An action for wrongful death is not the same in every state. And the elements that must be proven and the damages that may be collected also vary widely among states. Below are some examples of how different some of the state laws are on wrongful death.
In Alabama, the determination of damages in a wrongful death case is governed by Section 6-5-410 which authorizes punitive damages, but does not authorize compensatory damages. This means that the only damages available in an Alabama wrongful death action are punitive damages, or damages designed to punish the wrongdoer. No damages for loss of wages, medical expenses, funeral expenses or loss of support are allowed to be recovered in an Alabama wrongful death action.
And an action for wrongful death in Alabama may only be instituted by the personal representative of the deceased. The appointment of the personal representative must be made by the probate court and must be accomplished BEFORE an action for wrongful death is instituted. In other words, the personal representative must be appointed by the probate court before the two year statute of limitations for wrongful death actions runs such that when the wrongful death action is filed, the personal representative has already been appointed.
Under O.C.G.A. 51-4-2, The right to recover for a wrongful death, which is referred to as “Homicide” in Georgia belongs to the surviving spouse, or if there is no surviving spouse, a child or children, wither minor or represented, for the death of the spouse or parent the full value of the life of the deceased as shown by the evidence.
Any amount recovered under this section shall be equally divided among the surviving spouse and the children per capita (by head). However, the surviving spouse shall receive no less than one-third of such recovery as the spouse’s share.
In Georgia, the designated relatives are entitled to recover the “full value of the life of the decedent as shown by the evidence”. This is defined in O.C.G.A. 51-4-1: means the full value of the life of the deceased without deducting for any necessary or personal expenses of the deceased had he lived.
In Mississippi there can only be one wrongful death lawsuit for the death, which must be brought by the personal representative of the estate of the deceased, but all eligible people can join in the lawsuit. The eligible people in Mississippi are:
· The personal representative of the estate
· The deceased’s surviving spouse
· The surviving parents or children of the deceased
· Any surviving siblings of the deceased person.
The eligible persons in Mississippi are more expansive than in most other states