The Legal Process for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia
If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence or fault of another person or entity, you may be wondering what your legal options are. In Georgia, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim to seek compensation for the losses you have suffered as a result of your loved one’s death. A wrongful death claim is different from a survival action, which is a lawsuit brought by the estate of the deceased person to recover damages for their pain and suffering before they died. In this post, we will explain what a wrongful death claim is, who can file it, and what steps are involved in the legal process.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
According to Georgia law, a wrongful death occurs when “the death of a human being results from a crime, from criminal or other negligence, or from property which has been defectively manufactured, whether as the result of negligence.” This means that if your loved one died as a result of someone else’s careless, reckless, intentional, or criminal act, you may have a valid wrongful death claim. A wrongful death claim is meant to compensate you for “the full value of the life of the decedent.” This includes both tangible and intangible value, such as:
- The income and benefits that your loved one would have earned if they had lived
- The value of the services and support that your loved one provided to the household
- The loss of companionship, care, and affection that your loved one gave to you and other family members
- The loss of enjoyment of life that your loved one experienced
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
Georgia’s law specifies who can file a wrongful death claim, depending on the relationship to the deceased person. The order of priority is as follows:
- The surviving spouse of the deceased person
- The surviving children of the deceased person
- The surviving parents or guardians of the deceased person
- The personal representative of the estate of the deceased person
If the deceased person had a spouse and children, the spouse has the right to file the claim and represent the interests of the children. However, the spouse must share at least one-third of the recovery with the children. If the deceased person had no spouse or children, their parents or guardians can file the claim. If they had no parents or guardians, their estate can file the claim. The estate can also file a survival action to recover damages for the medical and funeral expenses, as well as the pain and suffering from the deceased person before they died.
What are the Steps Involved in Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
Filing a wrongful death claim in Georgia involves several steps, such as:
- Hiring a qualified attorney who has experience in wrongful death cases. An attorney can help you evaluate your claim, gather evidence, negotiate with insurance companies, and represent you in court if necessary.
- Gathering evidence to prove the negligence or fault of the defendant. This may include police reports, medical records, witness statements, expert opinions, photos, videos, and other documents that show how and why your loved one died.
- Filing a complaint with the appropriate court within the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the deadline for filing a lawsuit. In Georgia, it is usually two years from the date of death, but it may be shorter or longer depending on certain circumstances. For example, if the defendant is a government entity or employee, you may have to file a notice of claim within six months or one year before filing a lawsuit. If there is a criminal prosecution against the defendant for causing your loved one’s death, the statute of limitations may be paused until it is resolved.
- Negotiating a settlement or going to trial if necessary. Most wrongful death cases are settled out of court through negotiations between your attorney and the defendant’s insurance company. A settlement is an agreement to accept a certain amount of money in exchange for dropping your lawsuit. If you cannot reach a fair settlement, you may have to go to trial and present your case to a jury. A jury will decide whether the defendant is liable for your loved one’s death and how much compensation you deserve.
Why You Need Legal Advice as Soon as Possible After a Wrongful Death
Losing a loved one is devastating and overwhelming. You may not know what to do or where to turn for help. However, it is important that you seek legal advice as soon as possible after a wrongful death occurs. A wrongful death attorney can help you understand your rights and options, protect your interests, and pursue justice for your loved one. A wrongful death attorney can also help you cope with the emotional and financial stress that comes with losing someone you love.
If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or fault in Georgia, contact us today for a free consultation. We are here to help you and your family through this difficult time.