Georgia state law governs the specific rules regarding wrongful death claims. Georgia defines wrongful death as the death of a person caused by negligent, reckless, intentional, or criminal acts of another person or entity. Typically, negligence is defined as a failure to use reasonable care when there is a legal duty to do so and this failure results in harm to another.
Wrongful Death Basics
A wrongful death claim is similar to a typical personal injury case. The several different types of personal injury cases also require negligence be proven, and both a wrongful death and personal injury case may be based upon a similar incident. Nonetheless, in a wrongful death case the surviving family members or the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate bring the claim in court for damages.
Georgia law is specific as to who may bring a wrongful death claim in court. The spouse of the deceased may bring the case. If the surviving spouse had minor children with the deceased, the interests of the minors must also be represented in court. In no scenario may the surviving spouse receive less than one-third of the total recovery no matter how many minor children there are. If there is no surviving spouse or children available to bring a lawsuit, a wrongful death claim may be brought by the surviving parents of the deceased or the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate.
Types of Damages
The state of Georgia recognizes two separate and different types of wrongful death claims; one is to establish the full value of the life of the deceased while the other is to remedy the financial losses related to the death. The first is brought by or on behalf of the surviving family members and includes monetary damages relating to both the financial and intangible value of the deceased’s life. The second is brought by or on behalf of the deceased person’s estate and seeks to recover losses the estate suffered due to the untimely death.
Georgia’s statute of limitations limits the time in which the surviving family members or the personal representative have to bring a wrongful death claim in court. Most cases require the suit be filed within two years from the date of death. The time is paused in certain situations, such as if there is a criminal case dealing with the same events as the wrongful death claim. Failure to bring a suit within the time period bars the case forever.