Legal News & Updates

Unique Aspects of Wrongful Death Cases in Georgia

Wrongful death cases in Georgia are unique in many respects. Unlike some personal injury cases, there are actually two separate and distinct claims for wrongful death. Another aspect to these claims is the ‘hierarchy of people,’ such as a spouse or a child, that are permitted to bring a claim. Damages are recoverable by both the estate of the deceased person and the wrongful death claim itself. Notably, the full value of a person’s life is measured from the perspective of the deceased person, as opposed the the perspective of that person’s family and friends.


While it’s understood that a wrongful death case stems from the loss of a loved one, many people are unfamiliar with the underlying legal claims. There are actually two different claims. The first claim is a traditional wrongful death action, and the second is a separate and distinct claim brought by the estate of the deceased person.

  • Wrongful Death Claim: Georgia law allows for the recovery of the full value of the life of the deceased person. The spouse of the deceased person will usually bring this claim. If the spouse is unable to bring a claim, then the “next of kin,” such as the sons and daughters, will be responsible for bringing the case.
  • Estate Claim: Unlike a wrongful death claim, an estate claim is filed by the estate. This claim is aimed at measuring the value of the deceased person’s life, but rather it is brought to recover the expenses of the estate, like burial and funeral costs, as well as any pain and suffering by the deceased person.


The statute of limitations means the time allowed to bring a case before it is barred by Georgia law. In Georgia there is typically a two year statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim. Depending on certain facts and circumstances, this period may be longer or shorter for a case. The statute of limitations begins to run at the time of the negligent act. For example, a loved one may have been in a serious tractor-trailer accident and been hospitalized for several weeks before ultimately losing his or her life. The statute of limitations begins to run at the time of the negligent act, i.e. the accident, as opposed to the time the person passed away. This situation often presents itself when a person survives for many months or perhaps even years after the accident so the key is obtaining legal counsel right away to ensure the at-fault party will be held accountable under the law.


Georgia law basically has established a hierarchy of relatives who are permitted to bring a wrongful death case. The purpose of this system is avoiding multiple family members brining identical claims. The order is rather intuitive, as follows:

  • Spouse: The spouse is the first person with a right to bring a wrongful death claim. If the deceased person had a spouse and children, then that the spouse is legally required to bring a claim on his or her own behalf and also on behalf of any children.
  • Children: If the deceased person did not have a spouse, then the children are vested with the wrongful death claim, and they have a right to file suit. They would then split the award evenly amongst themselves.
  • Parent: If the deceased person did not have a spouse or children, then any surviving parent would be the proper person to bring the wrongful death claim.
  • Estate: If deceased person does not have any family, then that person’s estate will also have the right to bring the wrongful death claim. The recovery would then be divided up based on the Georgia probate rules.


As a general framework, the damages for this part of the claim again are the “full value” of the life of the deceased person measured from his or her own perspective. The factors are both economic and non-economic. The economic factors include the amount of lost wages assuming the person was working at the time of his or her death. To calculate this amount, it is important to consider the deceased person’s salary, job benefits, like a 401(k) and bonuses. Whereas, the non-economic factors include the intangible value of missing his or her children, a lifetime with his or her spouse along with the enjoyments of daily life. Establishing a concrete monetary figure is a difficult process because compensation can never truly heal a family, but there are tools such as a life-expectancy table to understand the likely amount of time lost as a result of an untimely death.


As a threshold matter, an estate needs to be set up for the deceased person. If the deceased person left with a will, then there will most likely be a representative for the estate. If, however, the person did not have a will, which is called intestate, then there are a set of laws in Georgia to determine the representative. The representative will have the authority to hire an attorney, dictate the course of the case, and ultimately agree to a settlement.

While it is relatively easy to calculate some parts of the estate claim, such a funeral costs and medical expenses, the more challenging part is determining whether or not there was pain and suffering for the deceased person. If the person immediately lost his or her life, then there may not be a claim. Interestingly though, Georgia law does allow recovery for even a few seconds of conscious pain. If the person lived for a period of time, then there will be a claim for pain and suffering for the estate. The decision is left to the “enlightened wisdom of a fair and impartial jury.” This standard is obviously a bit ambiguous so it is crucial to have an attorney, doctor(s), and other experts that will make a clear presentation to the jury about the scope of the pain and suffering for the deceased person.

If you have lost a loved one because of the negligence of another person or company, then please contact us right away for your free consultation. We understand that these are truly challenging times for you and your family members and will treat you with the utmost of compassion and respect. At the same time, we will make sure to gather all of the critical information to advance your case to ensure the justice your lost loved one deserves. Kevin can be reached at or (404) 566-5880.

Drafting Requests for Production of Documents in Automobile Accident Cases

Our first and second blogs in this series focused on Requests for Admission and Interrogatories in automobile accident cases. They are both very effective discovery tools, but, as a practical matter, the documents themselves can “make or break” an automobile  case. Requests for Production of Documents are governed by O.C.G.A. 9-11-34, which again is a rather complicated statute. The key to advancing an automobile accident case is a streamlined set of requests to send to the at-fault party, as shown below:

O.C.G.A. 9-11-34: Requests for Production of Documents

(a) Scope. Any party may serve on any other party a request:

(1) To produce and permit the party making the request, or someone acting on his behalf, to inspect and copy any designated documents (including writings, drawings, graphs, charts, photographs, phono-records, and other data compilations from which information can be obtained, translated, if necessary, by the respondent through detection devices into reasonably usable form), or to inspect and copy, test, or sample any tangible things which constitute or contain matters within the scope of subsection (b) of Code Section 9-11-26 and which are in the possession, custody, or control of the party upon whom the request is served; or

(2) To permit entry upon designated land or other property in the possession or control of the party upon whom the request is served for the purpose of inspection and measuring, surveying, photographing, testing, or sampling the property or any designated object or operation thereon, within the scope of subsection (b) of Code Section 9-11-26.

(b) Procedure.

(1) The request may, without leave of court, be served upon the plaintiff after commencement of the action and upon any other party with or after service of the summons and complaint upon that party. The request shall set forth the items to be inspected, either by individual item or by category, and describe each item and category with reasonable particularity. The request shall specify a reasonable time, place, and manner of making the inspection and performing the related acts.

(2) The party upon whom the request is served shall serve a written response within 30 days after the service of the request, except that a defendant may serve a response within 45 days after service of the summons and complaint upon that defendant. The court may allow a shorter or longer time. The response shall state, with respect to each item or category, that inspection and related activities will be permitted as requested, unless the request is objected to, in which event the reasons for objection shall be stated. If objection is made to part of an item or category, the part shall be specified. The party submitting the request may move for an order under subsection (a) of Code Section 9-11-37 with respect to any objection to or other failure to respond to the request or any part thereof, or any failure to permit inspection as requested.

(c) Applicability to nonparties.

(1) This Code section shall also be applicable with respect to discovery against persons, firms, or corporations who are not parties, in which event a copy of the request shall be served upon all parties of record; or, upon notice, the party desiring such discovery may proceed by taking the deposition of the person, firm, or corporation on oral examination or upon written questions under Code Section 9-11-30 or 9-11-31. The nonparty or any party may file an objection as provided in subsection (b) of this Code section. If the party desiring such discovery moves for an order under subsection (a) of Code Section 9-11-37 to compel discovery, he or she shall make a showing of good cause to support his or her motion. The party making a request under this Code section shall, upon request from any other party to the action, make all reasonable efforts to cause all information produced in response to the nonparty request to be made available to all parties. A reasonable document copying charge may be required.


(d) Confidentiality. The provisions of this Code section shall not be deemed to repeal the confidentiality provided by Code Sections 37-3-166 concerning mental illness treatment records, 37-4-125 concerning mental retardation treatment records, 37-7-166 concerning alcohol and drug treatment records, 24-9-40.1 concerning the confidential nature of AIDS information, and 24-9-47 concerning the disclosure of AIDS information; provided, however, that a person’s failure to object to the production of documents as set forth in paragraph (2) of subsection (c) of this Code section shall waive any right of recovery for damages as to the nonparty for disclosure of the requested documents.

Just like Interrogatories there’s not a single right way to draft Requests for Production of Documents, but each set needs to be tailored to the specific facts of the case by starting off with a general template, like the one down below. Another good idea for a template is to have the requests correspond with the previous interrogatories.





Civil Action File No.:






Any and all videotapes, photographs, plats or drawings of the vehicles, parties, scene of the incident or any other matter material to the incident underlying this litigation.


Any and all videotapes, photographs, reports, data, memoranda, handwritten notes, or other documents reviewed by or generated by any expert or technician identified in your response to Interrogatory No. 7.


Any and all medical records, videotapes, photographs or other evidence concerning, referencing or depicting the Plaintiff.


A copy of any and all photographs and/or videotapes depicting the Plaintiff doing anything.


Any and all documents obtained through a request for production of documents or subpoena.


Any and all documents regarding the property damage estimates of and the repairs to Plaintiff’s and Defendant’s automobiles.


Any and all documents which would in any way challenge, diminish or refute any of the Plaintiff’s claimed injuries, medical and/or hospital bills, or lost earnings related to the subject incident.


Any and all insurance policies, including declarations pages, which might provide benefits related to the subject incident regardless of whether the insurer agrees there was coverage.


Any and all taped or written statements taken from Plaintiff, or any other potential witnesses to this lawsuit, by anyone acting on behalf of Defendant or Defendant’s insurer(s).


Any and all documents, books, writings or other tangible things which support any defenses you rely upon in your defense to this lawsuit.


A copy of the title and tag registration on the vehicle you were driving at the time of the subject incident.


Any and all documents reflecting the disposition of any charges made against you in the subject incident.


A copy of your current driver’s license and all drivers’ licenses you have held in the past five (5) years.


Any and all documents related to Plaintiff’s medical treatment for injuries allegedly received in the subject incident.


Any and all documents related to the medical treatment the Plaintiff received prior to the subject incident.


Any and all documents which you contend in any way impeach or discredit the Plaintiff.


Please provide copies of any and all Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, MySpace or other digital documents relating to the plaintiff or their family that you have reviewed. If you contend the documents are privileged please provide a privilege log.


            For any document which has not been produced on grounds of privilege, please state the following:

(a)   the date each document was generated;

(b)   the person generating each document;

(c)   the present custodian of each document; and,

(d)  a description of each document.

This _____ day of _________, ________.

Respectfully submitted,



At the very core, this blog series demonstrates that the critical aspect to an effective car accident case is a streamlined discovery process. It’s amazing what you can learn about the other party in discovery, such as previous convictions and a poor driving record, but always be mindful too that the other party will have the same tools available to learn about your own client. So be prepared! Please don’t hesitate to contact us at (404) 566-5880 or if you have any questions about your car accident and need legal assistance with your case.