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.