Who can file a wrongful death claim and for what losses?

On Behalf of | Dec 27, 2023 | Wrongful Death

The pain of a loved one’s death can be even more intense when the loss is sudden. Unfortunately, this occurrence is all too common, as the Centers for Disease Control found that the leading cause of death for Georgians under 45 is unintentional injuries.

While nothing can make up for the pain, filing a wrongful death suit can help with the financial and emotional burden that results when that loss occurs due to someone else’s mistakes. However, the State of Georgia has strict guidelines on who can file such a suit and who receives compensation.

Rights of the spouse and children

The primary individual with the right to file a wrongful death suit in Georgia is the spouse of the deceased. Additionally, the spouse can act on behalf of any children under 18 years old that the deceased may have had.

If the deceased did not leave a surviving spouse, the children can file a claim. The children would also assume those rights if the surviving spouse caused the death.

However, in cases where the surviving spouse and children both have a claim to damages, the spouse receives at least one-third of the overall financial recovery from the wrongful death claim. The children can split the remaining portion.

Parents’ rights and estate representatives

If the deceased had no surviving spouse and lacked children, the surviving parents hold the right to file a wrongful death claim. Alternatively, a designated representative of the deceased’s estate can initiate the legal process. When a representative handles the claim, any damages proceed to the deceased’s estate and surviving next of kin.

The types of damages the family can claim

In wrongful death cases in Georgia, families may seek compensation for various losses that resulted due to the untimely passing of a loved one. The state distinguishes between two types of damages, each addressing different aspects of the impact on the surviving family members.

The first type of claim focuses on the full value of the deceased person’s life. This includes financial losses, such as lost wages and benefits the person would have earned if they had lived. It also considers intangible losses, such as the emotional support, companionship and care the family would have received from the deceased.

The second type of claim is the estate claim. It aims to cover financial losses that directly relate to the person’s death. This includes medical costs for past injuries or illnesses, funeral costs, burial expenses and compensation for the pain and suffering the deceased endured before their passing.

Together, these claims aim to provide financial support to the surviving family members, acknowledging both the tangible and emotional aspects of their loss. Families may pursue these claims to alleviate the economic burden associated with the wrongful death and find a measure of closure during a challenging time.