The loss of a loved one is always difficult, particularly when the death resulted from another person’s actions or negligence. In Georgia, the Georgia wrongful death statute provides the surviving family members of someone who has died under these circumstances with rights for filing suit against the person or company responsible.
What Is Wrongful Death?
A death is considered wrongful under the Georgia wrongful death statute if it occurs due to the actions or negligence of one or more other persons or companies. Examples of wrongful death might include:
- Homicide or death resulting from another person’s criminal acts
- Traffic accidents in which the other party was at fault
- Failure of a safety component on a vehicle or piece of machinery due to corporate negligence
- Medical malpractice
Generally speaking, if someone else’s intentional or negligent action resulted in death, the decedent’s family may have cause to file a wrongful death suit.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
The Georgia wrongful death statute is clear as to which members of a decedent’s family may bring a wrongful death suit. Typically, the individuals who are eligible to make a wrongful death claim are:
- The decedent’s surviving spouse
- Surviving children if the decedent was unmarried
- The decedent’s parents if the decedent was unmarried and had no children
- The administrator of the estate if the decedent has no surviving spouse, children, or parents
What Damages Are Awarded for Wrongful Death?
In a wrongful death suit, the damages are awarded up to “the full value of life” of the decedent. That value has two parts:
The “tangible value” of a person’s life is the economic impact of the loss on the decedent’s family. That includes:
- Income the deceased would have earned during the remainder of their life from their job or retirement
- The value of the work that the person would have done for their family during the remainder of their life, including housework, repairs, cooking, etc.
The “intangible value” of a person’s life is the value of the experiences they would have shared with their family and friends during the remainder of their life – weddings, ballgames, Saturday mornings watching TV – and the time they would have enjoyed pursuing their hobbies and pastimes, like golf, sewing, woodworking, photography, etc.
Your attorney will work with other professionals, including economists and other law specialists, to determine the “full value of life” in each case.
When Should I File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Under the Georgia wrongful death statute, claimants typically have up to two years to initiate the claim. There are two notable exceptions:
- If the offending party is a government entity – the state of Georgia, a city, or a county – the statute may expire earlier, so surviving family members should start claims sooner.
- If the death occurred due to a criminal act, the statute of limitations may be tolled (paused) until the criminal investigation is complete, increasing the time to file by up to six years.