If a loved one has died due to the sort of incident that could lead to a personal injury case, you or another family member can file a wrongful death action. Georgia’s laws governing wrongful death cases cover who can bring a case, what kind of damages can be recovered, and who gets any awarded money.
Notably, you can bring a wrongful death claim when the death was caused by someone’s negligence, by a defective product, or if someone deliberately caused it. Let’s take a look at wrongful death claims in Georgia, including how a wrongful death lawyer can help you and your family recover compensation.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
The order for who can serve as a representative to start a wrongful death action is spouse, child, parent, then estate representative. In other words, if your spouse dies, then you can sue on their behalf. If your parent dies, you can sue as their child if they were not married at the time of their death. This is true even for a child who was born out of wedlock. However, suppose your parent died and was married at the time. If the surviving spouse releases the party that arguably caused their death, that ends the case. You cannot sue as a child, even if you did not approve of the settlement or release.
If your child dies and has neither a surviving spouse nor children, then you can sue as a parent. If both you and your child’s other parent are alive but are divorced or separated, and the other parent either refuses to take part in a wrongful death case or can’t be located, then you can act as representative as both parents and whatever you decide will bind you both.
If your loved one dies without leaving behind a spouse, children, or parents, then the executor or administrator of their estate can sue. If the person had a will, the executor would be the person named to oversee its terms being carried out. If the person did not leave a will, then the court will appoint an administrator to oversee the distribution of property according to special rules called intestate succession.
What Damages Can Be Awarded?
Commonly, the largest source of recovery will be for “the value of the person who died.” In other words, when you bring a wrongful death suit, you can show evidence of what your loved one would have earned or otherwise attained over their lifetime. That amount is awarded without deducting what would have been the deceased person’s living expenses. In addition, if you can prove that the person experienced pain and suffering before dying, you can recover damages for that.
If you file a wrongful death suit and it ends in a settlement or jury award, then the money recovered is insulated from any debts the person had when they died.
If a criminal act killed your loved one, then you can recover funeral, medical bills, and other expenses due to the injury.
Finally, the spouse of the person who died may have the right to file a case for their own losses. A spouse may sue for loss of companionship, counsel, and affection resulting from a person’s injuries and continues to have that right if the person dies.
Time For Filing
Under Georgia law, you have two years to bring a wrongful death action. That time can be tolled (i.e., the clock stops running) under two circumstances. First, if the person died due to a criminal act, the time can be tolled up to five years until any criminal case arising from the incident is resolved. Second, if the person died without a will and there are difficulties finding an administrator for the estate, then the time for filing can be tolled for up to five years until an administrator is in place.
Who Gets The Money?
If your loved one had a spouse and children, then they all share in the recovery. If the person had one or two children, then the spouse and each child get an equal share. If there were more than two children, the spouse gets one-third, and the other two-thirds are divided equally among the children. In addition, if any of the deceased person’s children are already deceased but had children of their own, then those children will divide that person’s share.
If the deceased person’s parents bring a wrongful death case, then the parents share the recovery equally. If one of the parents can’t be located and the other proceeds with the wrongful death case, the missing parent’s share must be held until that person is found. If that person is not found within two years of the end of the case, then the parent that filed the case can petition to have the funds released to them.
One or both parents can petition the court for an unequal distribution of the recovery. Each will relate to the court their relationship with the child who died, and the court will decide what would be a just distribution.
If an administrator or executor brought the wrongful death case, then any recovery will be considered part of the estate of the person who died and will be distributed accordingly. If the person had a will, then that would control how the money is distributed. Otherwise, the court will follow Georgia’s rules for distributing property without a will.
The loss of a loved one is devastating, especially when someone’s negligence and recklessness cause it. If someone is responsible for causing your loved one’s death, then you have the right in Georgia to sue them. It is best to consult with a wrongful death attorney promptly so that you can guard your right to sue and recover. Dozier Law is experienced in filing personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits to help victims, and their families get their due. We will be here for you every step of the way and will work relentlessly to get you every dollar that you deserve. Reach out to Dozier Law by calling (888) 239-2129 or by contacting us online to talk with an experienced Georgia wrongful death lawyer about your case.