In Georgia, a wrongful death claim is a claim that is brought by the survivors of the decedent for the full value of the life of the decedent. In this type of claim, the survivor, generally the surviving spouse or children, seek amounts for lost future earnings. So for example, if the deceased made $50,000 per year, and could be expected to earn a living for another 10 years, then the damages could be at least $500,000. Still, in a wrongful death claim, the survivors may request compensation representing the loss of care, companionship, and other benefits that the deceased provided.
A wrongful death claim, brought by the survivors, is separate and apart from a claim by the estate of the deceased for pain and suffering prior to the death. Think of it as a right belonging solely to each.
Most nursing homes insist that residents, or those loved ones acting on behalf of the resident, sign arbitration clauses. Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution method in which both parties present their cases to a neutral party for a binding decision. There is not jury, there is not judge. It is completely separate and apart from the civil justice system. Often, agreeing to arbitration completely waives the resident’s ability to file a lawsuit for any and all claims, including pain and suffering prior to wrongful death.
However, because a wrongful death claim belongs to the decedents, a nursing home arbitration signed by the resident or the resident’s representative does not mean that the decedents have to arbitrate the wrongful death claim.
In short, although litigation of tort claims by an estate can be barred by an arbitration agreement, litigation of the wrongful death claims asserted by the beneficiaries is not so barred.
If your loved one has been injured at a nursing home or assisted living facility, and you are wondering whether your claims will have to be arbitrated, then please, feel free to call and speak to one of our experienced Georgia nursing home abuse lawyers today. Our consultations are always free.