Wrongful death litigation may be one of the most painful legal actions for plaintiffs in the field of law. Because of the actions of another—through their negligence or ill intent—a loved one has lost their life.
In the State of Georgia, it’s important to keep in mind that not everyone can bring a suit against a negligent party for a wrongful death.
Which Family Members Have The Right To The Claim?
There is an established hierarchy that is observed by the Georgia civil courts:
- Surviving Spouse – If one exists, the surviving spouse is the first person of familial relation who can make a claim for wrongful death. However, the proceeds from such a suit must be divided equally among any surviving children that the deceased spouse may have had.
- Surviving Children – If a spouse does not exist or is not present, the children may pursue a wrongful death claim through the courts.
- Surviving Parents – In the absence of a spouse or surviving children, one or both of the parents can bring forward a wrongful death claim. In the event that the parents are no longer together, the court decides on the apportionment of the award.
- Next of Kin – If a person has been designated next of kin by the estate, and no spouse, children, or parents are in the picture, that individual can sue a negligent party for a wrongful death incident.
- Administrator/Executor of the Estate – If a person was named the administrator of the estate, he or she can sue on behalf of the survivors. Any award is divided among the beneficiaries of the estate.
Who Never Has The Right To The Claim?
Friends and non-family members usually have no claim in a wrongful death suit, unless they are the estate administrator.
Boyfriends, girlfriends and even soon to be spouses do not have right to a wrongful death claim.
Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for bringing about a wrongful death suit in the State of Georgia is usually two years after the date of death. Be careful because this is in typical cases like motor vehicle accidents. The statute of limitations may be different or start at a different time depending on the specific facts of your case.
Because of the complexities involved in litigating a wrongful death case, unnecessary delays are not recommended. The first step in determining whether or not you have a viable case is to contact a personal injury attorney who handles wrongful death claims.
Wrongful death cases are emotionally taxing, and you will be spending a lot of time with your attorney. You may have to speak to two or three lawyers before you find one that you’re comfortable with. This is why it’s important that you begin your search for a reputable, qualified Georgia attorney as soon as reasonably possible.