Wrongful Death Damages: A Divided Question

tree and skyWe have blogged before about some unique provisions of Georgia law. As an example, the measure of damages in a wrongful death case is measured from the standpoint of the decedent, not the decedent’s survivors. Another very unique provision of Georgia law is the division between a decedent’s damages and the damages sustained by his or her estate. In this regard, Georgia has a somewhat bifurcated approach to damages when someone loses their life through the negligent conduct of a third party. In such a case, typically, two different plaintiffs are involved. One are the heirs-at-law of the decedent and the second is the estate which sues for burial expenses, any conscious pain and suffering prior to death and medical expenses, if any, that were incurred prior to death.

Under Georgia law, the measure of damages for a wrongful death case is the full value of the life of the decedent. However, this is for the wrongful death case only. The decedent’s estate also has a claim for damages, again, which are different from the measure of damages for the wrongful death case. The full value of the life of the decedent does not include medical expenses incurred prior to death. The full value of the life of the decedent only includes the economic and non-economic components attributable to the wrongful death. An estate’s claim is entirely different for funeral and burial expenses and other attendant damages which can include pre-impact fright and suffering and/or pre-death pain and suffering experienced by the decedent. In future blogs we will elaborate on these divided issues which helps to explain why Georgia law is very unique in the wrongful death context.


About Steve Wisebram

At Finch McCranie, LLP, Steven R. Wisebram focuses his practice of law on serious personal injury cases and business litigation. Over the last 35 years, he has amassed significant civil and criminal trial experience during his career, which provides his clients a distinct advantage in both the courtroom and in negotiations. Beginning in 2005, Mr. Wisebram has been selected to Georgia’s Super Lawyers list.

Before becoming a partner with Finch McCranie, LLP, Mr. Wisebram served in several attorney positions with the federal government. He began his legal career in 1977 as legal counsel to a Congressional Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. In 1980 he served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia for almost seven years. For the last three years of that position, he also served on the United States Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Mr. Wisebram is licensed in the District of Columbia and the state of Georgia. He is admitted to practice before the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the Eleventh Circuit.

He is a graduate of Harvard University and Emory Law School.