Appellate Court Reverses Judgment in Georgia Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Georgia negligence claims involving loss of life can become more complicated than accident lawsuits with only injuries. When a victim of negligence dies as a result of a car accident or other mistake, there may be separate lawsuits filed on behalf of multiple parties who could be entitled to compensation from the negligent party. The Court of Appeals of Georgia recently released a decision that addressed a dispute between the heirs to an accident victims estate and the beneficiaries of his wrongful death claim. As a result of the recent decision, the case will be remanded to a lower court for further proceedings.

The recently decided case involved claims which were initiated as a result of a man being killed in a Georgia motorcycle accident. The man was killed when he swerved to avoid a trash receptacle that a jury found was negligently left in the road by the defendant at trial. As a result of a settlement agreement made before trial, at trial, the plaintiffs accepted a judgment amount of $1,000,000, which was less than the $4,000,000 that the jury awarded. The settlement was to be divided between two separate claims against the defendant, the “wrongful death claim,” and the “estate claim.”

Because the decedent had executed a will that excluded his children before he died, any proceeds of the estate claim would be given exclusively to his surviving spouse. However, under the wrongful death claim, his four children would be entitled to some of the settlement proceeds. The settlement agreement itself did not state what portion of the $1,000,000 awarded would go to each claim, although the trial court entered a ruling that applied the entire settlement amount to the estate claim, therefore excluding the man’s children from any of the settlement proceeds. The children then filed an appeal to the Court of Appeals of Georgia, seeking a ruling that they were entitled to some of the settlement.

The appellate court took issue with the trial court’s reasoning for applying all of the settlement to the estate claim without allowing the wrongful death beneficiaries any of the settlement amount. The trial court had ruled that the man’s children were estranged from him and left out of the will; however, the appellate court determined that neither a will nor a wrongful death decedent’s wishes determine their heir’s rights to recovery in a wrongful death case. The court remanded the case to a lower court to determine an equitable division of the settlement amount that would consider the expenses and legal costs related to the man’s death while also compensating his children a fair amount from the wrongful death proceeds.

Have You Lost a Loved in a Georgia Accident?

If you have lost a loved one in a Georgia motorcycle accident or other act of negligence, you may be entitled to damages from a Georgia wrongful death lawsuit. In addition to yourself, there may be others who have a right to the damages, and conflicts among wrongful death beneficiaries are not uncommon. The Atlanta wrongful death attorneys at McAleer Law are experienced in handling cases involving multiple plaintiffs, and can help ensure that any settlement or verdict makes it into the hands of the parties who are legally entitled to the award. Contact us today for a free consultation on your case. If your loved one has died in an accident, call 404-622-5337 to schedule a no-obligation consultation today.