There are many reasons to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia. A family member may have been killed in a car accident, an industrial accident or a fall. However, only certain parties can bring a wrongful death action.
Georgia law outlines who is able to bring a wrongful death claim to court. The spouse of the deceased person has grounds to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia.
If the spouse and the deceased had minor children, he or she must also represent the interests of the children in court. The spouse may not receive less than one-third of the total recovery, no matter how many children are part of the claim.
If no spouse is part of the claim, the children of the deceased may bring a wrongful death action.
When the deceased has no spouse or children, the following parties can bring a wrongful death action under Georgia law.
- Any surviving parent or parents of the deceased, or
- The personal representative of the deceased person’s estate.
When a personal representative brings a claim, any damages recovered are held by the estate for the benefit of the deceased person’s next of kin.
Bringing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Georgia – Why There Are Two Claims
Typically, family members can bring two types of wrongful death claim in Georgia. The first claim is for the “full value of the life” of the deceased person and can be brought under the relevant statute. Under Georgia code 51-4-2, the claimant is entitled to make a claim for the full value of the life of the decedent. A jury is asked to consider what the life of the survivor meant to the deceased.
The “full value” includes the tangible and intangible value of the deceased. The tangible value is the economic value of a life. This includes the money the claimant has lost from the untimely death of the deceased in salaries, and other duties such as yard work, driving the kids around or being a caregiver.
The intangible value includes activities like relaxing, home time spent with family and friends, vacations, volunteering or life milestones such as having children or graduations. The survivor is deprived of all of these benefits.
The second claim is the estate claim. It is more like a traditional personal injury claim. It allows the family of the decedent to recover for the pain and suffering of the deceased, funeral expenses, any medical bills incurred his or her death and other items. In Georgia, a claim for punitive damages must also be brought by the estate. If the deceased had a will, the administrator named in the will must bring the estate claim. If the decedent lacked a will, Georgia’s laws of intestacy determine who can bring a claim.
The laws related to who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia and other aspects of the law after a death are complicated. If you have lost a loved one, litigation is likely to be the last thing you want to deal with. However, death can be very expensive for those left behind. If someone else was responsible for a wrongful death, he or she should be held to account. Please call the Law Office of Michael West for advice on wrongful death lawsuits at (404) 913-1529.