Typically, no, siblings cannot sue for wrongful death in Georgia. State law delineates who can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit, and this list does not include siblings. However, because each case is unique, a wrongful death lawyer can advise you on the particulars of your situation.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Georgia?
Because wrongful death cases involve decedents (those who have passed), specific parties other than the decedent can file a lawsuit on their behalf. Eligibility will depend on the specifics of the case.
Three separate statutes govern who qualifies to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia:
- O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2 names the surviving spouse or children of the decedent
- O.C.G.A. § 19-7-1(c) names the surviving parents of a child or minor
- If no eligible parties remain, O.C.G.A. § 51-4-5 allows the decedent’s estate administrator or executor to claim wrongful death
The spouse of the decedent takes precedence over all other parties.
What Is an Executor?
Executors of the estate are responsible for managing a decedent’s finances after their death. This role involves carrying out the decedent’s wishes as outlined in their will. They also fulfill credit obligations, resolve disputes among heirs, and sometimes pursue wrongful death lawsuits.
The decedent’s will typically names an executor. If not, a probate court judge can appoint an executor—typically a close relative. This caveat means that a surviving sibling could be appointed as executor and thus oversee a wrongful death lawsuit.
However, executors have a fiduciary responsibility to the estate. They cannot take money from the estate nor refuse to pay reasonable credit obligations. This role is time-consuming and can involve:
- Securing the decedent’s home
- Filing a will
- Managing will disputes as they arise
- Returning Social Security payments received after the decedent’s passing
- Paying off the estate’s liabilities (e.g., credit payments and other debts)
What if I Don’t Want to Be an Executor?
You’re under no obligation to hold the position if appointed as executor. You can step down as executor if you’d like. In addition, executors often seek professional assistance when splitting up an estate.
For a free legal consultation, call (404) 888-8888
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What Damages Are Available in a Wrongful Death Case?
You can recover economic and noneconomic compensation in a wrongful death claim. These damages include:
- Medical expenses your loved one incurred before they died
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of familial earning capacity
- Loss of companionship
- Pain and suffering associated with losing a loved one
O.C.G.A. § 51-4-1 states that families can recover the “full value of the life of the decedent, as shown by the evidence.” However, it’s difficult to equate such legal definitions with the trauma families experience after a wrongful death. No amount of money can account for losing a special person. However, a settlement can accomplish two things:
- Provide stability to your family’s finances
- Allow you to move on by exacting justice from the party that caused your loved one’s death
Wrongful death cases are emotionally charged. To succeed in a wrongful death lawsuit or secure an insurance settlement, you’ll need to work through these emotions and review the evidence associated with your case. Every wrongful death case hinges on carefully gathering evidence.
Without clear proof, you cannot establish the four elements of negligence necessary to recover damages:
- The at-fault party owed your loved one a duty of care: A duty of care is a legal responsibility to keep others safe from harm. Doctors, drivers, and product manufacturers, among others, owe those around them a duty of care.
- The at-fault party failed to uphold this duty of care: For example, a drunk driver who crashed into your loved one and killed them didn’t adhere to their duty of care.
- Causation: The evidence must establish that this breach of their duty of care resulted in wrongful death.
- Damages: You must have sustained injury (whether financial, emotional, or physical) due to the at-fault party’s negligence.
How Our Team Can Help You Sue for Wrongful Death
You aren’t required to establish these elements of liability on your own. A wrongful death attorney can assist you with your case by:
- Providing peace of mind by managing the complex aspects of your case
- Investigating your case and gathering evidence
- Communicating with insurers, opposing legal teams, and the at-fault party
- Advising you on the best options
- Fighting for a fair wrongful death settlement
Wrongful death lawsuits typically must be filed within two years of the initial accident, per O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33. However, you should get started on your case as soon as possible because gathering evidence and building a solid case takes time.
Our Team Can Advise Siblings Whether They Qualify to Sue for Wrongful Death
Our team at Bader Scott Injury Lawyers is proud to represent those who have lost a loved one. We know what you’re going through and want to help you fight for justice. In addition, we can advise whether, as a sibling, you qualify to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia.
So, contact our offices today to get started with a free case evaluation. We offer our services on contingency, so you pay nothing upfront.