Georgia’s wrongful death statute allows certain family members to file a lawsuit for wrongful death after a car accident or other tragic event. The right to file a lawsuit is limited to spouses, children and parents, in that order. The goal of a wrongful death suit is to compensate the family for the loss of the value of the deceased person’s life.
In addition, the deceased person’s estate can file a lawsuit to recover costs associated with the accident, such as medical bills, funeral expenses, and the deceased’s pain and suffering. The estate can also file a wrongful death suit if there is no surviving spouse, child or parent. Wrongful death suits can be complicated, so it is important to consult with a lawyer if you have lost a loved one in a car accident.
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?
The law is very specific about what happens when someone dies and who can file a wrongful death suit in Georgia.
- If there is a surviving spouse, the spouse can file a lawsuit. If the deceased also has children, the spouse must split any financial recovery with the children. Typically, the spouse will receive one-third of any settlement or judgment, and the children will split the other two-thirds equally among themselves.
- If the deceased didn’t leave behind a spouse, the deceased’s children can file a wrongful death suit. Any money that is recovered will be split equally among them.
- If there is no surviving spouse or child, the deceased’s parents can make a wrongful death claim.
- If the deceased is not survived by a spouse, parent or child, the right to file a wrongful death suit falls to the deceased’s estate. The estate will distribute any financial recovery to the deceased person’s heirs.
These are the only family members who can file a wrongful death suit. Friends, fiancées, significant others, unmarried life partners, grandparents, grandchildren, stepchildren and others may not make a claim for wrongful death, no matter how close they were to the deceased.
What money can be recovered in a wrongful death suit?
It is impossible to put a price on a person’s life—and yet this is exactly what a wrongful death suit attempts to do. Money is the only tool our legal system has to ease the pain of those left behind. A wrongful death suit looks at the value of the deceased person’s life from the perspective of the person who died – not from the perspective of family members who may have lost the love and support of a parent or spouse.
In awarding money, courts look at two things. First, they estimate the economic impact, including the money the deceased might have earned in the future. Second, they look at the emotional impact – the ways in which the deceased has been deprived of the right to enjoy the rest of his or her life. Age, health, occupation and life expectancy may all be factors in a wrongful death award. Wrongful death lawsuits can sometimes be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
What about medical bills and funeral expenses?
The estate can file a lawsuit to recover the costs the deceased had before and after death. This includes medical bills relating to the accident, and funeral expenses. The estate can also recover for the value of any physical pain or emotional suffering the deceased experienced before passing.
These claims will be made on the estate’s behalf by the administrator of the estate. If a family member is serving as administrator, this is who will make the claim.
How much time do I have to file a wrongful death suit?
In general, the deadline is two years from the date of the deceased’s death, but in some cases the deadline is shorter, or the clock starts ticking on the date of the accident. If you miss the deadline, you will not be able to recover any money for your loss. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, it is critical to talk to a good car accident wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible after your loved one’s passing.
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