Learn who is eligible for filing a wrongful death claim under Georgia law
Georgia law defines “wrongful death” as one caused due to reckless or intentional negligent conduct on the part of a person or company. There are both intangible and financial costs that heirs may successfully recover.
Whenever negligence is responsible for someone’s death, their family has the right to file suit for wrongful death and claim damages. As devastating as these situations are, having the chance to recover damages can help alleviate financial woes.
In addition to making wrongful death claims against individuals, our experienced Macon wrongful death lawyers at Westmoreland Law can sue organizations and businesses. Many deaths occur because of the negligence of an employer, causing emotional and financial woes on the part of these left behind.
Some of the factors that can lead to wrongful deaths include:
- Defective products, including tools, household products and medications
- Drunk driving and drug-related incidents
- Elder abuse, including abuse in nursing homes
- Vehicular deaths involving cars, trucks, planes, boats or bikes
- Work accidents involving any industry
- Crimes that include homicide or manslaughter
- Medical malpractice, such as surgical errors
Although many people feel the impact of wrongful deaths, only a relatively small number of people meet the criteria for who can sue. Understanding who has the right to sue and how to file suit increases the odds of a successful recovery.
Those who are pursuing a claim need to have what is defined as standing to sue. Georgia law only allows select individuals, including certain family members, to sue.
Who can sue for wrongful death?
- The surviving husband or wife (The spouse may also file on behalf of children under 18, and receive up to a third of the recovery.)
- Surviving children, if there is no spouse
- Brothers or sisters may only file suit via the estate
- Parents may sue in the event of an unmarried child’s death or if the child died by homicide
Notably, grandparents may not sue for wrongful death in Georgia.
What are wrongful death estate claims?
When a sibling brings suit on behalf of a decedent without parents, children or a spouse, they must initiate the lawsuit through the estate representative. This designated person will ensure that the legal next-of-kin receives the necessary damages. Amounts recovered are for the full value of the decedent’s life.
The full value of a person’s life means both financial and intangible losses, such as:
- Lost wages that the decedent would have otherwise earned that, among other things, would have provided support for their spouse or children (if applicable)
- Other benefits that the deceased would have earned, including pensions
- Loss of care and companionship the family would have had if their loved one had lived
What damages can eligible dependents recover in a wrongful death lawsuit?
All expenses that relate to the injury and death are eligible for recovery. These expenses include:
- Any pain and suffering the deceased was believed to have experienced
- Medical expenses related to the decedent’s injury
- Funeral expenses, including burial, and other costs paid out-of-pocket
How long does a loved one have to file suit?
The Georgia statute of limitations allows claims to be filed within 2 years of the loved one’s death.
Wrongful death suits filed more than 2 years after the decedent’s death are unlikely to go forward, making time of the essence in these cases.
However, as in many other states, certain circumstances allow for exceptions. These situations include:
- Claims that involve a criminal case that must be resolved first before a civil action can proceed
- Cases involving a decedent without an established will, which increases the statute of limitations to 5 years
Under the Georgia wrongful death statute, civil suits are separate matters from criminal cases. A murder or manslaughter trial could have a very different outcome from a wrongful death case.
When the deceased did not have a will or did not have one that conformed to state law, the question of who can sue for wrongful death requires resolution. Because a court may take a while to decide who the next of kin is, state law extends the statute of limitations in these cases.
In all wrongful death cases, you are better off hiring experienced lawyers to ensure that everything goes along smoothly. Our attorneys at Westmoreland Law will work hard for you to increase your chances of a successful recovery.