A wrongful death claim is a legal claim that a family member can assert against a negligent or reckless party who caused or contributed to the death of their loved one. Essentially, whenever someone is killed because of the actions (or sometimes inactions) of someone else, a wrongful death claim could arise. However, not every family member can start a wrongful death claim in Georgia. Instead, the laws that affect wrongful death in Georgia are very specific regarding who can receive compensation and justice on behalf of their loved one. The experienced Georgia wrongful death attorneys at The Balams Firm may be able to help family members determine whether they have a wrongful death action. Contact our legal team today to learn more at (404) 445-2005.
How Wrongful Death Cases Arise in Georgia: Defining Homicide
A wrongful death lawsuit might be available any time a homicide occurs in Georgia. While most people assume that a homicide can only arise out of a crime, a homicide can arise out of an inadvertent or careless act. Homicides might also occur because of a dangerous product or even an incorrect medical procedure. Homicides encompass both felony and manslaughter cases.
The Georgia Code’s definition of homicide is deliberately broad. Ultimately, a homicide could occur any time that someone passes away as a result of the fault of another person or product. Most homicides are the result of negligent or careless behavior, such as in the event of a car accident or truck crash.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
Family members may have a wrongful death claim against the negligent person who caused their loved one’s death. This type of claim compensates family members for losing a loved one, and provides them with a sense of justice. There is no amount of money that can make up for the loss of a loved one, however a wrongful death claim allows certain family members to recover compensation to help ease the burden of losing income, support, and companionship.
Wrongful death cases in Georgia generally have two types of damages available. They include:
- Economic Damages. Economic damages (or tangible losses) are those that are easy to quantify. They might include things like funeral expenses, medical bills, and the loss of earnings that occurs when a family member passes away.
- Non-Economic Damages. Non-economic damages are intangible losses. They are more challenging to quantify because they are not associated with an invoice or bill. They vary significantly from case to case. These types of damages include loss of companionship, the family member’s pain and suffering, and other similar losses.
In Georgia, either a family member or the deceased individual’s estate can assert a legal claim for wrongful death. The party that asserts the claim will affect the type and amount of monetary damages available. If you have recently lost a loved one, you may want to consider learning all of your legal options from the dedicated Georgia wrongful death attorneys at The Balams Firm.
Who Can Assert a Claim for Wrongful Death in Georgia?
Georgia law establishes that only certain persons can initiate a wrongful death claim. These persons must have a specific relationship with the person who passed away. Alternatively, the deceased individual’s estate might also be able to assert a claim for wrongful death in Georgia.
First, the deceased person’s surviving spouse can recover the “full value of the life of the decedent” under Georgia law. The surviving spouse can assert a claim and release the wrongdoer without consulting or agreeing with any surviving children to do so. However, any amount recovered must be split between the surviving spouse and the surviving children using a specific method under Georgia law.
The surviving spouse splits the settlement or recovery amount with the children evenly. For instance, if there is a surviving spouse and two children, each will take one-third of the recovery. However, the surviving spouse must receive at least one-third of the recovery, regardless of how many children there are. If the children are minors, their share must be held in trust by the child’s natural guardian (who is often the surviving spouse).
The Decedent’s Children
The decedent’s children can assert a wrongful death claim if there is no surviving spouse. It is important to note that the default individual who asserts a wrongful death claim is always the surviving spouse unless there is no surviving spouse. If the children are minors at the time of the decedent’s death, then their guardian or a court-appointed representative may be able to assert a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf.
If there is no surviving spouse and the decedent had no children, then the administrator or executor of their estate might bring a wrongful death action on behalf of the decedent’s estate. They would then recover and hold that amount to be distributed among the decedent’s other relatives or beneficiaries.
The decedent’s parents might also be able to assert a wrongful death claim. However, this right only arises if the person who passed away did not have a spouse or children. Georgia law also sets out that both parents, if they are living, have the right to assert a wrongful death claim jointly if they are living together and not divorced. However, if the parents have separated, then Georgia law relating to who should bring the claim becomes more complicated.
Other Family Members
In most cases, other family members cannot assert a wrongful death claim in Georgia. An extended family member would have to be considered a personal representative for them to have any right to a wrongful death claim. Further, any rights that extended family member might have would have to be shared among other heirs and family members either under the decedent’s Last Will and Testament or based on Georgia intestate laws.
If a family member who is not permitted to assert a claim under Georgia law tries to file a wrongful death lawsuit, it is very likely that it will be dismissed. The family member lacks “standing” under Georgia law. Standing is a legal concept that simply refers to the capacity to bring a legal action based on the relationship between the person asserting the claim and the action itself.
Visit with a Compassionate Georgia Wrongful Death Attorney To Learn More About How You Can Receive Justice
If you have lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligent or reckless actions, you might have a wrongful death claim. The experienced and compassionate attorneys at The Balams Firm can take the time to explore your legal options after the loss of a family member. We would welcome the opportunity to visit with you, and help you and your family receive justice on behalf of your loved one. Contact our office to learn more or to schedule an appointment: (404) 445-2005.