Losing a loved one brings so much grief and pain. Family members and friends who experience a loss due to someone else’s negligence may also have anger and resentment. This can make dealing with grief more confusing as they navigate the legal side of managing the deceased’s affairs. If you have lost a loved one due to wrongful death, this article will help you understand the who, what, and when of pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia.
Understanding Wrongful Death Law in Georgia
What is Wrongful Death?
According to Georgia laws, wrongful death takes place in any case where an individual dies as a result of:
- A criminal act.
- Intentional or accidental negligence.
- Defective products, whether or not they were manufactured defectively due to negligence.
Common examples of wrongful death cases include medical malpractice and vehicle accidents. The purpose of filing a wrongful death claim is to pursue compensation for pain and suffering, expenses such as medical bills and funeral costs, and loss of finances the deceased may have received.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Under Georgia law, only immediate family members can file a wrongful death claim, and this is dependent on a particular order and process.
First, the surviving spouse of the deceased may file a claim. If there is no surviving spouse or they choose to surrender their right to filing, the surviving children of the deceased may file a claim. If there is no surviving spouse or children of the deceased, the surviving parents may file a claim. The estate’s executor will file the claim if there is no surviving spouse, child, or parent.
The executor may be the appointed person named in the deceased’s will if one exists. If not, the court will appoint the executor for the estate.
What if Beneficiaries Don’t Agree?
If there are multiple beneficiaries, the process of administering the estate can become complicated. For example, the ideal situation is for heirs to agree on a wrongful death lawyer to represent them. However, each beneficiary may decide to pursue their own representation.
How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
The Georgia statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is two years from the deceased’s date of death. This means that the claim must be filed before the date or, in most cases, the opportunity to file the claim will pass. However, in some cases, such as death resulting from criminal acts, the deadline may extend to six years. The clock for the statute of limitations does not start until the criminal case is complete.
It is important to note that the statute of limitations can also be shortened to less than two years down to even six months. This is only in some cases, such as if the death resulted from a negligent action made by the government.
Wrongful Death Damages in Georgia
As mentioned above, the purpose of pursuing a wrongful death action is to hold the responsible party liable and seek compensation for damages on behalf of the deceased’s family. These damages all fall under the full value of the life of the deceased. This includes both tangible and intangible damages.
Tangible damages represent those such as the money the decedent would have made working a job. The intangible damages represent such losses as the relationship with the family.
Let’s look at how wrongful death actions differ from survival actions in Georgia.
Survival Actions in Georgia
While the purpose of a wrongful death action is to represent the deceased’s family, survival actions, also known as estate claims, seek compensation on behalf of the deceased. These damages are for the pain and suffering the deceased may have endured leading up to their death and any financial losses.
For instance, if the deceased was injured due to an accident, they may be hospitalized for weeks or months. The pain and suffering they experienced from those injuries and the medical bills accrued during that time are the types of compensation sought from a survival action.
How are the Damages Distributed?
How the damages are distributed is dependent on the surviving family members. If there is only a surviving spouse and no surviving children, the spouse will receive all compensation.
When there is a surviving spouse and one or two surviving children, they will each receive equal distributions. In other familial situations, the damages continue to be split depending on the surviving family members. It is best to consult an attorney on your unique situation.
How Long Does it Take to Reach a Settlement in a Georgia Wrongful Death Case?
Understandably, families want insight into how long a wrongful death case will take to be resolved. However, there is no definitive answer as the length of time depends on several variables surrounding the probate court, family members of the deceased, and the defendant.
Are You Pursuing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Georgia?
The law firm of Strickland and Kendall, LLC has helped countless families seek compensation for pain and suffering and the financial strain that comes with losing a loved one. Our experienced wrongful death attorneys are here to help you through every step, allowing you to focus on the grieving process. Call us now at (800) 874-3528 to schedule your free consultation. We are available 24/7, seven days a week.