In most situations, wrongful death is when someone loses their life due to someone else’s carelessness, negligence, failure to act or incompetence. If, for example, a person is crossing the street and is killed by a drunk driver, that person’s death is considered a wrongful death, and their loved ones may be entitled to compensation.
Wrongful death cases are often complex, and it’s sometimes difficult to understand who can receive damages and what damages are available. While it is always best to consult with an experienced attorney, we’ve put together this guide to help you better understand wrongful death damages and whether you may have a claim.
What Is a Wrongful Death?
In the state of Georgia, wrongful death is defined as the death of a person caused by the “negligent, reckless, intentional or criminal” acts of an entity or another person. As a general rule, when someone fails to use reasonable care and it results in harm to another person, it constitutes negligence.
Wrongful death cases are similar in some ways to personal injury claims. The main difference, however, is that in a wrongful death case, the injured person is no longer able to bring the case to court themselves. Instead, a family member of the deceased person must do so on their behalf. In some situations, a representative of the deceased person’s estate may be able to file the claim.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
The exact laws may vary from state to state. In Georgia, however, the spouse of the deceased person is the first in line for the right to bring a wrongful death claim to court. If the deceased person and their spouse had children under the age of 18, the surviving spouse must represent their interests in court as well. The spouse is entitled to no less than one-third of the total money recovered, regardless of how many children there are.
If there is no spouse or child to bring the claim to court, there are several parties who may file a wrongful death claim. In these situations, the surviving parent(s) of the deceased or a personal representative of the estate of the deceased may bring the claim. When a claim is filed by a personal representative, all recovered wrongful death damages must be held by the estate to benefit the deceased’s next of kin.
What Damages Are Available?
There are two district types of wrongful death claims in Georgia. The first one is intended to determine the value of the life of the person who was killed. Brought on by surviving family members, this type of claim includes monetary damages related to things like lost benefits and wages, as well as intangible things like loss of companionship or care that the deceased previously provided to loved ones.
The second type of wrongful death claim is meant to compensate for financial losses incurred as a result of the deceased person’s death. This type of claim is brought on behalf of or by the deceased’s estate to recover losses suffered due to the death. Things like medical expenses related to the deceased’s final injury or illness, funeral and burial costs, and pain and suffering of the deceased prior to death are examples of the damages that may be recovered in this type of claim.
What Are the Time Limits for Filing a Claim?
Again, the exact laws vary from state to state. Under the statute of limitations for Georgia, however, surviving family members or personal representatives of the estate must bring a wrongful death case to court within two years of the wrongful death.
There are circumstances, however, that may stop the clock, so to speak. If there is a criminal case that involves the same events as the wrongful death case, the time limit for the wrongful death case is paused until the criminal case is closed. The two-year clock starts running again as soon as the criminal case closes.
If the deceased person’s estate is not probated, the statute of limitations may be extended by up to five years additional years. In these situations, a wrongful death claim may be filed up to seven years after the person dies.
If your loved one’s life was cut short due to the carelessness or negligence of another person or entity, you may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. At KopelmanSitton, we understand the emotional nature of this type of claim, and we offer compassionate counsel to ensure that your rights are protected. Please contact us today to schedule a consultation.