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4 Essentials of a Wrongful Death Claim

When a person loses their life due to the wrongful act or negligence of another get individual or entity, family members of the deceased may be able to file a lawsuit against the alleged negligent party to recover compensation for their losses. However, these claims are complex, and there are four elements that must be in place in order for a wrongful death case to be successful. For more information related to wrongful death claims, you can research the Wrongful Death Act in Georgia, which is found in O.C.G.A § 51-4-2.

Duty of Care

The first step in any injury or wrongful death claim in Georgia is to show that there was a duty of care owed by the defendant (the person who allegedly caused the death) to the deceased. This duty of care could be established in a number of ways but will look different depending on the nature of the actual incident.

For example, wrongful deaths related to car accidents will hinge on the duty of care owed by one driver to all others on the roadway around them. However, the duty of care owed by a physician to their patient looks different than the duty of care for a car accident, as does the duty of care owed by property owners to those who have a right to be on their premises. An attorney will work diligently to establish that a duty of care was indeed present.

Breach of Duty

After establishing that there was a duty of care between the defendant and the deceased, the next step is showing that the defendant somehow breached their duty of care. Again, just like establishing the duty of care, the breach of duty will vary significantly depending on the situation at hand.

Drivers can breach their duty of care in a number of ways, including operating while impaired or distracted, violating traffic laws, speeding, and more. Doctors and other healthcare professionals can breach their duty of care to patients by failing to obtain a full medical history, giving the wrong medication, operating on the wrong body part, and in many other ways.

This is typically the part of the process where an attorney conducts an extensive investigation in order to obtain the evidence needed to prove that there was a breach of duty.


After showing that there was a breach of duty on the part of the defendant, the next step is showing that the breach is what caused the wrongful death. There are times when individuals breach their duty of care owed to others, but this breach does not necessarily cause the injuries or death in question. There are often other factors involved that must be examined in order to rule out other possible causes of the death.


Lastly, in order for a wrongful death claim to be successful, the family of the deceased or the estate of the deceased must show they sustained damages. These damages can include a range of losses, such as:

  • Lost wages and benefits the deceased would have provided had they lived
  • Medical expenses related to the last injury or illness
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • The loss of companionship, counsel, love, and advice of the deceased

These are certainly not the only damages that can be recovered in a wrongful death claim in Georgia. We strongly recommend you contact a skilled law firm who has experience handling complex injury and wrongful death claims.