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By Jarome Gautreaux

If you have experienced the wrongful death of a loved one, the death might be due to a negligent act by another. Negligence in the context of a wrongful death lawsuit refers to a failure to act with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances. Individuals have specific duties or obligations to avoid causing harm to others. When these duties are breached due to carelessness or inattention, and that breach directly causes the death of another person, it can lead to a wrongful death claim based on negligence.

Elements Involved In Establishing Negligence In A Wrongful Death Lawsuit:

  • Duty of Care: This is the foundational element and involves establishing that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased. The specific duty varies depending on the relationship and circumstances but generally pertains to the obligation to act reasonably to prevent harm to others. 
  • Breach of Duty: Once you establish the duty of care, the plaintiff must show that the defendant breached it through their actions or inactions. This could involve anything from a motorist running a red light to a company failing to remove known hazards from their property to a medical professional providing substandard care.
  • Causation: The breach of duty must directly cause the deceased’s death, which involves showing a direct link between the defendant’s negligent behavior and the fatal outcome. Two types of causation must be proven: 1) cause-in-fact (the death would not have occurred but for the defendant’s actions) and 2) proximate cause (the death was a reasonably foreseeable result of the defendant’s actions). A two-pronged requirement ensures that liability is only imposed for harm that is directly connected to and reasonably foreseeable from the defendant’s negligent conduct
  • Damages: Under Georgia’s Wrongful Death Act, the plaintiff can recover the “full value of the life of the decedent as shown by the evidence.” O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2(a). The Georgia Wrongful Death Act makes it clear that the sole measure of damages for wrongful death in this state is the “full value of life.” Unfortunately, there is little guidance in the statute about measuring or determining the “full value of the life of the decedent.” Wrongful death claims also involve proving that the death led to quantifiable damages. These damages could include medical expenses incurred before death, funeral and burial costs, loss of the deceased’s expected earnings, loss of benefits (like health insurance or pension), and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering or loss of consortium.


To successfully argue negligence in a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff (often a family member or the estate of the deceased) must convincingly establish all four of the above elements. Legal guidance is typically necessary to navigate personal injury law in Georgia. Choosing a personal injury firm that you feel comfortable with and believe will best represent your interests is essential. Gautreaux Law, LLC, can be that law firm for you.  Feel free to contact our office for a complimentary initial consultation to determine if we can answer all of these above questions so that you feel confident in your decision to use our firm for your wrongful death case due to negligence.

About the Author
Jarome Gautreaux is a personal injury trial lawyer. He represents people who have been seriously injured, as well as the families of people killed because of carelessness or negligence. For over 20 years, he has successfully recovered more than 100 million dollars in a variety of Macon personal injury cases. Jarome’s reputation for client focus and case success has led to other lawyers requesting his assistance with complex personal injury litigation. What drives Jarome every day is his strong belief that the amount of money someone has should not dictate the justice they receive. It is for this reason that he has never worked for corporations, insurance companies, or other interest groups. Instead, he thrives on helping the people who need it most- people who have suffered at the hands of others and deserve compensation.