In Georgia, Can You Sue for the Wrongful Death of a Pet?

Feb 21, 2022

What Is Considered Wrongful Death in Georgia?


Under Georgia’s wrongful death act, a wrongful death is defined as the loss of life caused by another person’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional act. This can include actions such as car accidents, medical malpractice, and even criminal acts like animal abuse.

In Georgia, wrongful death lawsuits for pets are different from those for humans. While you can’t sue for the sentimental value of your pet, you can potentially recover damages if their death resulted from someone else’s negligence.

Here’s the key concept: Negligence is the legal term for when someone fails to take reasonable care, and that failure leads to harm. In the case of a pet, this could be a situation where:

  • A veterinarian makes a mistake during surgery
  • A pet boarder fails to provide proper care, leading to illness or injury
  • Another person’s negligence, like leaving a gate open, allows your pet to escape and get hurt

If your pet died due to a situation like this, you might have a case for wrongful death. However it’s important to consult with an attorney to understand the specifics of your situation and the legal options available.

At Dressie Law Firm, we understand the emotional toll that comes with losing a beloved pet. Our team has experience handling wrongful death cases for pets and will work tirelessly to help you seek justice for your furry family member.

Read on to learn more about the process of suing for the wrongful death of a pet in Georgia.


Can You Sue for the Wrongful Death of a Pet in Georgia?


Many people treat pets as family members. After all, animals can be the most loyal and endearing companions and can ease many of our emotional distress, such as loneliness, stress, and even depression.

It can be especially devastating when a pet dies because of someone else’s negligence or wrongful act. You may consider suing the responsible party for the mental anguish you’re forced to endure. However, Georgia law is strict about what damages you can collect for your pet’s untimely passing.

Recovering Wrongful Pet Death Damages

Generally, when a pet passes away or is injured because of someone else’s negligence or malicious actions, you can recover damages based on the pet’s fair market value and any reasonable medical expenses you incurred due to treating your pet’s injuries.

In other words, Georgia law recognizes that a pet has value, but that value is economic rather than sentimental. Before you file a wrongful death lawsuit, consider whether the financial costs of litigation outweigh any potential recovery.


Economic Value


Under Georgia law, a pet is considered personal property. This terminology may not sit well with many dog owners who believe their pets are inherently valuable and should not be treated as mere objects. However, in the eyes of the law, your pet’s actual value is measured in economic terms. This means that if you’re awarded damages, they will be based on the animal’s fair market value rather than personal value.

Fair market value is the amount of money you’d get if you sold your pet to another person. For example, if you adopted a mixed breed dog from an animal shelter and paid a $200 adoption fee, you’d likely be compensated the same or a similar amount. However, if your pet were purebred and came from a reputable breeder, you’d probably recover much more in damages.

Special consideration is given to service animals trained to assist people with disabilities. Because of their extensive and specialized training and abilities, service animals are pretty expensive –the cost of a service dog can range from $20,000 to $60,000.

If a person loses a service animal that’s been essential in helping them with daily activities, they may be compensated not only for the loss of their companion but also for the costs associated with replacing the pet with another service animal.


Cost of Medical Treatment


Before your pet passed away, you may have taken it to an animal hospital for treatment. Even though the treatment proved futile, you may be left with medical bills and other expenses related to your animal’s veterinary care.

If the bills were unreasonably high and you paid for treatments that could not have saved your pet’s life, a judge may rule that you’re only entitled to partial compensation. However, keeping documentation of all the veterinary care costs you incurred may help you recover reasonable damages.


Emotional Pain and Suffering


Some pet owners may have a hard time dealing with the loss of their companion. If a dog or a cat dies because of physical abuse perpetrated by another person, the trauma of such an event can leave the pet owner depressed, angry, and anxious. This state of mind can result in sleepless nights, anguish, and lost wages.

Unfortunately, these damages are not recognized under Georgia law, and there is no recovery.


What About Justice for Your Pet’s Death?


The perpetrator can face serious criminal consequences depending on what happened to your pet. Cruelty to animals is a misdemeanor in Georgia that can result in a fine of up to $5,000 and up to a year in jail. Aggravated cruelty to animals is a felony that can result in up to $15,000 in fines and one to five years in prison.

Although you might not receive monetary compensation, it’s possible your pet can still get justice. While no money can truly replace your beloved pet, taking legal action can raise awareness of animal abuse and potentially prevent future harm to other animals.


How Do You Start a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?


To start a wrongful death case in Georgia, you must have the legal standing to do so. This typically means you are a close relative of the deceased victim, such as a spouse or child. In the case of a pet, you may be considered the rightful owner and can file a claim for damages.

It’s essential to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can guide you through the legal process and help determine if your case is viable. A wrongful death case involving a pet can be complex and emotionally charged, so having a confident and authoritative legal advocate on your side is crucial.

Factors to Consider Before Filing a Claim

Before filing a claim for the wrongful death of your pet in Georgia, it’s essential to consider the following factors:

  • The economic value of your pet
  • The cost of medical treatment
  • Emotional pain and suffering (not recoverable by law)
  • Potential criminal consequences for the perpetrator

It may also be beneficial to consult with other pet owners who have gone through a similar experience and understand the emotional toll of losing a beloved animal. They may offer valuable support and guidance in your pursuit of justice for your pet’s untimely passing.


Have You Lost a Loved One to Someone Else’s Negligence?


Losing a pet is never easy, but losing a husband, wife, parent, or child is even worse. If your loved one has died because of another person’s negligence, you may be entitled to recover damages. Talk to Atlanta’s wrongful death attorneys about filing a Georgia wrongful death claim. A lawyer can help you recover compensation for funeral and burial expenses, lost wages and future earning capacity, pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and more.

Don’t wait to file your claim. Contact an Atlanta wrongful death lawyer today to get the justice you deserve. Our lawyers have years of experience helping clients file wrongful death claims. They know the damages you can recover in Georgia and can help you build a strong case for compensation.

So, if your loved one passed away because of someone else’s negligence or malicious intent, call our Atlanta wrongful death lawyers at (678) 909-1639 for a fee case evaluation.