The Death of a Child and Wrongful Death Lawsuits

A judge's gavelIt may come as no surprise that car accidents result in the overwhelming majority of personal injury lawsuits filed in the United States. According to a new study just released by the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers have found that unintentional injury is the primary cause of death for children and teens. Among those injuries, the number one cause of death is car accidents, accounting for 20% of the more than 20,000 deaths suffered by children in 2016. The good news is that death rates from car accidents have seen dramatic declines in recent years due to improvements in vehicle safety.  

We know that losing a child in a car accident is an unfathomable tragedy. If you’re in this situation and wondering what to do next, we’re writing this post to help you understand your options.  

The Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Most car accident lawsuits focus on the victim’s injuries and the related costs such as medical bills and lost wages. The lawsuit is based on a negligence theory, meaning that the claim is based on the fact that the at-fault party was careless in some way, and this carelessness led to the victim’s injuries.

When someone dies in an accident, the victim’s family typically file a wrongful death lawsuit. The theory is the same – the victim’s death was caused by the other party’s negligence – but the valuation of the claim differs dramatically.

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death

Georgia law specifically sets forth who may file a wrongful death lawsuit. In the event that a child dies and leaves no spouse or offspring, the parents have clear authority to file the lawsuit for the “full value of the life” of their child. This is relatively clear when both parents are alive and married, but the following situations can complicate the issue:

  • The parents are divorced
  • One parent is deceased
  • One parent cannot be found
  • The child lived with another family member or legal guardian

If you think you may have an issue in asserting your claim, an experienced wrongful death attorney can help you establish your legal rights.

Calculating the Value of Your Wrongful Death Claim

Under Georgia law, parents have the right to sue for the full value of the life of their deceased child. The “full value” is actually a legal term comprised of two components:

  1. The intangible value – this component takes into account the love and joy you are deprived of as the result of the death of your child. To put it another way, this component attempts to account for those aspects of your child’s life that are beyond value.
  2. The tangible value – this component accounts for the economic value of the decedent’s contribution to the family. For young children, this is almost never a factor, but older children may have had some economic contribution that can be included.

You may also be able to recover any medical expenses, burial costs, or other damages that were incurred as a result of the accident.

The Deadline for Filing Suit

In Georgia, the surviving parents have two years from the date of your child’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This may seem like a long time, but we encourage you to consult with an attorney as soon as possible. Your case is very likely to become more difficult to prove as time goes by.

Contact an Atlanta Area Wrongful Death Attorney Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation

No parent ever wants to experience the death of their child. We know how incredibly difficult this can be, but we also believe that people should be held responsible for their negligence. At Slappey & Sadd, we offer compassionate, dedicated legal representation to parents who are suffering in order to get them the representation they deserve. If you’d like to talk through your options, call us at 888-474-9616 or contact us online in order to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.


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