Under state law, the surviving spouse, child, or parent of a deceased victim can file a wrongful death claim in Georgia. It is important to note that there is a hierarchy when determining which family members can sue for wrongful death.
The spouse has the right to file a claim first. If the decedent and their surviving spouse have children, then the settlement will be divided between the spouse and children. If there is no spouse, then any surviving children have the right to file. This includes children born out of wedlock. If there are no children, parents or guardians may file a wrongful death claim.
Wrongful Death Lawyers Can Help You Determine Who Should File
If you are unsure whether you are able to file a claim or you just want to better understand Georgia law, a wrongful death lawyer can help you. They can offer guidance, a thorough explanation of wrongful death laws, and solutions to any possible problems.
Not every situation is straightforward. After your loved one’s death, you may be concerned that someone who should not file a claim may feel entitled to do so. By working with a wrongful death attorney, you can get definitive answers to any questions surrounding upcoming legal action.
For a free legal consultation, call (404) 888-8888
Wrongful Death FAQsHow Hard Is It to Prove Wrongful Death?How Does a Wrongful Death Claim Work?What Is the Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death?What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?How Much is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Worth?What Happens After a Wrongful Death Deposition?
The Court May Need to Appoint a Personal Representative in a Wrongful Death Case
In some instances, the decedent does not have any surviving family members who can file a claim according to OCGA §51-4-2. If the decedent does not have a surviving spouse, child, or parent to pursue a claim on their behalf, another person may petition the court to be appointed the personal representative of the victim’s estate.
The personal representative, also known as the executor, must be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind to hold this position. They must be officially appointed by a probate court, which handles all matters relevant to the management of estates after an individual’s death, in order to legally move forward with the claim.
Other Roles of the Personal Representative of Wrongful Death Victims
In addition to filing wrongful death claims, personal representatives have the significant obligation of settling the estate in its entirety. Some of these responsibilities may include:
- Collecting and securing all personal documentation
- Keeping an inventory of the estate’s assets to determine their value
- Paying debts and taxes with funds collected from the estate
- Contacting next of kin and distributing assets, as required by law
The management of a loved one’s estate often involves a lengthy and complicated process. A lawyer can help with this process so the personal representative can focus their attention on other duties relating to settling the victim’s estate.
Complete a Free Case Evaluation form now
Instances that May Constitute a Wrongful Death Action
In order to take wrongful death action in Georgia, your loved one must have lost their life as the direct result of a crime or an act of negligence. Determining negligence is integral to filing a claim against a responsible party.
Negligence consists of four major factors, each of which must be met to hold someone responsible for the victim’s death.
- The party must have had a responsibility to keep the victim safe from harm within reason.
- The party must have breached its obligation to the victim by acting carelessly or failing to intervene to prevent harm from occurring.
- The breach of the party’s duty to the victim must have resulted in their death.
- The victim’s death must have resulted in substantial damages.
A negligent party is not just someone who causes an accident, such as a car or motorcycle accident. A negligent party could also be a corporation or company, such as one that sells defective products despite knowing they are unsafe.
Types of Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
Award amounts and the types of damages families receive in wrongful death cases in Georgia vary drastically depending on the situation and the number of parties involved.
In some cases, more than one party may benefit from a wrongful death settlement. For example, if the decedent has a surviving spouse and children, their spouse may receive no less than one-third of the total settlement amount, regardless of the number of children involved.
Economic Damages Help the Family With Expenses After Wrongful Death
Economic damages will help the family to adjust to life without their loved one, while also providing compensation that allows their loved one’s end-of-life wishes to be met. These types of expenses are meant to cover all financial losses, including:
- Funeral expenses
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Lost future earnings
Surviving Loved Ones May Also Receive Non-Economic Damages for Wrongful Death
Non-economic damages provide compensation for items that go beyond expenses, bills, and lost earnings. These damages do not have a distinct monetary value associated with them, but they can increase the value of a claim significantly.
Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering of your loved one prior to their death
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Mental anguish
Punitive Damages May Be Recovered in Extreme Cases
Punitive damages are meant to punish the person who committed a crime that led to someone else’s death. These damages are generally included when a negligent party acts in a particularly reckless way prior to the accident. For instance, if the liable party was drunk driving at the time of the accident, then punitive damages could be included in your settlement.
Georgia Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Lawsuits
OCGA §9-3-33 places a time limit on the victims’ families to file wrongful death lawsuits for the loss of their loved one in Georgia. According to this law, spouses, children, parents, or personal representatives of the estate typically have up to two years from the date of the decedent’s death to file their wrongful death lawsuit against the liable party, although exceptions do apply in some cases.
A lawyer can determine how much time you have left to file your lawsuit, then immediately get started on building your case so you do not miss your opportunity to hold the at-fault party responsible.
Our Lawyers Can Help You File Your Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia
The process of settling an estate is difficult enough without the additional stress of managing a wrongful death claim. Bader Scott Injury Lawyers can help you by handling each step of the process for you, helping you determine who should file a claim, keeping you updated on the progress of your case, and fighting for the financial recovery you deserve.
For more information about who can file a wrongful death claim in Georgia, visit our website or call us for your free consultation.