Under the Georgia Wrongful Death Act, if a resident is killed by the wrongful act of a nursing home (or nursing home employee), then the resident’s family may bring a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death claim is separate from a claim brought by the resident’s Estate for personal injury. Please feel free to read the information below or call for a free consultation with one of our Georgia nursing home wrongful death lawyers today.
When suing a nursing home for wrongful death, most often there will be two claims. First is the wrongful death claim. The second is the claim brought by the Estate.
In a claim for wrongful death, a plaintiff asks a jury (or arbitration panel) to consider the “full value of the life” of the resident. “Full value of live” is discussed more in depth below, but mostly involves considering the enrichment the person had to others. In other words, what advice, counsel, stories, hugs, laughs, or presence, did the resident have left to give?
The Estate is allowed to bring claims on behalf of the resident for personal injury. These claims include recovery for the resident’s pain and suffering, medical bills, and funeral expenses. The Administrator of the Estate is in charge of the Estate claims. If there is no Estate set up, that’s OK. However, an Estate must be set up before any Estate claims may be brought against the nursing home.
A wrongful death claim is brought by, and in the name of, a surviving spouse or child (or when there is neither, the Estate). In other words, the named plaintiff for the wrongful death claim is either the spouse or the child, not the resident or the resident’s Estate (with one exception).
The claim for wrongful death, unlike many other claims, was created by
statute. Therefore, there’s very little wiggle room when it comes to who brings the claim. Even if the resident was closest to a cousin, friend, sister, or niece, only the resident’s spouse or children may bring the wrongful death claim. Even if the children are no longer a part of the resident’s life.
There are only two exceptions to this rule. First, the resident’s grandchild may bring the claim if the resident’s child was an original claimant in a wrongful death action, and then dies during the pendency of the claim. Second, as mentioned, if there are no children or spouse, then the Administrator of the Estate brings the claim.
In a wrongful death claim, the jury is allowed to award money equal to the “full value of the life” of the deceased resident from the perspective of the deceased resident. But what does this actually mean?
The “full value of life” has two components: Economic and Intangible. Brock v. Wedincamp, 253 Ga. App. 275 (2002).
Economic value refers to the money that the deceased resident would have earned. In some instances, it may also refer to the value for things like performing chores, babysitting grandchildren, or caring for other family members. As you can guess, economic value is not commonly requested in nursing home wrongful death claims. Most nursing home residents have long since stopped earning a living.
Intangible value, from the eyes of the deceased resident, means the worth attached to the truly meaningful activities of life: seeing a sunset, visiting with life-long friends, praying, laughing at a joke, and watching children interact with grandchildren. A jury will hear evidence regarding the life of the resident, including career, religious affiliation, hobbies, and family roles.
In short, what value does one place on offering dating advice to a teenage grandchild, hearing a former coworker explain an inside joke, or sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner with family? These are the things that make life worth living and this is what a jury is asked to consider in a wrongful death claim.
In an Estate claim, the jury awards money in an amount equal to the pain and suffering experienced by the resident prior to the death, as well as related medical bills and funeral expenses.
A Georgia nursing home wrongful death lawyer can help you and your family with proving a case. Call us for a free consultation (678) 823-7678.
Though there is never a guarantee, nursing home wrongful death claims can range from a few thousand to several million, and everywhere in between. Many factors affect the value of a case in Georgia. Here are a list of items that will affect recovery value, whether through settlement, arbitration award, or jury verdict:
In the end, maximizing recovery against the nursing home is the main goal. Money recovered typically goes to the surviving spouse or children according to the Georgia Wrongful Death Act.
Often, there are many parties that contribute to the death of residents. While the defense likes to blame other people or even the resident, or characterize neglect as a “simple accident,” the truth is, a resident’s death is often the end result of systematic problems. Here is a list of defendants in a normal nursing home wrongful death case.
Improve your chances of a successful recovery by calling us and speaking with a Georgia nursing home wrongful death lawyer today.
Wrongful death often occurs through nursing home neglect or abuse – when a nursing home or one of its employees becomes careless towards a resident to whom the nursing home owes a duty of care. A caregiver may ignore signs of illness or infection in a resident and fail to administer treatment in time to save the resident’s life. Or a caregiver may fail to help a resident who needs assistance walking, causing the resident to fall and sustain serious injuries which may result in death.
On a larger scale, the nursing home itself may exercise negligence by creating a hazardous environment through wet floors or dim lighting. Or a nursing home may fail to hire enough staff members, fail to train them correctly, or fail to screen prospective employees before hiring – all instances of neglect that can lead to serious injury, illness, and death for nursing home residents.
A nursing home should do all it reasonably can to protect residents from harm. This includes preventing abuse through employee
background checks and careful screening throughout the interview process, as well as close supervision after hiring. Nursing homes should train all employees to recognize signs of abuse and report any abuse immediately, and when a nursing home manager encounters abuse, he or she should intervene as soon as possible.
To prevent neglect, nursing homes should hire enough staff members to maintain a high level of care for all residents, and should make sure all staff are medically trained and equipped to care for a resident’s specific needs. Nursing homes should constantly keep their facilities safe and sanitary to prevent falls and the spread of infection – both of which can lead to wrongful death.
Generally, the statute of limitations (the amount of time that you have to sue) for wrongful death is two years from the date of death. However, there are some circumstances that would make that time shorter or longer.
The statute of limitations for an Estate’s claims is two years from the date of injury. Again, this time can be extended under certain circumstances. For example, claims held by the Estate may be “tolled” (meaning, paused) for the amount of time it takes the family to set up the Estate with the Probate Court. O.C.G.A. 9-3-92.
If your loved one died in a nursing home and you suspect abuse or neglect, you should take time to grieve, mourn, and be with your family.
Resist the temptation to feel guilt for having not acted or for placing your loved one in the facility. As a family member, your job is to love and provide companionship, the nursing home’s job is to provide appropriate medical care.
As soon as possible, it will be necessary to take the following actions following your loved one’s passing.
Finally, contact a Georgia nursing home wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer can begin an investigation into the events.
If your loved one passed away as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect, you are likely experiencing a wide range of emotions: anger, guilt, sadness. Please know that we are there for you. We hope that this website is helpful for you.
If you would like a free consultation with a Georgia nursing home wrongful death lawyer, please call us.