capacity is higher.
  • Education and Earnings — The victim’s salary, education, and training can impact the value of the case. Someone who makes $175,000 per year in a very specialized field may have a higher claim value than someone of a similar age who was making $50,000 a year.
  • Community Involvement — Community involvement may also affect the value of the claim. A person who provides a lot of support to their family, friends, and neighbors may have a higher claim value.

If the deceased lived for any amount of time after the incident or accident, the estate may be able to bring a claim for the pain and suffering that the deceased experienced before passing away.

This would also include any medical expenses and lost wages incurred before death. Funeral expenses and burial costs are also recoverable in a wrongful death suit.

At the end of the day, if you see a web page that lists the average wrongful death settlement, don’t rely on that amount for your case. All wrongful death settlements are reached using the individual factors of the case. A reasonable value of the case cannot be obtained until the facts of the case are known and evaluated by a wrongful death lawyer.

Wrongful Death Claims Require Liability, Causation, and Damages

A wrongful death settlement can vary widely in results. A personal injury claim is like a three-legged stool. There must be three legs (liability; causation; and damages) for the claim to stand. In a wrongful death claim, there is clear damages. But, sometimes, there is no liability or causation.

Georgia law is clear that simply because a mere accident, without more, is not sufficient to bring a claim. There must be something that the defendant did that violated an applicable standard of care. For example, an Atlanta truck accident attorney, would review whether or not the truck violated a uniform rule of the road. If a rule of the road was not violated and, instead, the decedent caused the accident, then there would not be a recovery in a wrongful death case.

If there is liability, there must also be causation.

In the case of a fatal accident, this means that the accident in question actually caused the death. Preexisting, degenerative, and congenital conditions are not typically recoverable. In the case of wrongful death, typically the causation element may be straightforward because the death occurred in close proximity with the accident. There is a classic “law school” example of causation, however, that illustrates that causation may be broken even in a wrongful death case.

Imagine that a person suffered a relatively minor injury in an auto accident. The person was placed in an ambulance. On the way to the hospital, the ambulance was struck by lightning, killing the person inside. Because the lightning caused the death, not the auto accident, there is no causation. This example is obviously extreme but it illustrates the point that the accident itself must cause the death, not some event or condition unrelated to the accident.

When Should I Hire an Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyer?

Hiring an attorney from the start is always recommended. A family who has lost a loved one is experiencing grief and loss. Hiring an attorney can help ease some stress. Likewise, a defendant facing a wrongful death suit needs help in knowing how to proceed.

When you retain Carr & Weatherby, we will deal with the litigation process and help you move forward as best you can. Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation. We have years of experience handling wrongful death claims in Atlanta, and we are here to help you in any way we can.