Knowing that death is inevitable doesn't make the loss of a loved one any easier. Learning that your family member's death was not only preventable but also specifically caused by another person or company's negligence can make it particularly difficult to cope.
If your family is grieving the loss of a loved one who was killed in a Georgia car or truck crash, motorcycle wreck, or other personal injury accident, you may have grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
This type of civil suit allows you to seek compensation for financial and emotional losses related to your loved one's tragic death. While a wrongful death lawsuit—and subsequent settlement or financial award—can't replace your beloved family member, it can help you hold the at-fault party responsible and avoid related monetary struggles.
Are you considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia? Here's what you should know before taking action.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Georgia?
Before you can file a wrongful death claim, it's important to ensure you're one of the people who are eligible to do so. Georgia limits the ability to file and benefit from a wrongful death claim to the following family members and individuals:
- The victim's surviving spouse. The spouse can file a claim representing her interests, as well as the interests of any minor children the couple may have. Additionally, the spouse is entitled to a full one-third of the settlement or financial reward, regardless of the number of children.
- The victim's surviving children. When there isn't a surviving spouse, the victim's surviving children can file a lawsuit, and split any resulting settlement or monetary reward among themselves.
- The victim's surviving parent(s). If the victim isn't survived by a spouse or children, their surviving parent or parents may file a wrongful death lawsuit for their benefit.
- A personal representative for the victim's estate. When the victim isn't survived by any close family members such as a surviving spouse, children, or parents, a wrongful death lawsuit can be brought by a personal representative for the benefit of the estate and any other heirs.
Common Damages Awarded in Georgia Wrongful Death Cases
In Georgia, wrongful death claimants may be eligible for two main types of compensation, as well as a less frequently-awarded third type of damages. The most common types of damages awarded in wrongful death cases include:
- Economic damages. These compensate a victim's family for financial losses related to their loved one's death, such as the lost wages and benefits the victim would have reasonably earned throughout the remainder of their lifetime.
- Non-economic damages. These attempt to compensate a victim's survivors for emotional losses incurred as a result of the death of their loved one, such as the loss of love, care, companionship, guidance, support, and other intangible benefits they would have received.
When a defendant's behavior is deemed especially egregious, they may be ordered to pay the victim's family—the plaintiffs—a third type of compensation: punitive damages. These damages aren't intended to compensate claimants for a loss. They're to punish the defendant for particularly wanton or intentional behavior, and discourage others from engaging in similar conduct.
Statute of Limitation Laws Determine How Long You Have to File a Claim
At Rechtman & Spevak, we understand that taking legal action may be the last thing on your mind while grieving the traumatic loss of a loved one. Unfortunately, under Georgia's statute of limitations law, you have just two years from the date of your family member's death to file a wrongful death claim. While there are some rare exceptions, in most cases, failing to file by the two-year deadline results in an automatic dismissal of your lawsuit.
Consult an Experienced Georgia Attorney About Your Wrongful Death Case
Contact Rechtman & Spevak today at our Atlanta office to schedule an appointment for a free, no-obligation initial consultation. We look forward to discussing how we can assist you.