What is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and an Estate Claim?

Posted on May 24, 2022

Anytime a person loses a loved one due to the careless or negligent actions of another individual or entity, they need ways to gain closure and compensation for their losses. Typically, this happens through a wrongful death lawsuit, which is a civil action. However, under Georgia law, families can also file an estate claim in an attempt to recover expenses for medical bills and funeral and burial costs associated with the loss of life. Here, we want to discuss the main differences between a wrongful death claim and an estate claim in Georgia. 

Understanding Georgia Wrongful Death Laws

When a person loses their life due to the wrongful action of another individual, entity, or company, then the family of the deceased has the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. When we examine Georgia law (O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2), we can see that the surviving family members can make a claim for “the full value of the life of the decedent.”

There are various types of compensation that family members may be able to recover after losing a loved one. This includes both tangible and intangible costs. Tangible costs, often referred to as economic damages, refers to the monetary contribution a person provided their family. This includes wages the person would have earned had they lived, as well as the value of the services they provided to the family, such as maintaining the lawn, driving kids to school, fixing appliances around the house, cleaning the house, and more.

Intangible losses, often referred to as non-economic damages, revolve around the types of losses that do not have a direct economic value assigned. This includes time spent with family and friends, the guidance a person provides their children or other family members, sexual relations with a spouse, and more.

Understanding a Georgia Estate Claim

There is a difference between a wrongful death claim and an estate claim in Georgia. When we look at state law surrounding estate claims (O.C.G.A. § 9-2-41), we can see that these are designed to help the estate itself recover compensation for costs from the event that resulted in the decedent’s death, funeral, and burial expenses.

The estate is also responsible for pursuing pain and suffering experienced by the deceased if they lived for any period of time after sustaining their injury, regardless of how short that amount of time was. This type of compensation is not available through a wrongful death claim.

Whereas a wrongful death claim is supposed to be filed by the survivors of the deceased, the rules of inheritance set forth under Georgia law determine who can file an estate claim. If the decedent had a will, then only the administrator named in the will is allowed to file an estate claim. If the deceased died without a will, then the laws of inheritance will take precedence.

Working With a Lawyer

If you have lost a loved one as a result of the careless or negligent actions of another individual or entity in Georgia, reach out to an attorney immediately. A skilled Atlanta wrongful death attorney can help you handle every aspect of these cases. This includes examining the situation, gathering the evidence needed to prove what happened, and filing the claim in court.