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In Georgia, when a person dies as the result of someone else’s actions—whether they are intentional actions or not—the surviving family may file suit. Georgia law takes such wrongful death claims seriously, placing a high value on life and what’s lost when it’s cut short.   

But the law is also quite specific on who can file a wrongful death claim, the statute of limitations to do so and how any compensation will be split among survivors.  

What is a wrongful death claim? 

Georgia law categorizes wrongful death as a death that occurs as the result of: 

  • A crime, like murder or manslaughter 
  • Negligence, like a distracted driver who causes a fatal crash 
  • Medical malpractice 
  • A defective product 

Unlike criminal cases, wrongful death cases don’t focus on conviction and punishment, but instead center on compensation. Whereas criminal prosecutors have to tie a defendant to the crime and prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, civil lawsuits must demonstrate liability. It’s of course possible and common for surviving families to pursue a civil case while a criminal case is in play, though the goals and outcomes are different.  

Who can file a wrongful death claim?  

Georgia is quite strict on who may file a wrongful death claim. If the deceased person left behind a spouse, the surviving husband or wife will file suit. If there is no surviving spouse, the children will make the claim. If there are no children, the deceased person’s parents may file. And if the deceased person left behind no spouse, kids or parents, his or her estate executor will manage the claim.  

Any compensation from the case is typically divided equally between the surviving spouse and kids, though the surviving spouse will never receive less than one-third of a share.  

How are wrongful death claims compensated?  

Georgia wrongful death cases take stock of the “full value of the life” lost, judging it in several ways.   

First is the intangible value of life. This focuses on what was lost from the deceased person’s perspective—the time to travel, play with children, enjoy hobbies or volunteer. It centers on what was missed: milestones like marrying, seeing the birth of a child or becoming a grandparent. 

Second is the economic value of what was lost in the person’s passing, including lost income, lost benefits and lost services. Services might mean placing monetary value on the work of a caretaking parent, or estimating the financial value of a spouse who maintained the home or handled bookkeeping. 

The family may also lodge a separate estate claim, recouping medical expenses and burial costs, as well as compensation from the deceased person’s pain and suffering before death.  

Families only have two years to file a wrongful death claim, however, making it important to move quickly despite painful circumstances. If there’s a criminal case ongoing, the statute of limitations does not begin until the criminal case concludes.  

Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney at The King Firm  

If you’ve lost a loved one, we can help your family pursue compensation during this devastating time. At The King Firm, our team has the experience and sensitivity necessary to help families grieving the loss of a loved one. Contact us today at 229-515-8585 for a free case consultation.  

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