Wrongful Death

Any common law negligence case that results in the homicide or death of another gives rise to a cause of action for wrongful death. Philips Branch & Hodges has successfully asserted wrongful death claims in medical malpractice claims, car wrecks, wrecks involving tractor-trailers, inadequate security cases, nursing home negligence cases, and many others.

Obviously, no amount of money can bring back a lost loved one. However, states, through wrongful death legislation, have attempted to do the best they can to address the loss suffered by persons as a result of another’s negligence or reckless conduct:

The wrongful death statutes … create a new cause of action and new rights and duties for the prevention of criminal and negligent homicides and to meet social and economic needs. The aim of these statutes is to strike at the evil of the negligent destruction of human life, by imposing liability upon those who are responsible either directly through themselves or indirectly through their employees for homicides. It is not beyond the power of the legislature to attempt to preserve human life by making homicide expensive. It may impose an extraordinary liability, such as [the wrongful death] statutes do, not only upon those at fault, but upon those who, although not directly culpable, are able nevertheless in the management of their affairs to guard substantially against the evil to be prevented.Carringer v. Rogers, 276 Ga. 359 (2003).

Only certain persons can assert a claim for wrongful death. Exactly who can bring a wrongful death cause of action is governed by applicable state law. Usually, the following persons or groups are permitted to bring a wrongful death claim: surviving spouse or children; parents; the decedent’s personal representative.

Damages for wrongful death are also governed by applicable state statutes. In Georgia, for example, wrongful death damages primarily consist of two different elements. The first damages component or measurement is the full value of the decedent’s life from the decedent’s point of view. In other words, how much was the decedent’s life worth to the decedent? A jury, in their enlightened conscious, makes this determination based upon the evidence presented in the case. The second component of a damages award in a wrongful death action in Georgia are those damages belonging to the estate of the decedent. The estate’s damages usually include funeral and burial expenses, medical expenses, and pre-death pain and suffering of the decedent. The decedent’s representative is the person who brings these claims.

In Alabama, damages for the wrongful death of another are measured differently. Specifically, Alabama characterizes or classifies wrongful death damages as strictly punitive in nature; compensation is irrelevant. The measure of damages is entirely dependent upon: the culpability of the defendant; the quality of the defendant’s wrongful act; and the necessity of preventing others from engaging in similar wrongful conduct Losing a loved one is, unfortunately, something everyone at some point or another experiences. Losing someone as a result of another’s negligence or reckless conduct is, however, completely unnecessary, and those responsible need to be held accountable for their actions. If you or someone you know have lost someone important to you, call Philips Branch & Hodges today and let one of our lawyers explain to you what your rights and options are under the law.