In the event that a loved one
dies as a result of the act of another, whether that be
negligent or intentional, the state of Georgia allows for
the possibility of recovering damages from the person
responsible under the auspices of its wrongful death
statute. This post will offer an introduction to how the
wrongful death statute works.
One of the first considerations
in any wrongful death claim is who is entitled to file the
lawsuit. In some states, for example, this right is reserved
to the administrator of the decedent's estate. But in
Georgia, the surviving spouse of the decedent or his or her
children may bring such an action in civil court. The spouse
will usually be the first one given an opportunity to file a
claim, but if he or she does not do so then any surviving
children can take up the claim, unless the surviving spouse
reaches a settlement with or otherwise defendant.
Any monetary settlement or
damages award is to be distributed among the surviving
spouse and children, with each taking an equal share subject
to the requirement that the spouse is no less than one third
of the settlement or award. Some special considerations to
bear in mind under the wrongful death statute are:
If the spouse dies before the
conclusion of a wrongful death lawsuit, the cause of action
does not go away but rather passes to the children.
Likewise, if any of the surviving children files the
wrongful death lawsuit and dies, the cause of action to the
other surviving children.
If the decedent left behind any
debts or liabilities, the award of damages under a wrongful
death lawsuit is not subject to being used to repay those
debts or liabilities.
The purpose of this post is to
provide a brief introduction to the topic of wrongful death
law. It is not meant to be a comprehensive treatment of the
topic, nor should you read it as legal advice. If you have
any specific questions concerning a possible wrongful death
claim, you should consult with a personal injury attorney
experienced with wrongful death matters.
Wrong-way accident kills 2, and
injures 2 others in Georgia
On Oct. 17, a wrong-way driver
on Interstate 75 allegedly caused a two-car collision. The
51-year-old woman was reported to have been traveling
north in the southbound lanes of I-75 in a 2003 Chevrolet
Malibu, according to Henry County police. At mile marker
219, she reportedly hit a 2002 Mitsubishi Mirage head-on.
The Mirage was driven by a
23-year-old woman, and she was killed instantly in the
impact. The Malibu driver was transported to Atlanta
Medical Center where she was later pronounced dead. Two
minors were taken to Atlanta Children's Hospital at
Egleston. Their injuries were reported to be
According to police, the
driver of the Malibu entered the interstate at the
216-exit ramp, driving the wrong way for several miles.
Those exit and entrance ramps are said to be quite close
to each other, which could be confusing when it is dark.
There have been a number of
wrong-way crashes in Metro Atlanta during recent years.
However, according to the Georgia Department of
Transportation, wrong-way accidents comprise only a small
percentage of the approximately 1,200 deaths every year on
Georgia roads. They further stated that most wrong-way
accidents involved an impaired driver. The Georgia Bureau
of Investigation will be conducting toxicology tests for
determining if alcohol was involved in this recent
When a family suffers the loss
of a loved one due to a fatal accident, they could have a
great number of questions regarding their legal rights.
Although compensation from a wrongful death suit will not
bring their loved one back, it could help account for a
family's financial losses. For instance, the compensation
awarded could set off emergency transportation costs,
medical bills and final expenses.
Fatal accident in Georgia
community ends 4 lives
When a Georgia man went out to
mow his lawn, he had no idea that he would later be
involved in an accident. As he was mowing the grass in a
ditch on his property, he had no way of knowing that what
authorities say was a speeding pickup truck was heading
his way. The fatal accident that was about to happen would
end his life, as well as the lives of three of the four
teenagers in the truck.
The pickup was traveling on
what residents in the area consider to be a windy and
dangerous road. The driver apparently failed to negotiate
a curve and lost control of the vehicle. It then went off
the road and flipped right over the man on his riding
The Georgia State Patrol
confirmed that the 57-year-old man on his riding mower and
three of the occupants of the pickup truck suffered fatal
injuries in the crash, including the driver. The fourth
person in the truck survived the crash, but not without
injuries. At last report, that passenger's condition was
It took troopers several hours
to clear the scene. Since the individual believed to be
driving when this fatal accident occurred died, no
criminal charges will be filed. However, that does not
prevent the families of the other three deceased victims
from filing wrongful death claims against the estate of
the driver. Further, the injured passenger may file a
personal injury claim as well. No amount of money will
ever repair the damage done to these families that day,
but a successfully presented claim may help with the
financial burdens incurred as a result.
Most Georgia drivers
understand the need to be vigilant on the state's
highways. However, highways without a divider -- such as
most two-lane highways -- often require even more of a
driver's attention, since inadvertently crossing over into
oncoming traffic at high speeds is possible. If this
happens, a serious or fatal accident can occur.
According to the Georgia State
Patrol, this is what happened recently on Georgia Highway
196. A passenger vehicle occupied by three people was
heading south when it crossed into the opposing lane of
traffic. A northbound vehicle was unable to maneuver out
of the oncoming car's path, and the two vehicles hit
The driver of the northbound
vehicle -- a soldier from Fort Stewart -- suffered fatal
injuries to which he succumbed at the scene. The driver
and one passenger from the other vehicle also died. The
other passenger survived the crash but suffered injuries
serious enough that emergency responders called for a
helicopter to transport him to a hospital in Savannah from
the scene in Glennville. No further information regarding
his condition was released.
The accident remains under
investigation. Toxicology samples were obtained from the
deceased driver of the southbound vehicle to determine
whether impairment was a factor in this fatal accident.
Regardless, the families of the deceased and the injured
passenger retain the right to file civil actions against
the estate of the driver believed responsible for the
crash. Any monetary damages received from a successfully
litigated claim could help alleviate the financial burdens
that often result from unexpected tragedies.
Thousands of parents in
Georgia drop their children off at daycare facilities each
day, placing their trust in the staff at those facilities
to care for their children and keep them safe. When that
trust is broken, it is often the children who suffer the
most. This was the case in a recent fatal accident at an
in-home daycare center that had already been cited for
playground hazards in the past.
The 3-year-old boy was outside
on the playground unsupervised for only a few moments, but
as any parent knows, that is more than enough time for a
toddler to get into trouble. When the owner of the daycare
came back outside from dealing with another child, she
found the toddler hanging with a string around his neck on
a slide. After calling 911, CPR was begun.
When emergency medical
personnel arrived, they took over the boy's care and
transported him to a hospital in the area. In spite of
these efforts, the boy died two days after the incident.
His death is attributed to asphyxia. The Georgia
Department of Early Care and Learning shut down the
daycare center for a minimum of 21 days to conduct an
investigation into this tragedy.
While investigations into the
fatal accident are conducted, the parents of the boy are
undoubtedly struggling to deal with their grief. They may
also file a wrongful death claim against the party or
parties deemed responsible for the premature loss of their
son. No amount of money will ever make up for the fact
that these parents will never get to see their son grow
up. However, it may help them with the unexpected expenses
that are invariably incurred due to such a sad and tragic
loss of life.
Tracey L. Dellacona, Esq