Wrongful Death Claims in Georgia: A Guide for Families

Under Georgia law, “wrongful death” is when a person dies as the result of the legal fault of another person or entity. This can include a variety of causes, such as a car accident, medical malpractice, a defective product, or a criminal act. 

If a loved one dies and you are considering legal action in Cobb County, talking with an experienced Marietta personal injury lawyer can be useful in understanding wrongful death lawsuits. 

Who Is Eligible to File for Wrongful Death in Georgia?

Georgia law § 51-4-2 (2020) is specific regarding who is eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. 

Eligible people include the deceased’s surviving spouse, or if there is none, the deceased’s surviving child or children. If no spouse or children survive, the deceased’s parents or parents may file. If no spouse, children, or parents is surviving, the executor of the deceased person’s estate may file.

Under Georgia law, siblings and grandparents are not eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If an executor brings the claim, damages are held by the estate for the benefit of the deceased person’s next of kin.

What Damages are Available in Georgia?

In Georgia, in a wrongful death claim, it is possible to seek “damages” for two categories of losses. The first category can include economic and intangible factors to compensate for the “full value of the life of the decedent.”

This may include financial factors such as lost wages, benefits, and services that the person might have reasonably earned if alive. The intangible factor can include lost care, companionship, advice, and counsel. 

The second category focuses on compensating the estate for financial losses. This may include medical expenses related to the deceased person’s injury or last illness, funeral and burial expenses, and other expenses resulting from the person’s illness, injury, and death. 

What Is The Statute of Limitations in Georgia?

The two-year clock starts ticking from the time of the person’s death. However, in a couple of situations, the clock may be temporarily stopped. For example, if the death was a result of a crime, the two-year statute begins when the criminal case is resolved. According to Ga. Code § 9-3-92 (2022), the statute can be temporarily stopped for up to five years if the deceased person’s estate is not probated. 

Key Considerations in Wrongful Death Cases in Georgia

Because wrongful death cases are extremely complex, few individuals or families have the familiarity and expertise to handle this on their own. A skilled attorney is familiar with the laws, procedures, and proving liability in a wrongful death case. 

Many of these cases involve navigating not only complicated legal considerations, financial review, and highly charged emotional interactions. The death of a family member is often a time of emotional and financial distress, making it all the more crucial to have an objective advocate working on your behalf.

Working with a compassionate and experienced lawyer may minimize the stress of this difficult time. A wrongful death lawsuit is typically complex, both legally and procedurally. While each case is unique, attaching economic value to different categories of losses is complicated. 

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