Georgia Wrongful Death Attorneys Answer Your Questions
The Millar Law Firm devotes a substantial part of or our practice to representing the families of wrongful death victims throughout the state of Georgia.
We hope you find the information on this page helpful as you search for answers or for the right law firm to help your family.
A Guide to Georgia Law Regarding Wrongful Death Cases
In Georgia, the legislature has enacted laws that govern wrongful death claims and determine who can bring the claim.
Title 51 of the Official Code of Georgia (OCGA) governs all Georgia tort claims. Wrongful death cases which are specifically governed by Chapter 4 of Title 51. The law typically refers to the deceased person as the “decedent.” Georgia wrongful death cases generally consist of two claims, a wrongful death claim, and an estate claim.
Wrongful Death: who can bring a Georgia Wrongful Death Claim?
Under Georgia’s wrongful death statutes, O.C.G.A. 51-4-2, the surviving spouse of the decedent may bring a lawsuit and seek to recover the full value of the life of the decedent, as shown by the evidence, on behalf of the spouse and any surviving children. O.C.G.A. 51-4-2(a). The full value of a life is considered to be what the person’s life meant to the victim, and includes the enjoyment of life and the economic (earnings or worth, including other valuable activities) value.
If a case is brought by a surviving wife or husband under O.C.G. A. 51-4-2(a), and that spouse dies while the case is pending, the case may then be brought by the children of the deceased. O.C.G.A. 51-4-2(b)(1). If one of the children dies while the case is ongoing, the case (cause of action) passes to the other surviving child or children. O.C.G.A. 51-4-2(b)(2).
If the deceased did not have a surviving spouse, the children may bring a lawsuit under O.C.G.A. 51-4-2(1). If no spouse or children survive the decedent, the parents or parent of the decedent may bring an action, as provided in GA Code § 19-7-1. There are certain exceptions in rare circumstances that may disqualify a person from being able to bring an action. For example, if a person contributed to the wrongful death or was partially at fault for causing the death, he or she would not be able to recover.
If there is no surviving spouse, child, or parent, Georgia wrongful death laws permit the executor or administer of the decedent’s estate to bring the action. O.C.G.A. 51-4-5 . The estate can also bring a separate action against the negligent party or parties to recover for expenses such as medical bills and funeral costs. The estate also can seek a claim for the decedent’s pain and suffering between the time of the initial injury and the time of death. This action is referred to as a survival action. Each of these claims is typically pursued simultaneously and are usually combined into one case.
In Georgia, children born out of wedlock are allowed to bring or recover in a wrongful death lawsuit. O.C.G.A. 51-4-2(f).
If there are both no surviving spouse or surviving children, under O.C.G.A. 51-4-5 a wrongful death case may be brought by an estate representative, who recovers the damages for the next of kin.
Any amounts recovered through a Georgia lawsuit or claim for wrongful death under O.C.G.A. 51-4-2(a) shall be equally divided among the surviving spouse shall be equally divided among the surviving spouse and the children per capita, and the descendants of children shall receive a share per stirpes (meaning, divided equally among that branch of the family). O.C.G.A. 51-4-2(d)(1). A surviving spouse shall receive at least 1/3 of the amount recovered. O.C.G.A. 51-4-2(d)(2).
The Estate’s claims: Appointing a Personal Representative After a Wrongful Death
The decedent may have left behind a will that appoints a personal representative to administer the estate. If there is no will, a Georgia court will appoint someone, usually a relative, to act as the personal representative of the estate. If you are appointed as the administrator or personal representative of an estate, it is important that you abide by all Georgia probate laws when handling a wrongful death as the representative of an estate.
Georgia wrongful death laws also control the way in which the award or settlement funds are disbursed at the conclusion of a wrongful death case. Any amount recovered in a wrongful death case is divided equally among the surviving spouse and the surviving children, with at least 1/3 to the spouse. If the children are minors, their guardian is charged with the duty of holding the funds for the benefit of the minors and is accountable for the funds. An experienced Georgia wrongful death attorney can be your guide through this complicated process.
Contact The Millar Law Firm About Your Family’s Wrongful Death Claim or Lawsuit
If you believe a loved one was killed due to someone else’s negligence, contact The Millar Law Firm today.