Recovering for the Death of a Loved One
Wrongful death claims are established in Georgia by statute. Official Code of Georgia Annotated §51-4-1 lists the rules and procedures on how to successfully bring a Wrongful Death claim. These rules determine the time limits, who can bring a claim, what can be recovered as well as how the wrongful death proceeds are to be divided.
Time Limitations – Wrongful Death
The statute of limitations in a wrongful death case begins on the date of death. Family members only have two years from the date of death to either settle the wrongful death case or file a lawsuit.
What Can Be Recovered – Wrongful Death
Wrongful death cases are to compensate family members for the life that was lost. The statute authorizes recovery for the “full value of the life of the decedent”. There are many factors that can be considered when determining the full value of “life” including: age, education, income; health; children; etc. Each wrongful death case is different and many facts should be considered when accepting compensation.
Who Can Bring a Claim – Wrongful Death
Wrongful death claims can be brought by a surviving spouse, or children of the deceased. If no such persons exist, then the administrator of the estate can bring the case, which would require setting up an estate.
Dividing Proceeds – Wrongful Death
Proceeds are shared depending on which family members survive the deceased. Typically the spouse is entitled to the proceeds, unless children of the deceased are alive. In these situations, the children receive an equal share, however the spouse’s share cannot be less than 1/3. It is important to consult an experienced wrongful death attorney because failure to properly distribute proceeds may result in subsequent lawsuits.
In cases where a person dies it is always important to consider the other claim that can be brought – personal injury claim. The personal injury claim is separate and apart from the wrongful death claim. The personal injury claim is to recover for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. This can be a valuable claim, especially if the person dies hours, days or weeks later because of their injuries. This claim belongs to the estate and must be brought by the administrator of the estate. Like wrongful death proceeds, these proceeds may have to be distributed to various family members, and creditors of the estate may have a rightful claim to the proceeds.